Tourism Ireland ramps up efforts to bring wealthy Russians over here
RUSSIAN zillionaires such as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov could soon be spotted kissing the Blarney stone or downing a pint of the black stuff.
Tourism Ireland, the State body which promotes Ireland overseas, is hoping to woo some of Russia's wealthiest people to this island by setting up a representation in Moscow by early next year.
The representation – a sales agent based in Moscow – will try to boost awareness of Ireland as a holiday destination among Russia's middle classes.
Tourism Ireland boss, Niall Gibbons, described the Russian tourism market as "an important one for Ireland to tap into".
He added: "This market has the potential to grow considerably, especially given Russia's strong economy and its estimated 136,000 'high net-worth' individuals." said Gibbons. "Luxury is important to many Russian citizens – even those with more modest wealth."
Last year, about 227,000 Russians visited Britain where they spent €283m – or about €1,250 each. Ireland has so far found it hard to attract Russians here because of a shortage of direct flights to the island.
"As an island destination, direct and convenient access is critical to tourism growth," said Gibbons. "We would be keen to see an airline running a service between Russia and Ireland."
Tourism Ireland has talked to a number of carriers about improving flight access between Russia and Ireland, including the Russian airline S7, which currently runs flights between Moscow and Dublin during the summer.
Ireland's whiskey and scenery should also help tempt more Russians here, according to Gibbons.
As well as travelling to holiday destinations that are rich in scenery, history and culture, Russians "are very interested in whiskey", he said. "These are areas for which Ireland is renowned."
Tourism Ireland also wants to lure more Brazilians here and plans to set up a representation in Sao Paolo by 2014.