Paschal Donohoe: Dublin must offer far more than just the usual old pubs, craic and ceol to keep ahead
Nobody ever got ahead by standing still. So, when a report by the Grow Dublin Taskforce, which was established in 2012 by Fáilte Ireland, found that Dublin’s tourism brand was in danger of becoming stale, work had to be done to turn that ship around.
The report found that while our capital city is doing well in terms of number of visitors we’re attracting, we are not doing as well as we could be compared to our main rival European cities.
This served as a wake-up call to the stakeholders in the public and private sector, who are charged with promoting the capital and driving tourism forward.
Those of us familiar with Dublin know what a fantastic city it is. We know too that our city comprises far more than the craic, ceol and pub culture for which we are sometimes famed.
Stretching from Dublin Bay to the mountains, and from Howth Head to Dun Laoghaire Pier, Dublin is a lively city with a rich cultural heritage that has as much to offer the art enthusiast and the city breaker as it does those who love the outdoors.
Much of this however, is sometimes lost on would-be tourists who are not being given the fullest picture of our city and surrounding region.
It’s true that Dublin has been leading the way in growing tourist numbers in recent years, which is important as the city is a gateway to the rest of the country.
However, Dublin’s competition lies not in the Corks or Galways of the world but instead in the Berlins, the Amsterdams and the Copenhagens; the cities we are in danger of ceding ground to.
With as many as 300 brands having been used to promote Dublin in one way or another, is it any wonder that an inaccurate perception of our capital persists, and that tourists are opting instead for cities positioned with greater clarity, and a more competitive appeal?
A comparison of tourism numbers and revenue in Dublin between 2007-2012 saw figures decline in those areas by 18pc and 12.6pc respectively.
Around that time, Copenhagen (inset) increased tourism rates by more than 8pc year on year. Similarly, in terms of bednights, the annual percentage growth in Dublin at that time was just 1pc, while our competitor cities of Berlin and Amsterdam were significantly outperforming us with rates of 10.5pc and 4.1pc.
In the same way that New York has successfully branded itself with its identifiable ‘I love NY’ logo, Copenhagen, has embraced initiatives such as ‘Wonderful Copenhagen’ and embarked on sectoral marketing drives like ‘Cruise Copenhagen’ and ‘Meet Copenhagen’ to increase tourism and win market share.
Clearly this approach is working and Dublin now needs to do the same.
By identifying the market segments with the greatest growth potential, such as the ‘social energisers’ made up of young adults; ‘culturally curious’ comprising travellers with time and money to spend; and ‘great escapers’ who may be looking for a more energetic break, we can get the message out that Dublin has the potential to meet all of these needs.
With this in mind, I established the Grow Dublin Tourism Alliance last November, led by the Chairman of Bord Bia, Michael Carey, to focus on marketing Dublin city and region in a unified way for the first time.
The aim is to make a noticeable difference in this regard within the year.
Tourism has been instrumental in our economic recovery, showing significant growth for the last four years and adding thousands of jobs to our economy.
We live in one of the best cities on earth; a city that has the potential to deliver so much more. The time is now to properly communicate that message to the rest of the world and to convince those with an eye on our great city that Dublin is top of the list of tourist destinations and more than worth the trip.
Paschal Donohoe is Minister for Tourism and Sport