Visitors of Irish descent targeted in Ireland’s ‘Gathering’ effort
By Michelle Baran
As part of an initiative to stimulate Ireland’s
ailing economy, the Irish government is
promoting “The Gathering Ireland 2013,”
a yearlong event aimed at inviting the Irish
diaspora from around the world back home
for festivities celebrating Irish heritage.
The idea could be morphing into one of
the country’s most successful tourism marketing initiatives to date.
Scores of Irish clans have created gatherings of their own to bring together all those
with the same Irish last names, and individual villages, towns and cities across the
Emerald Isle are hosting events throughout
the year to celebrate their heritage.
There are just under 5 million people
in Ireland, but according to Joe Byrne, executive vice president, U.S. and Canada,
of Tourism Ireland, there are 40 million
Americans with Irish heritage.
“And we’re saying to those 40 million
Irish-Americans, please come home next
year,” Byrne said.
Tourism Ireland is predict-ing that the
welcome an additional 350,000
year, of which 100,000 are expected to be
Americans. Consequently, it anticipates that
the Gathering will generate an additional
$500 million in revenue for the country.
Ireland’s tourism has experienced some
challenging years of late. Last year, overseas
visitors to Ireland increased 7%, to about
6. 3 million, the first increase in four years,
according to the Irish Tourist Industry
Confederation. And the 2011 total was still
nearly 18% lower than in 2008.
Joe Byrne, Tourism Ireland executive vice president, is In the Hot Seat, Page 4.
Gathering a theme in every single sales presentation and call and made reference to the
Gathering at every conference we’ve attended,” company President Nico Zenner said.
Brendan Vacations is up about 17% in
forward bookings to Ireland compared
with this time last year, and Zenner said he
believes that at least part of that increase
can be attributed to the Gathering.
Tourism Ireland is predict-
ing that the country will
welcome an additional
350,000 visitors next year.
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Byrne said the idea for the Gathering
emerged from a meeting in 2010 called by
the Irish government of successful and influential Irish people to brainstorm ways
to help Ireland’s economic recovery. During those sessions, the concept of having a
“gathering” came to fruition, and 2013 was
chosen as the year to do so in order to give
Tourism Ireland and the country enough
time to prepare for and market the initiative.
“I’ve been with Irish tourism for more
than 30 years, and in all my time I have never
seen any concept that has gathered as much
goodwill and genuine support,” Byrne said.
A website devoted to the Gathering,
TheGatheringIreland.com, lists the year’s
events, kicking off with a slew of New Year’s
festivities and then reaching another crescendo on St. Patrick’s Day in March. People can also search the site for individual
gatherings or initiate their own.
Tour operators and travel firms have also
responded to the marketing opportunity.
At Brendan Vacations, “We’ve made the
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NOVEMBER 5, 2012