'Discount' tourism initiative targets 70 million overseas with Irish ancestry
TOURISTS with Irish roots will soon be able to get big discounts at some of the country's most popular visitor attractions.
Foreigners with Irish ancestry will be eligible for a 'certificate of Irish heritage' under new plans being drawn by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Although holding the document would not entitle someone to citizenship or other legal rights, the department has proposed that successful applicants be issued with a credit-card style card that will entitle them to get knock-down rates at tourist venues.
The scheme would be overseen by the department but run by an external company funded by fees from the applicants.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said firms were being invited to come up with ideas on how to operate the project.
"I look forward to receiving proposals on how we can enable millions of people with Irish ancestry across the world to renew their link with Ireland," Mr Martin said.
"I urge applicants to be imaginative and come up with proposals that will help us identify concrete ways to develop the bond between Ireland and its global family."
Anyone born in Ireland or born abroad with an Irish parent or grandparent can qualify for Irish citizenship.
But the department said there were many people worldwide who were of Irish descent but did not qualify for citizenship.
It is envisaged that the certificate would recognise these people in an official way.
Those hoping to apply will have to prove their claim to Irish ancestry by producing documents, such as a birth certificate, church records of death, marriage and baptism, land records or wills.
The programme would run on a trial basis for a year and be renewed annually thereafter, up to a maximum of five years if successful.
It is estimated that the diaspora consists of 70 million people across the globe.
Last September, Mr Martin proposed the global Irish network following a three-day event at Farmleigh, which brought together some of the top minds from the Irish diaspora to help promote the country overseas.
Meanwhile, a novel promotion targeting film buffs around the UK kicked off this week, in a bid to encourage more people there to holiday in Ireland this year.
It is hoped that some classic films made in Ireland , including 'Ondine' with Colin Farrell and 'Ryan's Daughter', the great David Lean film, will help entice British film fans to visit.
Tourism Ireland has teamed up with the popular DVD subscription company, Lovefilm, for a promotion with a difference that will celebrate Irish film.
With 1.2 million subscriber households on its books and about 4.5 million visitors to the Lovefilm website each month, a website, www.lovefilm.com/ireland, will allow people to explore the top 20 Irish films, browse some interesting Irish film facts and trivia and enter a competition to win a trip to Ireland's famous film locations.
Lawrence Bate, Tourism Ireland's UK chief, said: "Following the success of novel campaigns, for example our Jedward ads, this is a different way to bring the island of Ireland to the attention of potential British visitors.
"The promotion will target millions of British film fans and will involve some of our most famous movies, which also highlight the wealth of our culture and artistic heritage and showcase our spectacular scenery and landscapes."