Fáilte Ireland will attempt to boost domestic tourism with a €4 million marketing campaign to encourage more people to holiday in the Republic and book more breaks than they would in a normal year.
The national tourism development authority said domestic tourism would be “critical” to keep the sector afloat from now through to spring 2022 as the sector suffers the effects of low visitor numbers from overseas.
"Domestic campaigns from Fáilte Ireland supporting staycations – supporting holidays at home – have always been important but they have never been as important as they are now," said director of marketing Niall Tracey.
Its latest promotional push revives the Keep Discovering slogan it first unveiled in early 2020 for what was to be a major campaign last year, only for the pandemic to force its suspension.
A television ad that was on air for two weeks last spring before the Covid-19 crisis unfolded will be relaunched this Monday as part of the campaign, which will also run across online, press, radio, out-of-home and cinemas when they reopen.
After delivering "immediate" results when used last year, endorsements from celebrity "influencers" will feature in the new 27-week campaign, as will media partnerships such as Heartlands, a TG4 show devoted to Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, and a new series of RTÉ One's No Place Like Home from September.
Fáilte Ireland is battling ongoing uncertainty about the reopening calendar and a “wait and see” approach among “tired” consumers.
Research conducted in mid-April, before the Government announced the lifting of travel restrictions, suggested only 46 per cent of Irish people planned on taking a short break in Ireland in the next six months. The State agency is hopeful that this number will already have risen and rise further as people hear of other people booking breaks, creating “momentum”, Mr Tracey said.
Clarity expected at the end of this month about dates for the return of indoor dining and other hospitality will “definitely help”.
In 2019, domestic tourism was worth an estimated €2.5 billion to the economy, while Irish people spent some €5.5 billion taking holidays abroad.
Fáilte Ireland expects some holidaymakers will take longer breaks at home than usual this summer as a replacement for a foreign trip, but that this effect will fade. It is not pinning its hopes on the sector being a major beneficiary of the release of the €15 billion in household savings estimated to have been built up over the pandemic.
“At the moment, what our tracking says is the amount of domestic trips people take from September on will be no more than what people took in 2019 – which is great, if they are going to take that amount. But it means there is no more to compensate for the significant shortfall of overseas visitors,” Mr Tracey said.
“In that case, every destination is going to need help.”
The initial part of the campaign showcases more than a dozen locations across the Republic, including Lahinch in Co Clare, Sliabh Liag in Co Donegal, the Beara Peninsula in Co Cork, Birr Castle in Co Offaly and the Irish National Heritage Park, Co Wexford.
The television ads are directed by Brendan Canty, while singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan narrates both the TV and radio ads, which are soundtracked by Dermot Kennedy's song Power Over Me.
The campaign, on which Fáilte Ireland worked with its creative agency Rothco, prompts people to take a fresh look at Ireland – rather than assuming they already know what it has to offer – and uncover hidden gems on their doorstep.
“It’s still very relevant. We have retested it with consumers and if anything, it is more resonant than it was before,” said Fáilte Ireland’s acting head of marketing Caoimhe Ní Dhuibhinn.
In the second phase, attention will turn to Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, Ireland’s Ancient East, the Wild Atlantic Way and Dublin, while from September, the campaign will focus on the counties expected to need the most support.
Mr Tracey said many parts of rural Ireland could do “very well” in the summer as people flock to the coasts and other beauty spots. “But it’s not going to be at the same everywhere,” he said.
Cities, and Dublin in particular, are expected to feel the loss of international custom and absence of sporting and cultural events.
“Unfortunately, the cities are struggling and are going to struggle,” he said. Over the summer, Fáilte Ireland’s marketing will seek to remind Irish people of the “buzz and fun and vibe of a city” and persuade holidaymakers that city breaks can be Irish cities too.
"It doesn't have to be Manchester or Edinburgh or London," Mr Tracey said.
The narration on the Dublin-focused television ad, which was also filmed before the pandemic, refers to “sparkling city nights” and shows people enjoying a mask-free nightlife.
Mr Tracey said consumers were happy to see an “aspirational” message in advertising.
“Travel is something to look forward to, it’s aspirational. They were recorded before Covid, but actually consumers don’t see any contradiction in them or any kind of concern with them at all.”
A separate awareness campaign for Fáilte Ireland’s Covid-19 safety charter initiative will also run throughout the period to boost public confidence in returning to tourism and hospitality businesses.