Selling Ireland on Facebook is one big game

 

MARKETING:TOURISM IRELAND is hoping to exploit the phenomenal popularity of social networks in the weeks ahead by convincing more than 100,000 people to play an Irish-themed Facebook game which it launched on St Patrick’s Day.

The Ireland Town game allows Facebook users to create an “idyllic town in Ireland” with the help of a virtual tour guide called Sally. Once they have Irish utopia created, Facebook users can then explore iconic sites and attractions around the country without leaving their couches.

After certain challenges are completed, players can progress to the next level of the game and those who make it through all the levels will be in with a chance of winning a real world prize of a holiday to Ireland.

Tourism Ireland is hoping that playing the game will bring the Irish holiday experience to life for potential visitors – albeit without the rain – and they will be tempted to swap the virtual for the real and come to Ireland to spend hard cash in the months ahead.

Fans can progress faster if they convince their friends on Facebook to sign up and the tourism authority has expressed the hope that “the incredible viral effect of social games” will see up to 100,000 people playing Ireland Town over the coming weeks.

It is aiming to ape games like FarmVille and CityVille which are hugely popular with Facebook users with nearly a quarter of users in the US and Britain playing social games at least once a week.

“It is a unique promotional tool and a first, as no other national tourist board had done this before,” said Mark Henry, Tourism Ireland’s central marketing director.

According to Henry, the tourism body is constantly “looking at innovative ways of reaching potential holidaymakers” and he said it was “increasingly using social media to do so, growing the online conversation about Ireland around the world. For those fans who may be planning to visit in 2011, this is certainly a different way to research their holiday.”