Foreign Affairs & Trade Chairman Pat Breen T.D. officially opens Shannon Conference entitled “Chinese Tourism on the Move: Targeting the Affluent Chinese Consumer.”

May 31st, 2012 - Pat Breen

I was delighted to officially open the Shannon Chamber of Commerce organised Conference this morning entitled “Chinese Tourism on the Move: Targeting the Affluent Chinese Consumer.”

The Conference which took place at the Shannon College of Hotel Management focused on how the Shannon Region could be enhanced to attract the affluent Chinese, who are seeking new destinations and leisure facilities in Europe. A panel of distinguished Chinese academics, widely acknowledged as thought leaders in tourism, sport and economics, outlined the Chinese market’s expectations from Ireland and the level of support that needs to be expended to entice inbound business from China.

Welcoming delegates to the Conference and thanking the organisers of the Conference for the invitation to address the Conference, in his Opening Address, the Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs & Trade Pat Breen described the location as “very appropriate given that Shannon has been the starting point for millions of tourists down through the years from the US, Britain, Continental Europe and Asia.”

He went on to say that “Saturday, the 18th February 2012 was a very historic day for the region; it laid the foundations for a new era in Irish Chinese relations. The visit of Mr Xi Jinping, Chinese Vice President and incoming President was not only Historic, but it was symbolic of the special relationship that exists between the Chinese Authorities and this region. A relationship that was forged by Shannon Development over the years when they received many Chinese delegations examining the Shannon Free Zone Model.

His visit to County Clare provided a major opportunity to showcase County Clare’s Tourism Product in China and to tap into the potential tourism opportunities from this emerging economy. The fact that Mr Xi Jinping spent most of his time in County Clare is a testament to those strong ties which have been fostered here.

Speaking about the potential opportunities in this emerging Economy, Deputy Breen asked delegates to:
Just Think about this vast Country:
POP: 1.5 Billion. (The most populated Country in the World)
2nd largest Economy in the World. (set to become the largest economy in the next 20 years)
GDP growth in 2011 of 9%
Total Trade between Ireland and China £5.3 billion

These Statistics speak for themselves and when Mr Xi Jinping choose Ireland as the only European visit on his recent 3 country world tour, this was a sign for me of things to come between our two countries. Our relationship had come of age.

Our Government seized on this opportunity with a subsequent visit by our Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. and the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney TD. Further Ministerial visits are to follow including a Trade visit by An Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore later on in the year; and I will accompany the Tanaiste as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs & Trade Committee.

Tourism is an Important and growing industry in Ireland. We had 6.5 million visitors last year; this generated £3.5 billion in revenue and supported about 180,000 jobs in communities across the Country.
The Government is keenly aware of the importance of the Chinese Tourism to Ireland.

In my role as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, I meet regularly with the Chinese Ambasssador to Ireland Mr LUO. He consulted me ahead of the Vice-Presidents visit to County Clare and I have built a strong relationship with him and his team in Dublin. After the Vice Presidents visit, the Ambassador told me that the visit of Xi Jinping to Bunratty, the Cliffs of Moher and to Lynch Dairy Farm got primetime coverage on State Television to an audience of 1.4 billion people. One couldn’t buy such valuable advertising. A dream start for a new Tourism Drive.

Ireland has a strong Presence in China with an Embassy in Beijing, a Council General office in Shanghai and honour Council in Hong Kong. Enterprise Ireland and the IDA are also well represented in the large cities and of course Tourism Ireland also has offices in Beijing and Shanghai.

I believe this visit has allowed Tourism Ireland to address the potential of this great market. About 38 million Chinese travel abroad each year. Presently only 2 million visit Europe and about 150,000 visit the UK and approx 10,000 onwards to Ireland. It is estimated that 100 million tourists will travel abroad by 2020 and we must be ready to capture that ever increasing number over the coming years.

TODAY, is the start of this process and I congratulate all concerned. So how do we target these Chinese Tourists? First of all, we must make it easier for them to visit our Country.

The Visa Waiver system which was introduced last year is making it easier for Chinese Visitors to come here for a short term stay. This has now been extended for another 4 years.

On line visa applications have now been made easier and are available in Chinese. This was a problem in the past as it was cumbersome to operate. Remember there are 450 million internet users in China.

Tourism Ireland Market Drive at Tourism Fairs.

Tourism Ireland must continue to promote our Culture and Heritage. (St. Patrick Day) Riverdance was a big hit. The Gathering WE must continue with High profile tourism and Trade Missions in each direction

Concluding, Deputy Breen said that “We must look at the possibility of Direct flights to IRELAND.

Which would provide “A new Era in Shannon Airport”, In the meantime, however, “Until we have direct flights, “, Deputy Breen said that “we must continue to work with the UK on joint Tourism Initiatives and we can all play our part.”

A Number of Keynote speakers were addressing the Conference today, including Deirdre Hunt, Emeritus Professor, Management School of Asian Studies, University of Cork, Professor Fan Hong, Director of Asian Studies, the Irish Institute of Chinese Studies and the Confucius Institute, University College Cork, Dr Lu, School of Modern Languages, Literature’s and Cultures, NUI Maynooth, Professor Liz Xu, Visiting Lecturer in the Irish Institute of Chinese Studies, Jim Paul, Head of Australian and Developing Markets for Tourism Ireland.