Chinese visitor numbers set to treble over next five years
IRELAND has been named the "best potential destination" at a major awards ceremony in China, boosting hopes that more high-spending Chinese tourists will visit our shores.
The 2014 Ctrip awards took place in Shanghai last weekend. Ireland was awarded the top spot as the destination offering the most potential for Chinese travellers, beating strong competition from Turkey, Sweden, Dubai and South Africa among others.
Ctrip is China's largest online travel agency, with more than 90 million customers.
The awards, now in their fifth year, were voted on by almost three million members of the travel agency's website who nominated their favourite travel destinations.
Ireland's award was presented to Tourism Ireland at the ceremony, which was attended by 300 guests including tour operators, travel agents, airlines and travel media from China.
"We are absolutely delighted that Ireland has been singled out for this award, which is certainly a positive indication of the increasing awareness of Ireland among Chinese travellers," Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said.
"We believe this market represents a significant opportunity for Irish tourism and we are committed to growing visitor numbers from China – from about 17,000 visitors in 2012 to 50,000 per year – over the coming five years. I am confident this award will enhance the reputation of the island of Ireland and help to attract more Chinese visitors in 2014 and beyond."
The number of tourists visiting here from China has grown exponentially in recent years, largely thanks to Tourism Ireland's offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.
"At first glance, the award seems obscure. . . but you've got to remember that China is the world's biggest untapped travel market," travel writer Pol O Conghaile said.
"Its middle-classes – millions upon millions of future tourists – are set to dominate outbound tourism in Asia over the next decade.
"A recent report by TripAdvisor and the Boston Consulting Group predicts that Chinese travellers will take up to 1.7 billion domestic and overseas trips a year by 2030. If Ireland is already on their radar that can only be good news."
Tourism Ireland's representatives in China will be particularly busy in the run-up to St Patrick's Day, with the 'greening' of the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower and the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel towers in Shanghai.
Chinese tourists who have previously visited Ireland report the availability of our visa waiver programme, our friendly population and our ability to cater to their language and cultural needs were among the major reasons for their visit.