Tourism in Ireland is one of the most important economic sectors. In 2017 around 9 million people visited the country, a 5% increase on the previous year. Most of the tourists visitors to Ireland come from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and France.
Revenue from the tourism industry is roughly €5 billion per year which is about 4% of Gross National Product and accrues around €2 billion in direct tourism related taxes to the Irish exchequer. The tourism and hospitality sector now employes over 230,000 people, (http://www.itic.ieYE17/index.html#2017analysis).
Ireland has a mild temperate climate caused by the gulf stream and temperatures rarely go below zero degrees centigrade in the winter or above the mid twenties in the summer. It’s position in the North Atlantic means that it has quite a heavy annual rainfall.
This coupled with the large amount of land given over to pasture gives Ireland it’s reputation as having ’40 shades of green’ in it’s landscape. Tourists are aware of our climate and do not seem to be unduly put off by the fact they may get wet on their holiday.
Tourists come to Ireland to experience our history, archaeology and architecture. Culture also plays an important role with visitors coming to experience Ireland’s cuisine and religious sites. Many more come on adventure holidays to hike, walk and surf and experience our mountains and remote regions.
City breaks to Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast etc. attract a large number of visitors on weekend breaks. Coach trips from one day to two weeks are also very popular. Other types of tourism available in Ireland include business, golf, shopping, weddings and stag parties.
Ireland has a reputation as a quality destination world-wide. Ireland was voted ‘Favourite holiday destination in the world’ in 2011 by readers of Frommer’s Guide. Lonely Planet has listed Ireland as the friendliest country in the world and Cork as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit.
The website discoverireland.com was also named as the best tourist board website in the world. This kind of exposure is invaluable in making Ireland a desirable tourist destination.
Ireland is a small country and the tourism sector is growing rapidly year on year. There are a limited number of sites that tourists want to visit. Recently Failte Ireland has started marketing Ireland in separate regions to try to get tourists to visit different parts of the country.
The Wild Atlantic Way was the first of these and is a driving route that extends for 2,500 km along the West Coast of Ireland. Following on the success of the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East was launched featuring seventeen counties in the East of Ireland.
In 2018 Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands was launched with a view of attracting tourists to the Midlands and the Shannon region. This region is quiet undeveloped in terms of tourism and this initiative great potential to attract people to the area.
STRUCTURES OF THE IRISH TOURIST INDUSTRY
Tourism in Ireland comes under the remit of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport directs government policy and works with a range of external groups to collect data, analyse findings, make recommendations, implement changes and plan for future development.
Failte Ireland is the main government department with responsibility for the tourism industry in Ireland and is tasked with encouraging, promoting and supporting tourism as a leading indigenous component of the Irish economy.
Tourism Ireland was formed in the year 2000 under the Good Friday Agreement to carry out the overseas promotion of tourism on the whole island of Ireland. Other bodies include the Office of Public Works which looks after heritage sites, discoverireland.com is a website that is used to attract tourists to Ireland and local Heritage Officers also play an important role in the sector.
Private tourism organisations include the Irish Tour Operators Association. The Incoming Tour Operators Association (ITOA) is the representative association of Ireland’s premier inbound tour operators. It’s members design creative programs and itineraries for escorted tour groups, individual holiday makers and business tourists including incentive, corporate meetings and conferences.
Another private organisation is the Independent Tour Guides Association. The The Independent Tour Guides Association is a non-profit membership organisation founded in 2013. Their guides include Walking Tour Guides covering Dublin, Cork and Galway and Driver / Guides covering Dublin, Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way. They have specialist guides doing Spiritual Tours, Nature Tours and Well-being Tours.
ROLE OF TOURISM IN THE IRISH ECONOMY
The Irish tourism industry is now worth an estimated €8.7 billion as the number of international visitors coming here continues to rise. The country earned an estimated €6.5 billion from overseas tourism in 2017. A total of €1.9 billion was generated in domestic tourism revenue and a further €300m earned from Northern Ireland visitors.
Expenditure by international visitors to Ireland was up 6% on the previous year and the average spend per US visitor while in Ireland was €730. The tourism industry added another 25,000 new jobs in 2017 with the sector now employing 230,000 people nationwide.
The number of overseas visitors here grew by 3% to 8.9 million, the highest number on record, with North America, mainland Europe and long-haul markets all showing record growth levels, recent CSO figures showed.
The UK market, Ireland’s biggest source market, did show a sharp decline of 7% due to the impact of a weaker sterling after the Brexit vote, but despite Brexit and capacity worries, Irish tourism businesses are positive about 2018 and the ITIC believes the industry can grow by a further 5% in overseas visitor numbers and 7% in export revenue. B&B Ireland, the industry body representing the B&B sector in Ireland, said its share of overseas visitors rose 18% to 361,084 in 2017, (http://www.itic.ieYE17/index.html#2017analysis).
DIFFERENT TYPES OF TOUR GUIDES IN THE INDUSTRY
A tour guide is a person who guides visitors in the language of their choice and interprets the cultural and natural heritage of an area. This person normally possesses an area-specific qualification usually recognised by the appropriate authority.
Tour Guides can be self employed and can set up their own businesses. Guides can also work for companies such as Abbey Tours or Extreme Ireland as independent contractors. Many Guides work for the Civil Service in the Office of Public Works or in National Museums.
Tour Guides can work for City and County Councils giving walking tours or working in Heritage Sites. Guides can also work in commercially run Visitor Attractions, such as the General Post Office in Dublin or the Roth House in Kilkenny City.
There are many types of tour guides in the Irish tourist industry and they include: Heritage Guides who concentrate on history and give information on subjects such as castles, forts, museums, churches etc. They may also give information on archaeological sites such as Newgrange. They can also give information about architecture and buildings.
Culture Guides can give information of the lifestyles and customs of their particular area including cuisine, religion, music, art etc.
Adventure Guides can offer guiding in areas such as mountaineering, hiking, skiing, surfing, scuba diving etc. They can also guide people in remoter parts of the country.
Coach Guides can offer guiding and commentary on buses which include city tours and country wide tours incorporating specific sites or covering the whole country.
Other types of guide include Nature Guides, Business Tour Guides, Cruise Ship Guides, Golfing Guides, Shopping Guides, Hotel Guides etc.
ROLE & RESPONSIBILITY OF THE TOUR GUIDE
The role of the tour guide is to represent Ireland using different forms of communication, through a language of the visitor’s choice. The guide will help to paint a picture of ordinary life in Ireland as well as talk about history, the Gaelic language, customs, contemporary issues, wildlife and the environment, culture and archaeology.
A guide should have excellent customer service skills, good public speaking skills and a wealth of knowledge about the country and it’s culture and heritage.
They should have good time management skills to ensure tours go to schedule and a correct amount of time is given to each site visited or topic discussed. They should be able to make their guests feel special and leave them feeling that they have experienced a unique tour or holiday.
Tour Guides are responsible of the health and safety of their guests when under the guide’s supervision. They should be able to describe points of interest and be able to answer any questions.
They should monitor the behaviour of their group, especially when there are young children or people with disabilities included. Guides should be able to work with tour managers in developing new routes or sites to visit and be able to make their own commentaries to these in a unique and interesting
Tour guides should maintain a professional, positive and friendly demeanor at all times and should be expert problem solvers.