New 'Gathering' bid to attract Easter Rising 2016 tourists
TOURISM bosses plan to target the Irish diaspora to boost the industry for the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016.
Marketing and promotion body Tourism Ireland has decided to focus predominantly on this area of the market as the Easter Rising is considered a much harder sell to other categories of tourist.
Details of the strategy emerged in internal Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht documents seen by the Irish Independent.
Marketing campaigns will be focused mainly on the diaspora, rather than the general foreign tourist or domestic tourist markets.
In a briefing given to the All Party Consultation Group on Commemorations at a behind closed doors meeting, Tourism Ireland's director of central marketing Mark Henry said the agency was keen to develop tourism opportunities around the centenary of 1916.
He outlined the "market segregation" considered by the agency.
It will not focus heavily on people who already have an interest in events planned for that year or on domestic tourists "as they are already engaged".
Instead the body believes there is considerable potential for growing tourist numbers by focusing efforts on the diaspora "who wish to engage with Irish culture on a deeper level than… the general tourist market".
News of the strategy comes on the back of the success of The Gathering last year, which mobilised the diaspora to return to Ireland.
Overseas visitor numbers jump to 6.8 million people for 2013, a significant rise on the trough experienced in 2010 when just 5.6 million people visited.
Meanwhile, tourism development authority Failte Ireland told the all-party group that knowledge of Irish history can be weak among visitors and that the 1916 story alone could prove difficult to market.
Director of strategic development Aidan Pender said an 'Independence Trail' planned for Dublin would have to tell the wider story of Ireland's journey to independence rather than looking solely on the events of the Easter Rising, according to minutes seen by the Irish Independent.
He said Failte Ireland planned to deliver maps, panels and signboards in consultation with Dublin City Council and the Office of Public Works, as well as developing apps and online content for tourists.
Details of the plans emerged as the department faces mounting pressure to finalise a programme of events for 2016.
Three members of the all- party group, whose role it is to advise the Government on commemoration plans, have expressed frustration at the progress made so far with the preparations.
Independent TDs Maureen O'Sullivan and Catherine Murphy, and Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly all criticised the secrecy surrounding the preparatons.
The department said it hoped to be able to announcement of "key elements" of the programme for 2016 shortly.
Arts Minister Heather Humphreys said she intended the commemoration to be "respective, inclusive and appropriate".
"I am particularly keen to engage with local communities, the arts, the educational sector and young people as part of the commemorative programme," she said.
"I intend to take an approach that is based on consultation as plans for the commemorations are finalised throughout 2015."