Tourism Ireland 2023 – NI Marketing Launch (18 January 2023) | Key Points

Photo Caption: Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland; and Christopher Brooke, Chairman of Tourism Ireland, at the launch of Tourism Ireland’s 2023 marketing plans in Belfast.


Nicki Darnbrook from NITA attended the launch of the Tourism Ireland marketing strategy and its plans to promote Northern Ireland overseas in 2023. A short summary of the launch is detailed below. 

Karen Patterson  introduced the launch to rebuild overseas tourism by highlighting the resilience of the tourism industry in its reaction towards the impact of the cost crisis and the current labour skills shortage.  Ireland has a place, people and product along with a £70m marketing budget. The new global marketing campaign commences on St Patrick’s Day in the 4 major tourism markets – Great Britain, USA, France and Germany. 


Tourism Ireland Chairman, Christopher Brooke provided the opening plenary presentation. He was followed by Chief Executive, Niall Gibbons and Director of Markets, Siobhan McMahon. Breakout sessions were then available for guests who had pre-registered to attend and in the afternoon there was the opportunity to attend short 1:1 appointments with Tourism Ireland staff.


Chairman, Christopher Brooke

International travel has rebounded quicker than expected and sustainability will remain at the core. Recent research has highlighted that the desire to travel is as strong as ever and because people do not have strong opinions on where they want to go, there is room to influence. Funding of £7m for shared tourism projects is welcomed. 

Chief Executive, Nial Gibbons

During the last few years Tourism Ireland’s recovery framework has been based on Rebound (2022), Rebuild (2023) and Redesign (future) for holidays and short breaks in Ireland. Global tourism only started to recover in 2023 and Ireland has performed best in the long term. By 2022 the island of Ireland had recovered 75% of its tourism business and the plan is to rebuild revenue from overseas tourists to pre-pandemic level by 2025 with overseas tourism contributing to economic sustainability. It is estimated that media exposure for an extensive programme of promotions in NI in 2022 was worth approx £185m in equivalent advertising value.

The Green Button campaign is based on the island of Ireland and highlights RI and NI attractions, Tourism Ireland programmes etc. The focus is on attracting value adding tourists (those who stay longer, spend more and consider the environment), focusing on markets that deliver the greatest revenue – currently North America, Great Britain and mainland Europe. Challenges include ETA, cost of doing business, war in Ukraine, labour shortage, currency fluctuations and the competitive landscape. The job of Tourism Ireland is to ensure that interest in NI and the island of Ireland, and the recovery in demand for holidays here, continues so that our industry returns to profitability with our flexible and agile approach continuing beyond 2023. Tourism Ireland will embed sustainability at the heart of its consumer, trade and media activity with an increased focus on sustainability (economic, social and environmental)  in its publicity and digital marketing, travel trade, media familiarisation visits and sales opportunities overseas. 

Siobhan McManamy, Director of Markets

2023 is the year of Rebuild. The £70m tourism marketing budget has increased from £22m in 2019 and by June 2023 NI air capacity will have increased 104% from June 2019. There have been new routes announced to NI from mainland Europe and there is an opportunity to maximise these routes. £5m from DFE has been awarded towards the NI Embrace a Giant Spirit campaigns to be launched in Spring 2023 in Great Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands. This will highlight the positives for holidaymakers in NI and should reach millions of people. 

The new global campaign ‘Fill your heart with Ireland’ was shown on video and will be launched via TV, media partnerships and multiple social digital channels on St Patrick’s Day 2023 in our top four tourism markets, GB, USA, Germany and France. It will then be rolled out to 9 further important tourism markets around the world. This new campaign differentiates NI and the island of Ireland from other destinations, featuring two ‘Derry Girls’ stars Saoirse-Monica Jackson and Jamie-Lee O’Donnell and Sharon Horgan from ‘Bad Sisters’ who share what fills their hearts with Ireland. 

Other promotional campaigns to be rolled out during other specific times of the year include  the Open and the Ryder Cup, Halloween, St Patrick’s Day, luxury travel and outdoor activities. It is all about identifying the right message at the right time by the right channel.

Twinning partnerships have started which involves overseas markets ‘twinning’ with a specific region in NI and Ireland helping to encourage more business into that area eg. USA (Causeway Coastal Route), GB (Derry – Londonderry) and Germany (Fermanagh Lakelands) with more specific operations also running such as sports tourism (Ulster Rugby), Notre Dame v Navy (American football in Dublin) and Riverdance (running 30 years and is touring in USA and mainland Europe). Activities connected with Belfast’s designation as a UNESCO City of Music will include the US premiere of Good Vibrations in New York during the summer. Tourism Ireland will also be promoting:

  • Titanic Belfast which has had a multimillion pound refreshment programme
  • Overseas publicity and programming which will enable Tourism Ireland to dial up key messages about NI.  This is a 3 year International Programming Fund with 7000+ broadcasts including Adrian Dunbar’s ‘My Ireland’ and ‘Donal’s Irish Adventure).
  • Screen tourism – includes opportunities around popular movies and TV shows filmed here eg Derry Girls, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor among Thieves, Vikings Volholla, The Banshees of Inisherin and Belfast.

A further video exhibited Northern Ireland’s top 10 destinations – Giants Causeway, Sperrins, The Dark Hedges, Mournes, Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, Mussenden Temple, Royal Portrush GC and Lough Erne. The 2023 timeline of key tourism promotional activities across UK, Ireland, Germany and France was presented which included the KickStart campaign and NI Embrace a Giant Spirit in Northern Ireland during January and February. The travel trade drives business to Ireland through organisations such as the ETOA Council, CTA, UK Inbound and from overseas through organisations such as IMAP. 

The plenary sessions finished with Karen Patterson highlighting the positive work which is  being undertaken as tourism industries emerge from Covid in a stronger position. By 2025, Ireland should have returned to 2019 tourism figures with sustainability and travel being an important focus and the current theme being Rebuild within the 4 major tourism nations. Profitability is the key driver which is evident by the level of the campaigning which is vibrant, celebratory and inspirational. Human connections are essential for mental health and wellbeing.


  1. Increasing our Sustainability Focus – Mark Henry, Director of Central Marketing and Sustainability
  • Sustainability is based on the Tourism Recovery and Action plan (DFE).
  • Definition of sustainability is based on the UN definition ‘tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, industry, environment and host communities.
  • Action is already under way and embedded in the draft strategy and plans are –  consumer and trade research, sustainability of messaging, marketing promotion, trade and publicity visions and new sales opportunities.
  • Aspirations of sustainability are also embedded in the draft strategy – to rebuild by increasing revenue to pre pandemic levels while increasing focus on attracting value adding tourism – economic, social and environmental sustainability.
  • How? Educate, reassure and inspire.
  • Ireland’s sustainable proposition ‘press the green button’ – the island of Ireland is green by nature and that is the message being embedded. This will be brought to life by social media and can also be reviewed on – 20 pages with a sustainability focus available across 21 versions in 6 languages.
  • In publicity – 22 stories led to 80 articles with the creation of £10.6m revenue and an EAV of £3m plus 150 media and influencer visits.
  • New sales opportunities – engaging with specialist tour operators for those seeking specialist products, themed webinars, ezines and social communications, first event with exclusively sustainable suppliers was the Adventure Travel Summit.
  • Co-op marketing opportunities – 2 campaigns held in GB – kayaking ‘led by locals’ and charitable travel podcasts.
  • Industry opportunity – currently seeking strong sustainable content for use in social media, newsletters, press releases etc. They must have consumer appeal so if anyone wants to generate overseas publicity about a new product or exciting news, please send it to Collette Kelly or Jenny Sharif.
  • Sustainability is embedded in overseas promotion with a focus on economic, social and environmental factors.
  • Email for further details.


  • When will draft strategy be published? Currently working with a wider stakeholder group – should be ready by end of March and ready for industry review by April.
  1. Northern Ireland: Strategic Opportunities for Growth – Helen McGorman
  • Tourism increased steadily from 2002, with £7.2b revenue and 32m overseas tourists between 2002 and 2019. Since 2010, holidaymakers to NI have doubled.
  • 2019 was a big success story – there were 2.2m overseas tourists (+1.2% from 2018), £589m spend (+5.1% since 2018 and +85% since 2010), 10m nights booked (-3.1% since 2018), 852k holidaymakers (+7.3% since 2019), £217m holiday spend (+14.7% since 2018 and +168% since 2010)).
  • 2022 performance indicators show strong growth and rebound – air capacity at June 2023 will be 104% of 2019 levels, rooms occupied Jan-Nov were 101% of 2019 levels, average daily rate £100 which is +27% since 2019 and tourism forecast as at Oct 22 is 71%.
  • Strategic objectives to support NI to realise its tourism potential are:
    • Enable the delivery of the 10X strategy for growth
    • Enable tourism growth across the region
    • Align NI strategic development with Tourism Ireland strategy
    • Deliver long term sustainable growth for tourism in NI
    • Grow NI as a holiday destination
    • Support and sustain access to NI
  • The Shared Island project is a significant funding opportunity of £7m investment over 3 years with a focus on building synergy between two international compelling products which work well together (Causeway Coastal Route and Wild Atlantic Way). Opportunities to get involved will be developed with supporting guidance from Tourism Ireland on potential Shared Island projects.
  • The Peace Plus project – the new tranche of Peace Plus funding is being released in 2023 and Tourism Ireland are working with sister agencies to agree projects of scale. Proposed projects will align to the overall strategic growth objectives for NI with support/guidance being provided for potential projects. Existing examples include Gobbins and the Ulster Canal. Funding closes at the end of 2023.
  • City and Region Deals – development is being led by local authorities, offering huge opportunities to create new international quality tourism products and experiences. There is an opportunity to reprofile and promote the tourism offer in NI and Tourism Ireland aims to work with local authorities on this. Examples include the DNA museum in Derry, Hillsborough developments, Gobbins and Belfast Stories. These will go live in 2027/28.
  • Strategy House- Northern Ireland – Delivery for NI is aligned to the overall strategic vision and includes sustainability, major product developments, luxury, passion points (music, screen, food and drink) and golf (The Open returns).
  • 2023 and 2024 projects are dedicated to NI EAGS campaigns. Belfast music showcasing in Boston and New York, Good Vibrations in New York, twinning projects for sustainable growth (eg Derry and Donegal) and funding projects.
  • Email for further details.


  • Are there any other local twinning plans as it would be beneficial to twin other cross-border counties? Not locally but international ones are Armagh/Mournes are being twinned with France and Fermanagh Lakelands are being twinned with Germany. There is potential to discuss further local ones.
  • Is there any further funding available? Peace Plus funding is the only available funding at present and Tourism Ireland will help and advise with letter and information to support funding requests.


The event finished after lunch with pre-booked 1:1 appointments with Tourism Ireland marketing representatives as part of their Overseas Business Exchange.

The Tourism Ireland 2023 Marketing Launch presentation can be viewed and downloaded below.