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Speaking at the Irish Hotels Federation Conference, Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn advised the gathered industry members that tourism revenue could be doubled to $8.6 billion (€8bn) by 2030, with employment of 300,000 in the sector, if the right approach is taken and if the sector is ambitious enough.

Quinn said: “You can ebb and flow with the vagaries of the market taking the good with the bad. Indeed, our 2015 season was a bit like that, where much of what we achieved was actually due to factors outside our control like exchange rates and air access. Alternatively, you can try to shape your future, taking the best insights to hand and plotting a course for sustained growth. With no major external shocks, and on current trends, by 2030, I would suggest that it is feasible to double our current revenues from $4. to $8.6 billion (€4bn to €8bn).”

The CEO emphasized that this will not necessitate a doubling of visitor numbers but rather a greater focus on higher yielding market segments and on growing length of stay. He added:

“If we did manage to grow along these lines then employment in the industry would be expected to increase from 200,000 to 300,000 over the period, with arguably more sustainable jobs.”

To support this ambition, Quinn pointed to the fact that over the next 15 years, the number of people traveling internationally is estimated to roughly equal the number that traveled over the past 100 years. In other words, by 2030, two billion people will engage in international travel – an increase of one billion more than today.

Quinn emphasized that Ireland could win a large slice of this increased market but potential growth will be a question of “from whom” rather than from “from where” and he stressed the great potential to be found amongst an older more affluent demographic globally as well as amongst millennials. Both these age cohorts have great potential which Irish tourism can tap.

Tomorrow’s tourists will be driven by a desire ‘to experience’ life, increasingly defining themselves by ‘what they do’ rather than ‘what they own’. In travel, the prize will be lasting memories – for self-fulfillment, for sharing with others or to brag about. To ensure Ireland maximizes future growth, it must offer and present visitor experiences that stir the emotions to create lasting memories and encourage repeat visits or third party recommendations. Increasingly, also, technology plays a great part in how travelers choose, experience and recommend destinations.

To that end, Quinn stressed that the strategy which Fáilte Ireland has already embarked upon - to develop and grow experience brands of scale such as the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East - is appropriate given the direction in which consumer preferences appear to be shifting. The Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East experience brands have been specifically designed to take advantage of this growing demand for experiential travel.

Overall, Quinn emphasized that the right approach and ambition would ensure that Irish Tourism could achieve exceptional growth: “We can achieve great growth but only as long as we accept that the overseas traveler is changing and we understand how to capture the interest and curiosity of discerning new market segments. To do that, we must deliver authentic and immersive experiences that stir their emotions and create great memories. Furthermore, we must also exploit the opportunities that digital technology offers our industry in terms of communications and improving the customer experience.”