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The tourism relaunch of the major European metropolises : Dublin

The health crisis has had a profound impact on the entire tourism industry worldwide, preventing people from travelling at will for months. The major cities are among the most affected destinations, but not having welcomed tourists for several months has allowed them to take stock of their tourist activities. After this time of reflection, each major city decided to reinvent itself to boost tourism in its destination. Some have changed direction completely, while others are continuing the actions already undertaken before the crisis began, which were aimed at renewing themselves. Several European cities have agreed to be interviewed by HospitalityHON to share their experiences of the health crisis and how they plan to revive tourism in the coming months.

Tourism before Covid

Dublin, the largest city on the island of Ireland and capital of the State of Ireland, is the historical, political, artistic, cultural, economic and industrial centre of the country. Home to such literary figures as Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and the creator of Dracula, Bram Stoker, the city now welcomes more than 8 millions of tourists who come to discover the natural and cultural riches surrounding the capital. Among the city's key attractions are St. Patrick's Cathedral, one of the few remaining vestiges of Dublin's medieval city, Trinity College with its impressive library and of course the famous Guinness brewery. The nightlife is also one of the major assets of Dublin with the Temple Bar area, which is one of the oldest and most charismatic areas of the capital with typical Irish pubs and restaurants. During the day, this area is transformed into the cultural centre of the city, a role it has occupied since 1991, when Dublin was elected European Capital of Culture.

Dublin is a relatively young and dynamic city with 50% of its population under the age of 25 and an equally young tourist population, the city of a thousand and one colourful doors is a popular destination for young tourists.The majority of these tourists come from the UK and the USA and spend an average of 5 nights in the city.  A majority of them are repeat visitors. This demonstrates the tourist appeal of the city and its ability to build loyalty. Business tourism is also a growth sector for the destination, which ranks 18th in the world's top 20 cities by volume of MICE activity, with a total of 104 events hosted, according to the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association). Dublin's accessibility from all major European cities, its well-developed MICE infrastructure and its young and cosmopolitan identity make it a destination of choice for business tourism.

Also, the Brexit has certainly had an impact on tourism in Ireland but not necessarily a negative one as people tend to imagine. In fact, the hotel sector in Dublin is doing well in 2018 and 2019, even experiencing an increase in the number of international overnight stays. The transfer of activities within the EU is generating a real investment boom in the Irish capital, which is benefiting the hotel industry. Dublin is the number one location for financial services companies looking to leave the UK, which is a boon for 4 and 5 star hotels catering for business tourists. The capital's hotel stock is relatively well developed, accounting for one third of the country's supply.

Tourism during the Covid : focus on dosmestic and durable tourism

During the health crisis, international tourist arrivals in Ireland dropped considerably, -77.1%, also within Dublin, and in addition, the Irish Government put in place relatively restrictive health measures. The country has experienced 3 very strict confinements which have often been extended so the tourism sector has suffered the full impact of this global crisis. Hotels, restaurants and pubs remained closed for many months in 2020 before they were able to welcome the public again last summer, except for pubs that did not serve food. The loss to the national tourism sector is estimated at €6 billion, a drop of around 80%. In order to support the local tourism economy, Fáilte Ireland, the Republic of Ireland's tourism body, has placed great emphasis on domestic tourism. It was also important to provide financial support to tourism professionals during this period, and several plans were launched, including one of 10 million euros for professional event organisers, incoming agencies and travel agencies, another for the HCR sector and finally the last one of 55 million euros for the transport sector and all the other professionals not covered by the other support plans.

On leisure, we had to turn around and try to focus on domestic market and bring them into Dublin which has proven incredibly difficult.

Sam Johnston, Manager of Convention Bureaux of Ireland

Dublin was already committed to sustainability before the health crisis hit, but like many urban destinations, this period has intensified its commitment to developing greener tourism. The city follows the guidelines of the government's environmental protection plan, a very important issue in Ireland. The year 2019 was also an important year for Dublin's recognition as a city committed to sustainability as it moved up 16 places in 3 years in the GDS Index to 11th place and was also awarded the "Best Improved Destination". In 2020, the city continued to encourage local businesses to engage with sustainability in order to continually improve Dublin's image and make it a sustainable destination of choice. The city's long term goal is to become a low carbon destination, Dublin is already home to the world's first ISO 14001 certified carbon neutral convention centre and has been awarded the Green Tourism and Entertainment Award in the last year. One of Dublin's priorities is to transform the MICE sector to meet all the standards and values of sustainable development.

About sustainable development, we are pushing the industry and they are paying attention and they do see the benefit of it. So it’s a key message, it’s a key activity that we are going forward with the green party at national scale.

Sam Johnston, Manager of Convention Bureaux of Ireland

Tourism after Covid

Dublin's priority for 2021 and 2022 is to accompany the revival of the tourist sector and to do this, the destination wants to work on the local tourist segment because the observation is without appeal, the locals visit Dublin very little. The city is therefore taking part in a campaign developed by Fáilte Ireland called "Keep discovering" which aims to encourage the Irish to discover or rediscover their own territory even if they think they already know it. The campaign also aims to encourage Irish people to book more holidays, even short ones, to support the country's economic recovery. This communication plan, with a budget of 4 million euros, intends to boost visits to the island's cities, including Dublin, which are currently less popular with domestic tourists than the great national natural areas. Various videos and promotional spots will be shown on TV, radio, in cinemas and online, each highlighting a destination and its major tourist attractions as well as its lesser known spots. Fáilte Ireland believes that the recovery of the country's tourism economy, and therefore Dublin, is heavily reliant on local tourism this year so every effort must be made to make the destination attractive to locals.

« We will be focusing very much on 2022 and beyond, we already have been through all this like re-opening guidelines for 14 different sectors. »

Sam Johnston, Manager of Convention Bureaux of Ireland

The locals are also an asset to Dublin's tourism as the city does not really have any famous monuments, as is the case for other large cities, so its inhabitants are the main tourist attractions. Indeed, the Irish and especially the Dubliners are known for their friendliness and conviviality. It is therefore envisaged that the locals will become tourist advisors, as they have a taste for sharing and are often in contact with tourists. Moreover, the locals know their cities by heart and in particular the more confidential places that are not part of the traditional tourist route, thus allowing the tourists they advise to live an immersive and unique experience. This initiative would join the great trend of greeters, these locals who transform themselves into tourist guides for a day or a few hours.

« We don’t have an Eiffel Tower, a statue of Liberty, the iconic thing of Dublin and Ireland is our people and if we can help the locals to give that information by being themselves and those interactions may be in a coffee shop, a hotel, a tourist attraction. I think that’s a better way, less formal for visitors to find that information. »

Sam Johnston, Manager of Convention Bureaux of Ireland

It can be concluded that the health crisis has had a profound effect on Dublin, both in the leisure and business tourism segments, but the destination has been resilient and supportive of the industry during this period, demonstrating the spirit of cohesion and mutual support that exists within the region. Dublin has also rediscovered the importance of its locals, both as tourists to support the economic recovery and as tourism resources as they are the city's best ambassadors. Although the recovery is relatively soft, Fáilte Irland remains confident that tourism activity will pick up well in 2022. In the meantime, Dublin will continue to refine its tourism strategy and move towards sustainable tourism in order to be in line with tourists' desire to travel more responsibly, even within urban destinations.

 

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