A tourism chief has vowed the sector can recover in 2021 from the devastating effects of Covid-19.
Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said after a devastating 2020, with the pandemic causing havoc for the travel and tourism industry across the globe, 2021 will see the restart of international travel.
Mr Gibbons said the organisation has a three-phase plan to restart, rebuild and ultimately redesign demand next year.
It is planning a significant kick-start campaign, which will be launched, possibly around St Patrick’s Day 2021, to drive bookings and revenue for tourism businesses.
It will deliver a very clear “book now” message to create demand for summer holidays here, in order to save businesses and create jobs.
He said: “This has been a catastrophic year for everyone in our industry, but I do believe that tourism can, and will, recover from this pandemic. Recent news about vaccines is really positive and gives us hope for travel in 2021.
“In our research, Northern Ireland and Ireland have consistently been among the destinations that holidaymakers say they would be most comfortable visiting, even while social distancing measures are in place. So, while we in Tourism Ireland certainly don’t underestimate the challenges that may lie ahead, we look to 2021 with hope and optimism.
Mr Gibbons added: “As international travel begins to restart next year, it is clear that keeping Northern Ireland front and centre in consumers’ minds will be critical. Every destination across the globe has experienced the impact of Covid and will be seeking their share of the recovery.
“When the time is right, Tourism Ireland will need to punch through the noise and create an immediate desire to visit. Flexibility, above all, will be absolutely key.”
The organisation, responsible for promoting Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination, will share its plans for restarting overseas tourism at a virtual event on Wednesday attended by hundreds of tourism companies from around the island of Ireland and overseas.
It will include the rollout of a major digital video campaign during the Christmas holiday period in 12 different markets, a campaign targeting the diaspora in Britain, the US and Canada, and the continuation of Tourism Ireland’s global social campaign #FillYourHeartWithIreland.
Next year, Tourism Ireland will roll out a new ‘Northern Ireland: Embrace a Giant Spirit’ campaign in Britain, highlighting Northern Ireland as a great choice for a ‘staycation’ to British travellers.
It will continue to highlight Northern Ireland’s connection with Game of Thrones and it aims to harness the opportunities presented by the new Game of Thrones studio tour at the Linen Mill Studios in Banbridge, which is due to open in the summer.
Mr Gibbons said: “Once this crisis is past and the island of Ireland is open again to overseas visitors, we in Tourism Ireland will be ready to play our part in delivering a sustainable recovery, for the long-term future of our industry.
“We know that, while unquestionably the short-term priority for our industry is to restore economic sustainability, our success in attracting future overseas visitors will be increasingly dependent on the demonstration of environmental and community sustainability as well. We will be doing everything that we can to recover as much business as possible and to return our great industry to growth.”
But Tourism Ireland’s success in supporting the restart of overseas tourism and driving business development is dependent on many factors including consumer motivation, air and sea access and industry and travel trade.