NIAGARA FALLS will turn green for the first time this year to mark St Patrick’s Day, Tourism Ireland has announced.
This will be the third year of the tourism agencys “greening” initiative which sees famous landmarks lit up in green in honour of Ireland’s patron saint.
Some 32 cities are involved in this year’s campaign. The London Eye; the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai; Table Mountain in South Africa; the Empire State Building in New York; the Sky Tower in Auckland; and the TV tower in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz are among the attractions which will go green.
The fountains at the White House will go green as will five skyscrapers in Stockholm. Tourism Ireland’s new “Jump into Ireland” advertising campaign will also be shown on the famous Fox screen on Times Square on March 17th.
Tourism Ireland’s chief executive Niall Gibbons said the initiative garnered very valuable publicity for Ireland while costing very little to organise. The publicity value in Britain alone was worth more than €2 million last year with coverage in newspapers such as the Telegraph and the Guardian .
“Our aim is to bring a smile to the world and to convey the message that Ireland continues to offer a warm welcome, fun and spontaneity, alongside fantastic scenery and cultural activities . . .”
The St Patrick’s Day celebrations are seen as the start of Ireland’s tourism season. Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar said St Patrick’s Day provided “a unique shop window for Ireland around the world, for Irish tourism and for trade and investment”.
He said this year’s event would be used abroad to launch The Gathering 2013. This will be a year-long programme of events, festivals and fun designed to encourage people to reconnect with Ireland. It has been described as the biggest tourism initiative ever staged here and Mr Varadkar said it had the potential to attract 325,000 extra visitors.
The Central Statistics Office recorded a 7.8 per cent increase in visitor numbers here last year. Mr Gibbons said this was “a welcome return to growth” after a difficult few years. It was a record year for Australia and developing markets – they were up by 18 per cent – and Mr Gibbons said 2012 should be another strong year.
The visa waiver scheme introduced last year was already having a positive effect, he said. Tourists from certain countries, who previously required a visa to holiday in Ireland, now do not need one as long as they hold a visa to enter Britain. Some of the countries covered by the waiver include Russia, the United Arab Emirates, India and China.
Mr Gibbons said the potential for business was very strong.
“For example there are 24 tour operators in Asia now who previously only programmed the UK that are now programming the UK and Ireland because once you get your UK visa you can come to Ireland for free and it makes sense for them to add Irish itineraries on to their programmes.”
Tourism Ireland has undertaken a number of travel trade missions in recent weeks to places such as Moscow and St Petersburg, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Mumbai and Delhi.