'Gathering' cost €13m - and brought in €170m windfall
THE Gathering tourism promotion has provided a €170m windfall -- with an impressive 275,000 additional visitors lured to Ireland.
But despite its success, a report has warned that Ireland should not attempt to make it an annual event. Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar hailed The Gathering as a success, delivering a 1,300pc return on its €13m cost.
The success of the drive to encourage the Irish diaspora to visit their ancestral homeland came despite actor Gabriel Byrne dismissing the promotion as "a scam to shake down the diaspora for money".
His comments in November 2012 sparked international controversy with President Michael D Higgins subsequently having to defend the actor. Mr Byrne later said that his comments may have been "a bit strong".
The promotion is being credited with delivering record visitor numbers across attractions, including the Cliffs of Moher, Guinness Hop Store, Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park, Blarney Castle, the Lakes of Killarney and the Rock of Cashel.
Some attractions reported visitor number increases of almost 19pc. Others attractions such as Newgrange/Bru na Boinne operated at maximum capacity for much of the year.
However, a review has advised both the Government and the Gathering directors that it should not be relied upon as an annual tourism event.
A comparable future event should not now be staged before 2018. A special analysis of The Gathering revealed it was hugely successful in one of its core aims -- to boost tourism to Ireland from the core US market.
It found that, after years of relative decline, the year-long promotion delivered growth of 10pc-plus from the US and Canada. The US accounts for 40 million of the 70 million people who claim Irish ancestry.
Taken across all of Ireland's overseas markets, The Gathering helped drive overall 2013 tourist numbers up by 7.3pc in the figures up to October. "The Gathering has been a fantastic experience and a great success. It's delivered the results we were looking for," Mr Varadkar said.
"It helped to restore Ireland's status as a premier tourism destination and it strengthened links with the diaspora. I am determined to build on this success for next year."
The Gathering director, Jim Miley, said the event had "vastly exceeded expectations", largely thanks to the manner in which it was embraced and adopted by communities.
It resulted in 5,000 events and impacted on many counties "not typically regarded as tourist destinations", he said.
The key promotion recommendations include:
* The Gathering should not be staged on less than a five-year cycle.
* A decision on whether to stage The Gathering II should only be taken after a report on its full benefits.
* Consideration should be given to focusing on sustained, ongoing development of its legacies rather than a repeat promotion.
* The power of personal invitations to visit Ireland from citizens and agencies to overseas groups should be harnessed and expanded.
Key features of the marketing campaign included targeted TV ads and the highest-profile St Patrick's Day promotion campaign ever.
This included having more than 70 buildings and sites worldwide turned green for March 17 -- including the pyramids and Leaning Tower of Pisa.