Tourism Ireland seeks extra €20m for post-crisis sector advertising

Agency plans to launch massive ad blitz when Covid-19 crisis eases and travel restarts

A deserted Dublin on St Patrick’s Day 2020: tourism supported about 265,000 jobs before the crisis. Photograph: Tom Honan

Tourism Ireland, the cross-Border agency responsible for marketing the island to visitors from abroad, has asked the Government for at least €20 million in extra funding to pay for international advertising when the Covid-19 crisis ends.

The funding being sought is in addition to its annual marketing budget of about €45 million.

Tourism Ireland began cancelling its international advertising campaigns in the first week of March, when demand for international travel began to shrivel. The agency is now preparing plans to launch a massive advertising blitz later in the year, whenever the crisis eases and travel is allowed again, to try to salvage some of the 2020 season for an industry reeling from the impact of coronavirus.

State support

Niall Gibbons, the chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said he believes that 2020 "is not a write off just yet". He said the immediate priority was State support for struggling tourism businesses themselves.

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After that, he said, the agencies should be funded to attract visitors to give the industry the best chance of staging some form of recovery.

“In a best-case scenario, we might be able to see something from the summer months,” he said. “There is still a lot left to win this year. In my experience, the bounceback from something like this will be quick when it arrives.”

Mr Gibbons declined to comment on the exact amount of funding he had sought from the State, but confirmed he had sought extra cash to “restart the year” and make sure that Ireland’s international “share of voice” in the tourism advertising sector was maintained or improved.

He said Tourism Ireland had been witnessing the effects of Covid-19 for two months, since the extent of the crisis in China first became apparent. After numbers began to spike in Italy in recent weeks, he said “immediate falls” came through in Irish bookings.

Shedding of jobs

The tourism industry, meanwhile, has suggested the State “doubles” Tourism Ireland’s marketing budget to pay for a blitz when travel restrictions are eased.

The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (Itic), has submitted a three-point plan to Government to save the industry, which supported about 265,000 jobs before the crisis, but is on track to shed the majority of those.

The first point is a moratorium on State agencies seeking payment from tourism businesses as they try to avoid going to the wall. The second is a system of State liquidity supports for crisis-hit businesses.

Third, once the medical emergency has been dealt with, it wants the State to commit to “massive market intervention measures to kickstart” recovery, including a doubling of funds for international marketing.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times