Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Tourism drive calls Irish back home

Tim O'Connor, Michael Ring, Leo Varadkar, Shaun Quinn and Niall Gibbons attend the launch of a major tourism drive

Irish people around the globe are being invited to come home in 2013 as part of the country's biggest ever tourism drive, the Government claims.

Tourism minister Leo Varadkar said the initiative, billed The Gathering, aims to bring at least an extra 325,000 visitors during the year.

Because of financial restraints, there are no new flagship events planned but organisers are hoping to build upon existing festivals and attractions.

Mr Varadkar said planning was in the early stages for a year-long programme of co-ordinated events, arranged into different themes during 2013. As well as organising spin-off attractions from established festivals, sports clubs will be asked to invite international teams to Ireland for show games.

Families will be asked to plan reunions while communities will be tasked with tapping into the genealogy market by tracing the roots of local emigrants and asking their descendants to visit. It is estimated the target of 325,000 extra visitors could inject 220 million euro into the economy.

The initiative, being led by Failte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and former diplomat Tim O'Connor, has a budget of between 12 and 16 million euro.

Mr Varadkar said the project was about inviting the world to Ireland."It's not just a marketing campaign," he said. "If it was just that, we would just run ads on TV.. it's not that at all.

"It's about getting communities, local authorities and sports clubs and families behind the whole concept, and getting actively involved and inviting people to come, and organising specific events for that purpose."

Tim Fenn, chief executive of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), said The Gathering would provide a much-needed boost to hotels and guesthouses. "Our members are fully behind this initiative," he added.

"The programme of events will provide local tourism enterprises with a dynamic platform to showcase the range of cultural activities and attractions that Ireland has to offer and will go a long way to putting us back on the map as a leading tourism destination."

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