//Meet the tour operator: Niall Gibbons, CEO, Tourism Ireland

Meet the tour operator: Niall Gibbons, CEO, Tourism Ireland

Niall Gibbons, CEO, Tourism Ireland

Are you seeing a rise or fall in numbers from Brits?

In 2019 we welcomed 3.7 million visitors over to the island of Ireland. This is particularly remarkable given the circumstances and level of uncertainty we endured with Brexit at the beginning of last year. We are seeing a more positive tone with British holidaymakers and we are optimistic with regards to booking behaviours for 2020. Our YouGov survey in December informed us that 52 per cent would consider a short break in Ireland in 2020 and so it is a matter of working with the people in our GB office to capitalise on this behaviour and convert into business.

Why do you think that is?

Our numbers remain positive, owing to convenient access with 23 British airports going into nine airports across Ireland, as well as strong investment from the sea carrier market. It is important for us to reassure potential holidaymakers that there is never a better time to visit Ireland, particularly with The Common Travel Area (created in 1923) in place during the transition period, meaning British visitors can travel freely to Ireland without restriction.

What should agents look out for in 2020?

We have an exciting calendar of events scheduled throughout 2020, including Galway European Capital of Culture. ForGame of Thrones fans, the new Linen Mill Studios opening in autumn 2020 comprises imagery, sets, original props and other behind-the-scenes items. If you’re a foodie, Taste the Island is a celebration of Ireland’s excellent food and drink offering with events taking place from September to November.

What effect is Brexit likely to have?

The Common Travel Area, originally signed in 1923 by the UK and Irish governments and recently reaffirmed, enables the free movement of British and Irish citizens between Great Britain and Ireland. We know there will be ongoing trade talks between now and the end of the year; however, we don’t foresee any major impact on the British tourism market between now and the end of 2020.

Can the trade learn more and get involved?

We have a very active trade team and a strong promotional programme throughout the year. The GB trade can get involved in a range of cooperative programmes, such as Meitheal and Meet the Buyer.