Last updated: 04:25 PM ET, Tue December 01 2015

Ireland Hopes The Force is Strong with Star Wars Tourism

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | December 01, 2015

Ireland Hopes The Force is Strong with Star Wars Tourism

PHOTO: The Kerry coast. With part of Star Wars Episode VII filmed in Ireland, officials are looking to capitalize on interest from fans of a galaxy far far away. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland)

Ireland has high hopes for 2016. After a record number of tourists headed for the Emerald Isle in 2015, the country is hoping to have another big year – and it’s using the Force to reach its goals. Yes, part of Star Wars Episode VII was filmed in Ireland, and tourism officials are hoping the film’s popularity will drive some extra traffic to its shores a la Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland.

"It’s the most anticipated movie in history as you know some of it has been filmed in Skellig Micheal. The opportunity to associate the Ireland brand with the Star Wars brand is something that’s going to be good for all of us,” said chief executive officer at Tourism Ireland, Niall Gibbons in an interview with Newstalk in Ireland.

2015 Performance

Tourism Ireland estimates that, by year's end, 7.9 million people will have visited Ireland in 2015, representing an 11 percent increase over last year, with growth recorded from all markets. International visitors are expected to generate $4.4 billion, a 16 percent increase over last year.

“Twenty-fifteen is set to be the best year ever for Irish tourism. And I am delighted to report that growth has been recorded from all our markets around the world – with record numbers arriving here from North America, Mainland Europe and Australia and developing markets,” said Gibbons. “Throughout the year, Tourism Ireland undertook a packed program of promotions, to bring Ireland to the attention of travelers everywhere. Thousands of opportunities were created for potential visitors around the world to read, hear or watch positive messages about Ireland; Tourism Ireland estimates that this media exposure is worth an estimated $339 million in equivalent advertising value.”

The organization aims to surpass this year’s record performance in overseas tourism and to beat it by welcoming 8.2 million visitors to Ireland in 2016. This figure will represent growth of 4 percent over 2015 and deliver $4.7 billion to the Irish economy (an increase of almost 5 percent) next year.

“Following a successful 2015, ambitious targets have been set again for 2016 and beyond,” said Gibbons. “We will unveil Ireland’s Ancient East around the world, while continuing to place a major focus on the Wild Atlantic Way. We will also highlight Dublin, in particular capitalizing on the recent inclusion of Dublin at number three in the world in the prestigious ‘Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2016.”

Tourism Ireland’s Focus in 2016

Tourism Ireland will highlight many key themes in 2016 to grow visitor numbers. It plans to increase digital and social media, ramp up its publicity program and collaborate overseas especially when helping travel trade members close sales and build on successful marketing cooperatives.

From a visitor’s standpoint, visitors will still hear a lot about the Wild Atlantic Way but they will also begin to hear about Ireland’s Ancient East. It is the newest tourism experience and will be unveiled around the world in 2016. Tourism Ireland’s brand new Ireland’s Ancient East advertisement will launch in January in 23 markets around the world.

 Tourism Ireland will also highlight Dublin – a destination “between the mountains and the sea” – particularly in the shoulder and off-seasons and will capitalize on the recent inclusion of Dublin at the number three spot in the world in the prestigious Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2016.

The country will also be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

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