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  • Expenditure by visitors to Ireland (including receipts paid to Irish carriers by foreign visitors) was estimated to be worth €3.9 billion in 2009, this represents a drop of 19% on 2008 (Failte Ireland, Tourism Facts 2009) Overseas tourist visits to Ireland in 2009 fell by 12% to 6.6 million. Tourist numbers from Britain declined by 15%, Mainland Europe fell by 9%, and North America decreased by 6%, due to the global economic downturn and unfavourable exchange rates with the euro.  The fall of 12% in tourist arrivals to Ireland compares to a drop of 4% in world arrivals as reported by the World Tourism Organisation. International tourist arrivals in Europe in 2009 showed a drop of 6% when compared to 2008 and Northern Europe, which includes Ireland, declined by 8%.
  • It is helpful to think about how consumers experience a destination as a sequence of influences spaced out over space and time, from initial planning, through the visit itself to departure and post visit reflections. The quality of each link in the chain should be of concern.
  • Activity Product Usage among Overseas Visitors in 2009  Hiking/Cross-Country Walking Over 800,000 overseas visitors claim to have gone hiking/cross-country walking in 2009. However, the number who walked off-road, for more than 5km on average, is 388,000 and they spent an estimated €183 million. Holidaymakers who stated that walking was an important factor in their choice of Ireland as a holiday destination number 366,000 and they spent an estimated €215 million while in Ireland in 2009 GolfThe level of participation in golf by overseas visitors recovered slightly in 2009 to 143,000. Overseas golfers spent an estimated €110 million in Ireland. Cycling An estimated 114,000 overseas visitors engaged in cycling while in Ireland in 2009, and accounted for €97 million of overseas visitor spend.
  • The national population is going to grow strongly over the coming years. By 2021 the population is expected to be 5.4 million, up 20% from today’s population of 4.4 million. Projections suggest that by 2031 the population will be 6 million driven upwards by relatively high fertility rates combined with inward migration.
  • To successfully manage a tourism destination the focus should be on an ongoing process of improving visitor satisfaction, while seeking to improve the local economy, the environment and the quality of life of the local community
  • The principal factors of friendly people and scenery have remained very consistent from year to year in terms of their importance, but there appears to be a slight fall-off in the importance of factors such as a natural, unspoilt environment (down six percentage points since 2005) and an easy and relaxed pace of life (down eleven percentage points since 2005). It is likely that a trend towards more urban based trips and shorter stays has contributed to the gradual diminishment in the importance of these two factors. In 2009, for example, one in five holidaymakers (20%) described their holiday in Ireland as a city break, up from 14% in 2005, with Dublin the primary focus of such trips. The proportion describing their holiday as predominantly countryside has declined from 41% to 33% over the same period. From a market perspective, the incidence of city breaks in 2009 was highest among British holidaymakers (27%). Just over one in five Mainland Europeans (21%) described their visit as a city break, highest among Italian (35%) Scandinavian (37%) and Spanish (30%), but much less likely to feature among German (13%) and French (11%) holidaymakers. Notwithstanding any changes in the nature of holidaymakers to Ireland, the support and reinforcement of important destination features such as friendly, hospitable people, beautiful scenery, an unspoilt environment and a relaxed pace of life will remain imperative in discriminating Ireland from other similar destinations.
  • Some Areas of Concern Expense/value for money The cost of living in Ireland is a persistent disadvantage relative to other similar destinations, and is even more widely mentioned at an overall level in 2009 than in the preceding year (25% spontaneously citing this versus 22% in 2008). The deterioration in 2009 is due to the worsening perceptions of holiday visitors from Britain. Perceptions of value improved in 2009 across all other markets apart from Rest of World. In assessing the impact of this, the extreme financial and economic turbulence internationally in 2009 would have been a contributing factor in the apparent deterioration in visitor attitudes regarding value/cost of living. It is likely, therefore, that reduced circumstances for many holidaymakers will have exacerbated perceptions of poor value/high costs. This is particularly evident in the British market, where poor exchange rates have had a significant impact over the year, with two in every five (41%) citing the cost of living as a disadvantage for Ireland as a holiday destination. Roads/Driving/Internal Transport Over the years, other issues that arose consistently included bad roads, poor signposting, difficult driving and inadequate or poor internal transport. With a high volume of car touring holidaymakers and a strong perception of Ireland as a touring destination, a well developed road network and good signposting are very important contributors to a satisfactory experience and it is encouraging to see a continuing fall-off in the proportions spontaneously mentioning ‘bad roads’ as a disadvantage (down from 17% in 2007 to 11% in 2008 and now slightly lower at 10%). Likewise, poor signposting is beginning to disappear off the radar as a particular problem, with overall mention down to 4% in 2009, a drop of two percentage points on 2008 and well below the levels of 8 – 9% noted earlier in the decade. Predictably, critical assessment of roads and driving tends to be above average among North American holidaymakers (7%). Negative assessment of our internal transport infrastructure has remained relatively static at 6 – 7% over recent years.
  • Destination BrandingDestination images are critical in motivating a tourist. The images of a destination branch are those perceptions about the place as reflected by the ‘associations held in the tourist memory’. Building a brand image amounts to identifying the most relevant associations and strengthening their linkages to the brand. Destination branding is a recursive process that revolves around brand element mix, brand identity and brand image building.  Image formation is not branding but a core process in branding. For image building to reach the level of branding there must be a central characteristic – that of brand identity.  Brand identity involves creating a unique set of brand associations. Selecting brand elements to represent the brand identity is of critical importance. The identity must be ‘cohesive’; this means the brand elements must be consistent. Consistent brand elements reinforce each other and serve to unify the entire process of image formation and building, which in turn contributes to hte strength and uniqueness of the brand identity. A brand element may be a word, sign, logo, slogan, etc.  Destination branding begins with carefully selecting one or more band elements that serve as ‘trademarkable’ devices. These elements must reflect the ‘three A’s’ of an image, namely:* Attributes (those tangible features that characterize a destination)* Affective elements (which reflect the benefits values, or meanings attached to the attributes of a destination)* Attitudes / Actions (the overall attitudes and actions which should lead a target audience to visit the destination) Branding Irish Rural Tourism: Destination and Product On the basis of what research data tells us, together with the principles of destination branding, the Irish rural tourism brand should be a mix of destination characteristics and product in the sense of activities / pursuits / attractions. The immediate problem that arises is that the kind of images that might be considered for rural tourism have, in one way or another, been already used in national promotion and marketing. Ireland is ‘sold’ mainly as a rural destination. Indeed, so are some other countries, e.g. Scotland, Wales.
  • Products & Services Holidaymakers were asked to rate their satisfaction with the quality, customer service and price of the various products and services they had used during their holiday. Paid Serviced Accommodation Top grade hotels and Irish Homes/Guesthouses achieve very high satisfaction ratings on quality and customer service, with nine in every ten users either very satisfied or satisfied. Somewhat lower satisfaction ratings are recorded for medium/other grade hotels suggesting that though the majority are satisfied standards may not always reach customer expectations. Self-catering Accommodation Rented self-catering accommodation earned high net satisfaction ratings on both quality (85%) and customer service (84%), with a slightly lower net satisfaction on price (75%). Around three in every four hostel users were satisfied with quality and customer service and two in every three with the price they paid. Net satisfaction with quality in the caravan and camping sector (66%) was somewhat lower although customer satisfaction was well rated (77%). Price, however, was clearly an issue, with just 43% satisfied and one in five dissatisfied. Food Services Historically, price has tended to be an issue across the range of food outlets and this trend continues in 2009 with net satisfaction levels with price for almost all categories of food outlets hovering around 50%. The one exception is the Irish Homes/Guesthouse sector, where satisfaction with price reaches 63%. Across the range of food service outlets net satisfaction with quality predictably peaks for high quality restaurants (88%) and is lowest in the budget restaurant sector (69%). Customer service follows a similar trend, albeit with slightly higher net satisfaction scores across all outlets than is the case for quality. Measured for the third time in 2009, 43% of consumers are now dissatisfied with the price of alcohol, a more negative outcome than previously noted. Internal Transport Net satisfaction with intercity bus and rail services is high, exceeding 80% for both on quality and approaching 80% on customer service. Two in every three are also satisfied with price for these services. Among the other internal transport options, overnight coach tours received the highest level of approbation on all three measures – quality (94%), customer service (94%) and price (81%), replicating the high levels of satisfaction noted in previous years. Across the range of options, net satisfaction with price is lowest for car hire (50%) and taxis (55%). Though quality and customer service are more favourably regarded for both, there may be some room for improvement in both of these aspects, but particularly customer service for car hire (67% satisfied and 14% dissatisfied). Historical & Cultural Attractions Covering historic houses and castles, monuments and historic sites, gardens, heritage/interpretative centres and museums and art galleries, these constitute an important feature of the holiday, with over three in every five (62%) visiting any of these attractions. Their range and quality is generally very well rated, with net satisfaction scores in excess of 80% for each on both these attributes. Inevitably, price tends to be less favourably regarded, with net satisfaction with admission charges ranging between 53% for Historic Houses/castles and 67% for Museums/Art Galleries, the latter perhaps benefiting for the level of free entry, particularly to the more important national institutions. Activities Hiking/cross country walking is the premier product, mentioned more or less consistently by one in every four over the past five years as an activity they have taken part in during their holiday. This rises to one in every three among Mainland Europeans. Net satisfaction with the quality and price of this activity is very high. Around nine in ten participants give a favourable rating on quality and the vast majority (83%) are ‘very satisfied’ with price.
  • Some of the priorities and actions that a rural destination should bear in mind when developing their management approach:Marketing and CommunicationsUnderstanding the market Communicating an accurate quality image and identityProviding reservation services Providing services to groups and the travel tradeMaintaining contact with visitorsMonitoring the effectiveness of marketingUsing larger quality networks  Welcome, Orientation and InformationEnsuring a welcome and orientation by hostsEncouraging responsible behavior among visitorsProviding effective print, well distributedImproving the impact of information centresKeeping abreast of IT opportunities Accommodation Keeping a check on new developmentIdentifying and providing different quality standardsPursuing quality needs and opportunities in different accommodation types Local Produce and GastronomyIncreasing the quality of local produceIncreasing opportunities for visitors to purchase local produceEncouraging restaurant to reflect the traditional gastronomy  Attractions and Events Providing sufficient attractions to retain visitor interestProviding the right level of access and quality of interpretationCombining small attractions and events, for quality and impact Countryside RecreationEnsuring good safety and environmental standardsMatching recreation provision to market needsCreating quality recreational trails Improving quality through linkages and packagesImproving existing leisure facilities for visitors and locals  Environment and InfrastructureImproving and managing transport to, and within, the areaImproving the quality of local services for visitorsIntroducing comprehensive management schemesHaving appropriate land use planning policiesWorking with parks and protected areasStimulating action within local communities Involving and influencing visitorsPromoting sustainability amongst tourism enterprises
  • Food Tourism Food tourism is a growing market segment internationally. In Ireland, tourist expenditure on food and drink in 2009 was close to €2 billion, representing the largest single component of individual visitor expenditure and exceeding the average spend on ‘bed and board’ (Fáilte Ireland, National Food Tourism Framework 2010)  Most tourist destinations are now paying close attention to food tourism as a means of increasing visitor numbers and revenue, with the result that the development and promotion of food tourism plays an ever increasing role in national tourism strategy, particularly in countries such as Scotland and Wales. In line with this, the development of local and regional food destinations is also a growing trend globally, whereby food-related activities and events comprise a key feature of attracting increased numbers of visitors to particular localities. A review of visitor perceptions has highlighted that Ireland has much to be proud of and feedback from visitors is generally positive with regard to the levels of service experienced in food establishments. On a less positive note, findings also indicate that price competitiveness is a concern for some visitors and that there is a need to ensure that quality is consistently high across all food-related experiences. Despite these challenges, given our reputation as a natural, unspoiled location and the positive correlation this has with food tourism, the potential to build on success to date is significant. Fáilte Ireland is confident that potential growth opportunities within food tourism can be maximised by expanding the number and variety of authentic, high quality experiences in key destinations across the country which provide greater exposure to proven unique selling points such as our culture and people.  The National Food Tourism Implementation Framework - part of Fáilte Ireland’s wider commitment to developing key tourism destinations - is concerned with enhancing the overall visitor experience across all food-related experiences in order to deliver on marketing promises and support the effort to position Ireland as a leading food tourism destination. In addition, the framework has the potential to deliver tangible returns for stakeholders such as better business opportunities for producers, an enhanced consumer experience and overall growth in food tourism related revenue and employment. The implementation framework, designed in line with these principles, is primarily concerned with increasing the availability, authenticity, quality and value for money of local and regional food-related experiences. These food experiences must respond to consumer expectations and be reflective of those qualities which research continuously shows makes holidaying in Ireland so unique; namely, our culture, people and the unspoiled environment. A strong emphasis is therefore placed on expanding the range and scope of value-driven food-related experiences for visitors, particularly in key destinations, which offer them a real sense of Irish food, people and places.  The Vision for Food Tourism in Ireland is that: ‘Ireland will be recognised by domestic and international visitors alike for the availability, quality and value of our local and regional food experiences which engender a unique sense of Irish culture and hospitality’.
  • Primary and secondary schools are closing in the Ballyhoura region, creating the opportunity of using the buildings for creating a tourism product centred around education. Second level education is an emerging market. Second level education as a unique selling point for the region (and potentially for Ireland). Product idea: Setting up boarding school for 2nd level.
  • The Gaeltacht Irish College and Adventure Centre is a successful business combining activity and culture; it has been operating in Mayo since 1992. They instruct groups in watersports through the Irish language: www.uisce.ie
  • The Donegal Language, Equestrian and Surf Centre in Bundoran offers horse riding, surfing and adventure pursuits to tourists and bundle them with language classes for students coming to Ireland to learn English. They are approved by the Association of Irish Riding Establishments (AIRE), they are also approved as an equestrian tourism centre and they are approved as a provider of English Language Programmes by the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland
  • Local initiative in Kilkenny called Trail Kilkenny, that incorporates several elements, cycling trails, food trails, craft trails: http://www.trailkilkenny.ie
  • Snowdonia in North Wales has a wide range of outdoor activities, from walking, climbing, cycling, golf, horse riding and fishing to tree top adventures and eco-activities.
  • Central Parcs in Europe and the Uk offer a wide range of activities in forest locations
  • Consumer Needs in a Holiday Context Consumer needs can be categorised into different types, the categorisation being refered to as ‘Needs Segmentation’. Six segments of needs are identified as follows:Stimulation: (met by challenging, survival activities like mountain climbing, etc)Status: (met by exclusive type provision such as high quality accommodation, cuisine or ‘sophisticated’ environments like wine growing regions)Control: (met by planned and predictable vacations, well organized services, etc)Serenity: (met by holidays that ensure relaxation, integration with local people in an easy-going environment away from touristy places)Affiliation: (met by being close to family, friends, making repeat visits, informality, walking about, sightseeing, easy activities)Freedom: (met by modern vibrant atmosphere, entertainment, nightlife, resorts, etc)
  • ForBallyhoura, the consumer needscombination in order of importance is Serenity, Affiliation and Stimulation. These meet deep-seated requirements that are unique and specific to the character of a rural holiday experience including:-integration with nature - ‘typical experience’- meeting people - peaceful natural environment - isolation with friendliness - simple accommodation
  • Demographic DevelopmentsIn terms of demographic shifts, the aging population will need greater levels of support services, care & appropriate product design to meet their needsTourism products and destinations will have to be tailored to the needs and desires of mature people. These tourists will be fitter and more active then heretofore, engaging in a wide range of pursuits on vacationThe under-15 cohort will grow strongly, suggesting a persistent demand for family-orientated accommodation, especially self-cateringCultural attractions will gain significantly from the ageing of the Irish nationDemand for ‘standard’ activities will grow faster in the longer term than demand for more extreme sports. In the short-term, however, extreme sports can benefit from a growing teenage and young adult marketThe balancing between time and money is a critical issue for the tourism industry. The key now is to provide ‘value for time’. This can be done by providing more efficient delivery of services to the traveler and maximization of activities. Improved accessibility and globalization means that Ireland will be able to attract visitors from just about anywhere, but it also means that we are competing against an ever growing set of alternative destinations. In response to the growth of a bland monoculture promoted by globalization people are looking more and more to their own identities and cultural valuesAcross the developed world people are spending more and more on culture, but it is the living, creative and performing culture which is benefiting, rather than museums and heritage centresBrand and brand image will continue to be important to consumers. Credible brands in the future will have to be authentic, trustworthy and sustainable. With so much information readily available, any deviation in delivery from the visitors’ expectations will be punished. Culture and heritage are key components of Ireland’s brand and offer the most scope for differentiationAs people tastes move on they are likely to become less interested in manufacture theme park style experiences and more interested in authentic experiences. Driving this trend will be higher educational attainment and greater exposure to globalizationThe traditional version of luxury was mostly about exclusive, expensive, best quality, self-indulgent and conspicuous consumption. Luxury is becoming less about materialism and more about self-enrichment and time. In the developed world the emphasis will shift towards personal, experiential, authentic experiences and self- development Climate Change One implication of climate change in Europe is that north-west Europe could acquire a new competitive advantage for tourism as Mediterranean destinations become too hot for comfort during the summerPotential increase in numbers holidaying at home in Ireland and overseas visitors from southern Europe will bring their own issues in terms of demand for waster water infrastructure, water supply and power. This could result in pressure on the environment, and in particular water quality due to potential increases in waste discharges combined with reduced rainfall during the summer months and higher temperatures Insights into Current and Future Tourism Demand The rise of the conservation movement and the consequent designation and preservation of certain areas has implications for rural areas. In this context we may note a distinction between ‘traditional’ holiday activities in rural areas, and ‘new’ activities. The former were usually passive pursuits, often nostalgia-related and relaxing in character – like walking, fishing, bird-watching. The latter may be characterized as competitive, technical, fast, prestige oriented or ‘fashionable’, such as off-road vehicle driving, paragliding or orienteering. While ‘traditional’ rural pursuits are essentially an escape from urban industrial lifestyles and relate directly to the environment in which they are set, the ‘new’ activities represent the transfer and imposition of urban values and lifestyles on rural areas – to the extent that the specific context of a rural location is much less important, or perhaps almost irrelevant. The interest is primarily in the activity, not its rural location As mature travelers are becoming a significant segment of the market, they are making adjustments to provide themselves with adequate funds for retirement. There is a view, however, that older consumers respond negatively to being portrayed as an identifiable age group (e.g. by references to ‘the grey market’), so niche marketing must be on targeted but non-branded product offerings. There will be a strong focus on ‘the holiday experience’, gaining new experiences, and different experiences, allied to the tourists’ search for opportunities to express their individualism and realize their self development. Visible expressions of social status inherent in forms of mass tourism are giving way to more inconspicuous consumption and to a general desire for people to express their identity in more subtle ways than through ‘cross consumerism’.‘Experience holidaymaking’ will also drive the quest for authenticity, for the original and to experience a variety of ‘real’ cultures before they become homogenized in a global economy. People will want to be differentiated not so much by what they can buy, but by what they can do – or have done – and the life experiences they have had. In practice this will mean that holidaymakers will try a series of once-off venturesome or experimental holidays – moving from one destination to another rather than making repeat visits.  Profile of the Future CustomerTourism Ireland’s promotional campaign sees Ireland’s best prospects, within each of the main markets, as the segment described as ‘sightseers and culture seekers’. In Ireland’s core holiday markets (GB, USA, Germany and France) there are approximately 66 million AB/C1 Social Class holidaymakers. Those who describe themselves as ‘pure sightseers and culture seekers’ account for just under 21 million of this target audience. However, another 22 million have a ‘strong interest’ in sightseeing and cultural holidays, bringing the total of this market category to almost two thirds of all holidaymakers from the core market targets. Therefore, we can say that the typical rural tourism customer of the future will: Be in the older age groupsHave above average levels of educationHold a managerial / professional occupationLive in an urban environmentBe well informed, socially aware and widely travelledValue variety in places to see and visit (including places to eat)Be interested in active pursuits (walking/hiking, cycling, fishing, golf, equestrian, water sports)Be also very interested in passive pursuits (culture, history, museums, archeological, sightseeing)Want to have good quality especially in traditional food and in accommodation
  • Opportunities for Investors, Businesses, Farmers, Individuals and Communities in Ballyhoura Region A lot of investment went into Ballyhoura. Fáilte Ireland supported the development of approximately 30 National Looped walks in Ballyhoura over the last 3 years. Through NDP Ballyhoura was supported in the development of the mountain bike park. The providers in the area were supported through media & trade farm trips on a regular basis.  Fáilte Ireland also supports the main walking and outdoor festivals each year with marketing funding. By end of 2011 there will be 140 trailheads equating to 280 quality, off-road National looped walks around the country - Coillte, NPWS, Leader and local volunteers in rural areas have established these walks with support from Fáilte Ireland. Along with a network of 12 long distance routes which are improving all the time with the walks scheme and rural recreation officer support, Ireland has a very good walking network. The aim of walkers welcome is to work with local community groups such as Ballyhoura to be pro-active in walking as well as tourism operators to realise the full potential of the area and make it famous for walking holidays. Ballyhoura is a destination that can offer facilities and services that cater for the needs of the walking visitor. This includes the provision of a varied selection of walks, accessible walking information and other walking opportunities such as festivals and walking clubs who put on regular walks in the area. They can also provide local amenities such as shops, pubs, and cafes providing walker friendly services including packed lunches, places to leave wet gear and visitor books. The availability of approved accommodation (Hotels, hostels, B&Bs, camping&caravans) that can cater for walkers needs and support from the investor community are key requirements in ensuring the success of this initiative in Ballyhoura.  The existing tourism products are well development and supported, and while it’s important to look to new tourism products to meet the needs of the future, attention needs to be paid to services and accommodation where there is a gap.  Maintain existing developments and maximise their potential. New areas for growth in food tourism and education. Ballyhoura should also consider developing theme parks based on the ‘Centre Parcs’ concept in the UK and Europe Develop products for day visitors from Limerick and Cork while being careful with the product mix so that Ballyhoura doesn’t become a destination solely for day trippers  Broadband coverage is still very poor in the area. More technology investment needed in Ballyhoura