The State’s tourism authority says it is chasing up leads on close to €1 billion worth of international conferences and events that it hopes to attract to be hosted in the Republic.
Fáilte Ireland is hoping to capitalise on "pent up demand" for global conferences, as the business tourism sector reawakens as pandemic travel measures are eased in Ireland, the US and across Europe.
Fáilte Ireland on Tuesday hosted the first major business conference in Dublin since the restrictions eased, bringing about 450 delegates from the travel industry to the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) to discuss how to rebuild business tourism. It was one of the fastest growing parts of the tourism industry before the pandemic and is now central to plans to reboot the sector.
The conference was opened on Tuesday afternoon by Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism. She said she wants to send a "a loud and clear message that Ireland is once again open for business and in particular for business tourism".
She revealed that 285 international business conferences from before the pandemic, worth about €207 million, have been retained and rescheduled for Ireland.
Fáilte Ireland, in conjunction with the industry through Irish events bureaux that bid to bring global conferences here, said it is currently working on attracting €929 million of events over coming years, the bulk of which would take place before 2025. This includes €254 million of confirmed events, with bids pending on about €330 million worth.
The events, if all were won for Ireland, would bring in about 634,000 delegates to Ireland in coming years. The sector is seen as lucrative, as business tourists spend an average of more than €1,600 each, three times the average tourist. The conversion rate of Irish bids to conference wins was about 85 per cent before the pandemic hit, according to figures discussed at the conference.
Paul Kelly, Fáilte Ireland's chief executive, said attracting business tourists back to Ireland will be crucial to renewing city centres hit by declining footfall, as staff work more from home.
He also said that Dublin’s large crop of foreign multinationals should help to drive business tourists to the city.
He also said State tourism officials were making a major play to attract to Ireland a lot of incentive travel – effectively working holidays for sales people given by their employers as rewards for hitting targets.
“You can’t Zoom incentive travel,” he said. A major conference of incentive travel bookers is among those retained for Dublin, for January 2022. About 40 per cent of conference wins go outside the capital, said Mr Kelly.
Ms Martin said she has just received the third report from the Tourism Recovery Oversight Group, which she intends to bring to Cabinet “in coming weeks”.
She said she is in talks with the departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform for a package for the tourism sector in the upcoming Budget 2022.