'Wild about Ireland' - Top travel writers jet in for tourism 'coup'
Travel Classics Conference
“National Geographic Traveler readers are wild about Ireland," says George Stone, Editor-in-Chief of the US travel bible.
"They look to Ireland as a place of natural beauty, cultural depth, personal warmth, heritage, and the sort of awe that comes from feeling at home far away."
Stone is one of a select group of super-influential travel media attending this week's Travel Classics International Writers’ Conference in Kilkenny.
Running from May 18-21 at Lyrath Estate Hotel, the event brings together writers, influencers and editors from publications including National Geographic Traveler, Condé Nast Traveler and Harper’s Bazaar... household names throughout the US.
Landing it is a big win for Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland, who teamed up to outbid international competition in hosting the event. The attendees represent publications with a combined circulation of 87 million in North America, it says.
After they leave Kilkenny, the writers will be whisked away on a wave of media trips showcasing the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and Dublin.
“Ireland, with its friendly people and stunning landscapes, will provide fantastic copy for the travelling writers," said Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland.
"The story almost writes itself."
Ireland attracted record North American visitor numbers last year, a figure it aims to grow by six per cent in 2017, says Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland.
International media coverage plays a big role in inspiring visitors, with media regularly invited to hosted press trips all over the island. It's rare for so many high-profile editors and writers to land at once, however.
"I do think it's a coup," Stone told Independent.ie Travel.
"The Conference comes at a fascinating time in travel writing and travel content production, because there are more distribution platforms than ever before" - a theme the National Geographic editor will address in his keynote presentation.
"But that just makes the quality of the storytelling, the ideas and what the travel writer brings even more important... Consumers are getting to the point of being saturated with junk, and really longing to have well crafted, meaningful stories across all platforms."
Creatively engaging visitors
For North American visitors in particular, Stone says Ireland offers the "optimal geographical location; in that it's accessible yet rewarding." Irish heritage, and the fact that English is spoken, he also sees as advantages over other destinations.
In the future, he suggests that sustaining the growth and interest of North American visitors will need ever more initiatives and experiences that creatively engage the visitor, as opposed to "passive tourism" based on traditional sight-seeing.
In a world with such a clatter of messages, technologies and platforms, personal connections are more important than ever, Stone believes.
His own Irish connections include an Irish step-grandmother, Lorraine Edna O'Brien, and a grandmother-in-law from the Irish Quarter in New Orleans. "It's a very palpable and enriching experience when you land," he says. "You feel part of it."
It's not all one-way, of course. Visitors need to engage beyond big hits and traditional itineraries, and travel publications play a huge role in encouraging that.
"They can't just show up and get a magical experience.'
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