Fáilte Ireland kick-starts campaign to promote new brand "Time to Play"
Mary Hanafin T.D., Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport and Fáilte Ireland today unveiled Ireland's three times Major winner Padraig Harrington as Ireland's new face for golf tourism. The announcement comes as the tourism authority launches a new golf brand and embarks on a €1.5 million marketing blitz to promote Irish golf overseas. For the next year, Harrington will be at the forefront of Irish golf tourism promotions and will help promote Fáilte Ireland's new golf brand, Time to Play.
Speaking at the launch, Padraig Harrington said -
"I am very proud to represent Ireland wherever I play around the world, as I have been throughout my career.
As I travel the globe, I visit and experience some wonderful places and get to play some of the world's best courses, but I always look forward to returning home and playing the unique golf courses of Ireland.
In Ireland, we are very fortunate to have some of the very best golf courses in the world, from links to inland courses, all of which provide a friendly welcome to any visitor. I hope that my involvement in the 'Golf in Ireland - Time to Play' initiative can help the Irish golf tourism industry in some way and I can assist in spreading the message of Ireland's fantastic golf courses, facilities and warm welcome."
Making the announcement, Minister Hanafin emphasised -
"We are delighted and proud that Padraig Harrington has agreed to be the central figure in the new Golf in Ireland - Time to Play brand. He is already a true Irish golf ambassador. Every time he plays or speaks about golf anywhere in the world, it is very clear he is representing his country and is proud of his heritage and the support he enjoys back home. We believe Padraig's values enhance our international golf brand message.
To develop a unique Irish Golf identity, one which we are all proud to call our own, this golf brand needed a leader - someone who represented the values of Irish golf and could best lead Ireland's new call to international golfers to visit our shores. The golf industry was also looking for a beacon, one that they could rally behind and energize this exciting new initiative. In Padraig, we have found that person."
Speaking today, Redmond O'Donoghue Chairman of Fáilte Ireland said -
"I too wish to thank Padraig for flying the flag for Ireland and our golfing industry. We all need our heroes and there is no greater hero today than Padraig Harrington.
Our golf product is among the best in the world and it is up to us to ensure that all is being done to fully promote what is on offer. I have no doubt that Padraig's advocacy will help maintain Ireland's reputation as a destination for high quality and challenging golf. Furthermore, this year's 3 Irish Open in Killarney at the end of July, as well as next year's Solheim Cup in Killeen Castle, will also provide us with significant opportunities to market this key tourism asset."
The Irish golfing community meets and welcomes almost 150,000 visitors annually. Golf is one of Ireland's greatest tourist attractions, contributing an estimated €110 million to the economy.
Today golf in Ireland is facing a number of significant challenges. Overall, the decline in the number of golfing tourists visiting our Irish golf courses and hotels, coupled with the current economic downturn, have financially squeezed our golfing industry. To address these challenges, Fáilte Ireland has been working with the golf industry, through a national Golf Forum, to put in place a number of initiatives that will support the industry in this difficult period.
Having identified golf as an area of strategic importance, Fáilte Ireland significantly increased its international marketing budget in 2010 to just over €1.5 million. The new brand "Time to Play" has been designed to rival the competing destinations such as Scotland and Wales.
Commenting on the new brand, Keith McCormack, Head of Golf Tourism at Failte Ireland said -
"Golf in Ireland is more than just a round of 18 holes. It is a unique global invitation that evokes great memories and offers the challenge of playing inspiring golf courses. Irish golf offers a real connection and sense of fun - both on and off the course.
Together with the golf industry, we wanted to bring that message to life. In Padraig Harrington, we believe we have the perfect ambassador to do that. Over the coming months you will see Padraig's image across our new golf tourism marketing campaign at home and in our key overseas markets such as the US, Great Britain, the Nordic countries and Germany across all media platforms. We believe that this new partnership will help Irish golf tourism increase the number of overseas visitors coming to Ireland - giving the golf industry a much needed boost."
The new multimedia campaign will be implemented across a range of media including broadcast and print. Importantly, digital media will also be exploited as currently 70% of golfers use the internet as their source of reference when planning their trips.
The announcement of a new brand and ambassador comes on foot of other recent developments within golf tourism. For example, last month the sector welcomed a new national quality assurance scheme for golf courses in Ireland. This new quality standard will ensure that golf consumers are fully informed and assured of the range of quality services available in golf courses throughout Ireland.
In addition to the new standards framework, Fáilte Ireland is developing an online solution for booking golf tee times in Ireland. This customer friendly system is designed to make it easier for visitors to find and book golf in Ireland. Both domestic and overseas golfers will be able to search for availability of tee times on www.discoverireland.ie/golf and www.discoverireland.com/golf respectively.