- Posted by Christopher Ledsham
- On 25th May 2016
- china, Ireland, tourism, Trade, visa, Xi Jinping
Tourism Ireland completed a trade mission to China last week that led 15 companies through Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzen and Hong Kong between the 15th and 20th of May. The delegation held a number of presentations, workshops and networking events as a means of engaging with local tourism industry players that are both currently promoting Ireland's destination image in China, as well as those looking to do so in the future.
The trade mission was declared by Ireland's Ambassador to China Paul Kavanagh to be a crucial step in the right direction for Chinese tourism to Ireland, further stressing that “Ireland needs only to win a relatively small – and good quality – portion of this market for it to make a real difference at home in terms of job creation and regional development”. Emphasising that attracting Chinese tourists is a process that requires perseverance over a period of time, he underlined the fact that benefits would “multiply” after a certain threshold had been reached.
Following the arrival of 45,000 Chinese travellers in 2015, a year-on-year growth rate of 18%, it appears that Ireland is on the cusp of reaching its breakthrough point in the China outbound tourism market .
This arrival figure has been boosted by the introduction of the British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS) in October 2014, which allows Chinese and Indian nationals to visit both Britain and Ireland on a single visa. Previously, Chinese and Indian tourists were forced to apply for separate Irish and British visas, on top of a Schengen visa if they were visiting other European destinations. Since July 2015, however, Chinese nationals have been able to apply for UK and Schengen visas simultaneously online, while the UK has offered two-year multiple entry visas for Chinese travellers since January 2016. These simplified visa regulations will help boost Ireland's attractiveness for Chinese tourists who frequently seek to visit as many countries as possible when travelling overseas.
Tourism Ireland Chief Executive Niall Gibbons has revealed that, following the introduction of the BIVS scheme in 2014, visa applications from Chinese nationals have risen by 40%. Accordingly, during May's Irish trade mission, he informed members of the tourism industry at an Irish Embassy reception that the 2017 target of 50,000 Chinese visitors to Ireland was likely to be reached a year early.
One remaining obstacle for attracting Chinese tourists to Ireland, however, is the absence of direct flights between the two countries, a situation that Tourism Ireland is actively seeking to change. As things currently stand, passengers travelling between China and Ireland must transfer in either Dubai, or elsewhere in Europe.
Ireland has been firmly on the map for Chinese tourists since receiving widespread coverage during then-Vice President Xi Jinping's high-profile economic tour of the country in February 2012. Leading a delegation of 150 senior business figures, the future Chinese leader was hosted by Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, as well as numerous other senior political and business dignitaries. During an itinerary filled with photo opportunities, Xi was pictured at a number of tourist destinations including the Cliffs of Moher and Croke Park stadium, where he tried his hand at Gaelic Games.
Such widespread media exposure often influences the tourism activities of Chinese visitors. In 2015 Dublin's Guinness Storehouse welcomed 32,000 Chinese visitors looking to savour the drink Xi sampled during his visit, representing a year-on-year growth rate of 38%. Titanic Belfast has similarly benefitted from the continued popularity of the 1997 film Titanic in China and witnessed 9,500 Chinese visitors in 2015, a 28% increase on the previous year. Seeking to capitalise on its popularity with Chinese tourists, the museum became the first tourist attraction on the island of Ireland to complete COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute's China Tourist Welcome Training Programme.
COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute provides expert insights into the worldwide developments of China’s outbound tourism market. As Chinese outbound tourists are travelling to a large range of destinations, our publications cover a number of different regions. Important Chinese visitor activities are analysed, and detailed insights are presented.
With COTRI’s insights you can create a successful business strategy with in-depth market insights, comprehensive qualitative analyses, and future prospects. The recently published Spring 2016 Edition of the COTRI Market Report features in-depth analysis of the developing trends in Chinese outbound tourism, supported by a wealth of qualitative and quantitative statistical research.