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Ireland is touting double-digit increases in visitor arrivals from the U.S. and Canada for the first six months of 2017, citing the mass appeal of the country’s filming locations for the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” and movies such as “Star Wars Episode XII: The Force Awakens,” for example.
But last year’s Brexit vote, a drama unfolding in the UK, in 2017 is hurting Ireland’s UK arrivals — Ireland’s largest, and one of its most lucrative, visitor markets.
UK arrivals in Ireland are down 6.4 percent year-over-year for January to June, according to data from Tourism Ireland, the country’s destination marketing organization.
Tourism Ireland said in a statement that it anticipated a UK visitor decline this year because of currency challenges from Brexit.
The value of the UK pound against the Euro has also fallen more than 20 percent in the 13 months since the June 2016 Brexit vote.
UK visits had been up nearly 16 percent for the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. While there could be multiple factors influencing UK travelers to book fewer trips to Ireland, it’s clear that visitation numbers began to drop after the Brexit vote and that’s continued so far this year.
Tourism Ireland data show overall UK arrivals still increased nine percent to 3.6 million in 2016 (3.6 million), up about nine percent. That was slightly lower than the nearly 10 percent growth in UK arrivals in 2015.
Ireland’s visitor data for 2017 has so far painted a bleaker picture for UK arrivals and future arrival numbers will likely be impacted by how Brexit negotiations play out.
Ireland was also one of the fastest-growing European destinations in 2016 with international arrivals increasing 11 percent to more than 10 million.
The drop in UK visitors is impacting Ireland’s tourism industry, said Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, in a statement. “The decline in the value of sterling has made holidays and short breaks here more expensive for British visitors and economic uncertainty is undoubtedly making British travelers more cautious about their discretionary spending,” said Gibbons.
The tourism board is overhauling its UK marketing strategy, said Gibbons. “Therefore, competitiveness and the value for money message are more important than ever in Britain right now,” he said. “Tourism Ireland is placing a greater focus on our ‘culturally curious’ audience, who are less impacted by currency fluctuations.”
“We are also undertaking an expanded partnership program with airlines, ferry operators and tour operator programs, communicating a strong price-led message,” said Gibbons.
TV shows like “Game of Thrones,” which is partly filmed in Northern Ireland (part of the UK) which Tourism Ireland also promotes as a destination, have generated plenty of global buzz for Ireland as a destination in recent years.
“Game of Thrones” continues to be a significant component of Tourism Ireland’s marketing arsenal after the Brexit vote.
Tourism Ireland’s “Game of Thrones” campaign has been one of its signature marketing initiatives during the past three years and is still ongoing in the UK and other key markets.
More than 1.2 million UK travelers from England, Wales and Scotland visited Northern Ireland in 2015, the most recent year that Tourism Ireland has a breakdown of visitor data by region. “Absolutely we see that many British fans of ‘Game of Thrones’ are traveling to Northern Ireland to check out the real life filming locations which are featured in the series,” said Sinead Grace, a spokesperson for Tourism Ireland.
Still, many UK travelers have indicated that they’re not as tempted as travelers from other countries might be to visit TV and movie locations.
From June to October 2016, Tourism Ireland conducted an online survey in its main visitor markets, such as the U.S., France, Germany and Australia, on a variety of topics, including which information sources influenced their decisions to book a trip to Ireland.
Only three percent of UK respondents said “Films/movies/TV drama” was a source of inspiration for booking a trip.
In comparison, some eight, nine and 12 percent of North America, overall Mainland Europe and French respondents, respectively, said flims/movies/TV drama was a source of inspiration.
What’s also interesting is that nearly 100 percent of UK respondents said they were satisfied with their most recent Ireland trip but fewer UK visitors than North American or mainland European visitors, for example, said that an Ireland trip is a good monetary value (see chart below).
Those findings came after the Brexit vote.
While many UK travelers likely visit Ireland for very different reasons than they’d visit Southern European or other Mediterranean destinations, for instance, Ireland is a cautionary tale to other pricey European countries that UK travelers — one of the world’s most valuable tourism group — are seriously considering how far their money will stretch when thinking about where to plan a trip.
Overall Monetary Value Of An Ireland Trip By Market
|Overall value||UK||North America||Mainland Europe||France||Germany||Rest of World|
Source: Tourism Ireland