Dear Industry Colleague,

When we launched our 2009 Marketing Plans late last November, we said we would come back to update you on the prospects for overseas tourism to the island of Ireland this year, in light of what we recognised, even back then, could be a continuing deterioration in trading conditions in our major markets.

Our experience in the markets and your feedback confirms that the realities of global recession continue to bite hard on tourism to the island of Ireland. Drawing on a wide range of up-to-the-minute economic forecasts and market intelligence, preliminary forecasts for 2009 now indicate that there could be a decline of up to 9% in visitor numbers to the island of Ireland this year, with further declines in revenue and promotable visitors - although better results are also possible. The rationale for this is outlined in the document attached - click here to read more.

While this level of decline is far from palatable, and will impact sharply on many industry sectors and businesses, securing 8 million visitors or more has to be the focus for us all, since achieving this is neither a foregone conclusion nor would it be an insignificant result in the very difficult conditions that prevail.

The island of Ireland has punched well above its weight in terms of market share for many years now. We represent about 1% of the population of Europe but have enjoyed about 1.8% of international visitor arrivals. To maintain this position and to survive the current downturn, we in Tourism Ireland, with the support of our industry partners must focus on the things which are most within our control – pro-active marketing with great value offers to tempt the many millions who will continue to travel for holidays.

We fully recognise that industry is discounting heavily its lead prices, but achieving cut-through on price alone in GB and other markets is difficult in the extremely competitive environment. Nevertheless, the need for great value as one part of a three-part message which also highlights our wonderful destination and product, and ease of access, represents the best chance of winning the business that is there to be won.

In these bleaker times it is all too easy to focus on the negative – on why visitors may not come. We must remember that overseas visitors continue to tell us that they like coming to the island of Ireland and that they overwhelmingly enjoy the experience once here.

We will keep the situation under review and we will report back to you at the end of June.

Paul O’Toole
Chief Executive

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