Tourism industry needs to keep up to speed with digital marketing strategies
BY LEO McMAHON
TARGETING specific segments of the British market, the need to keep up to speed with digital marketing strategies and ‘The Gathering 2013’ were the main talking points at an upbeat and optimistic Failte Ireland Tourism Briefing for Cork at Rochestown Park Hotel.
‘Tourism, Recovery and Growth’ was the theme of the briefing which also placed emphasis on capitalising on the growth last year in tourists from North American and mainland Europe markets and further developing the markets in Australasia, India, China, the Gulf States, Brazil and Russia.
‘The Gathering has immense potential and should be a big boost to the region in 2013. We will also work on improving our appeal to Britain and working with individual tourism operators to identify the best prospects for growth and help them sell more business in our overseas markets.
‘Given the growing importance of technology, we will be pushing a major new initiative on e-business and social media with a particular emphasis on enabling individual firms to exploit digital channels for sales,’ said Fiona Buckley, head of marketing in the south west.
Acknowledging the fact that the British market remains challenged and the domestic market had levelled off, she said Failte Ireland would be exploiting its current portfolio of festivals and attractions in the region to package them into inter-active and exciting tourism experiences as well as sourcing and investing in those which have the greatest potential for tourism.
It was important, she added, for the region to stake a claim in the market with the promise of an experience to remember.
Failte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn said: ‘It is clear that we are entering a new phase of recovery. Moving from mere survival, tourism businesses are now consolidating and looking everywhere they can for growth opportunities.
Peter Nash of Tourism Ireland said it had targeted 5% growth in 2013 overall and the sector was well geared up through direct promotion, partnership with the trade and e marketing globally. The briefing was also told that a new website, Ireland.com, would be a further boost for overseas promotion while a new strategy in North America would result in 26% extra capacity on flights here this summer.
Head of strategic development, Aidan Pender said interviews with over 1,000 visitors throughout Cork and County last year revealed higher percentages here than nationally responding with positive sentiments and a feeling of good value for money.
Overall, there was good reason for the region to be confident in 2013.
John Concannon head of marketing development, said it was important to realize that Ireland accounted for only 2% of the stymied UK market and was competing with similar destinations in Scotland, Wales, the Lake District, Devon and Cornwall. Failte Ireland had targeted three segments for increasing GB business: 1) social energisers, aged 15 to 34 looking for action packed short breaks; 2) curiously cultural, aged 45 and over who wish to be immersed in the Irish experience and 3) great escapers, aged around 30, mainly in young families who enjoy outdoor pursuits and happy with a mix of accommodation.
In that regard, Tracy Coughlan, sector liaison officer, referred to Failte Ireland’s ‘Sales Connect GB’ brochure and its various online supports ‘webinars’ to make them ‘mobile ready’ for a market in which over 50% of people own a smartphone.
Paul Keely, head of regional development, said the Irish tourist sector had to get its digital act together and also had to sell the ‘experience’ because there was potential for sustained overseas growth. Supports were there in selling skills and strategies, product development, partnerships with online travel operators, trade shows and the sales connect programme.
It was a view echoed by Orla Carroll , head of e-marketing, who said that worldwide, one third of sales in the sector are online with more and more people ‘booking on the hoof’ from their mobile or tablet within 48 hours of departure. Research also showed that on average, 21 websites were browsed before purchase.
‘Touch is the new click,’ said Steve Dudley, business development services manager, and Failte Ireland was ready to help tourism operators enhance their online presence. A web test to see how effective a website is, or is not, was available along with training programmes and tutorials.
Paddy Mathews, destinations development officer, said every one of Ireland’s competitors could provide food and accommodation so it was important to offer stand-out experiences that would make memories in an era when Facebook and Twitter were the new and instant postcards.
It meant more actively engaging with visitors outside the 8am to 8pm zone and aligning of businesses to experiences as done by Wanderlust guided walks in West Cork and Cork Harbour tours.
In an open forum which followed, there was a strong call to have tourist offices open on Sundays. One of the officials said that Failte Ireland, like everyone else, was subject to cutbacks, but arrangements could be made for volunteers to run these, such as a local group in Blarney.
Tributes were paid to the Failte Ireland south west team.
Delegates, who were welcomed by Josephine O’Driscoll and Marie Keane, client service officers in Cork, included Anne O’Donnell and Rose Carroll, Cork County Council; Dermot Ryan, walking tour guide; Hal McElroy, Trident Hotel; Cassandra Burke, Blue Haven; and Frank Buckley, The Gallery, Kinsale; Siobhan Sheehan and Linda O’Loughlin, Youghal Tourism; Aaron O’Driscoll, West Cork Development Partnership; Aoife Buckley, Cork Airport; Barry Galvin, Cork Power Boat and Water Ski Club; Hannah Rose Farrington, Inchydoney Spa and Lodge; Kevin Ryan and Helen Murphy, Fota Island Resort; Frances Lynch, Glandore Harbour Yacht Club; and Carmel Dineen, Port of Cork.
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