Tourism to Ireland is often thought of as leisure tourism – people holidaying in Ireland and enjoying the sights and culture of the country. However almost 1 in 6 visitors to Ireland actually come here for business tourism reasons. Last year alone 1.3 million business visits were made to Ireland valued at €724 million to the economy. Furthermore an estimated 220,000 people came on same day business visits last year.
Business tourism ranges from those attending company meetings to large scale conventions, as well as those coming to trade shows or enjoying the rewards of a corporate incentive trip. A business visitor tends to spend more per day in the country than leisure visitors, with conference and incentive visitors especially high spenders.
According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), business tourists from Britain account for 47% all business visits, 36% come from mainland Europe, 11% come from North America while the remainder come from further afield.
In 2016 approximately 9 million nights were spent in Ireland by business visitors and the average length of a business visit last year was 5.7 nights, not significantly shorter than the average holiday stay.
With Britain being the largest source market for business tourism, Brexit and the weakness of sterling is something of significant concern. CSO business tourism data for the first half of 2017 show a drop in volume from Britain, however encouragingly overall receipts from business tourism are up 5% reflecting the quality and strength of Ireland’s business tourism product. Just this week the Convention Centre Dublin won the award for ‘Europe’s Leading Meetings & Conference Centre’ at the 24th annual World Travel Awards and it is a great example of high quality business tourism infrastructure that benefits a city and country.
More and varied business tourism infrastructure – suitable for meetings, incentives, conferences and events – right around the country should be a focus of public investment in tourism in the near future.
Another strong initiative for business tourism is CONNECT17, a showcase and annual event that is now in its 2nd year. Taking place in the RDS in Dublin on the 17th & 18th of October, this is a forum for business tourism and event professionals to experience ideas, connections and practical skills. With the event industry being an ever changing environment, Connect17 boasts a variety of speakers, workshops, experiences, education and networking opportunities. For tickets and more information click here.
Minister Paschal Donohoe’s upcoming budget must be cognisant of the importance of both business and leisure tourism to Ireland’s economy. As Ireland’s largest indigenous employer tourism benefits the whole country and must be protected and supported in the context of Brexit challenges. Tourism’s Vat rate must be maintained and additional budgets are required to highlight Ireland as a compelling destination for all visitors.