IRELAND SHOULD BE pitched as a “detox destination” for millionaires and celebrities looking to ‘soul-search’ without being hassled by crowds.
That’s according to a report by Kantar Millward Brown, which recommended that the national tourism development agency draft a plan to bring more wealthy luxury-travel seekers to these shores.
The study for Fáilte Ireland, released to Fora under freedom of information laws, estimated that the global luxury travel market will generate revenues of over $1.1 billion by the year 2022, indicating an annual compound annual growth rate of between 6% and 7% from 2016.
There are no specific figures for how much the segment is worth to Ireland alone, but the research estimated that visitors with the deepest pockets typically spend between €10,000 and €20,000 a week when they come here as a couple, or between €30,000 and €60,000 if they travel with family.
As part of the assessment, Kantar Millward Brown interviewed 20 property owners, destination managers, travel operators, bloggers and travel tech execs based in Europe and the US to gauge their perceptions of Ireland as a holiday destination.
It also surveyed 225 high net worth individuals – those with $1 million to $5 million in liquid financial assets – and ultra-high net worth individuals – those with assets of more than $5 million – from North America, the UK, Europe, China and the Middle East.
The report discovered that Ireland isn’t perceived as a “luxurious country”, although the authors suggest that’s not necessarily a bad thing since “no specific destination really is”.
“Luxury is not about bling anymore. It’s not about gold and diamonds and marble; it’s about service and more about the experience. It’s about being richer of something, richer of an experience, richer of an encounter,” it said.
Ireland is widely perceived as a safe destination compared to other European locations, some of which have experienced terrorist attacks in recent years.
The main barriers that prevent luxury travellers from coming here are the poor weather and a general lack of awareness of how Ireland differs from its main competitors like Scotland and Iceland.
In addition to capturing high-earners’ perception of Ireland, the researchers explored the typical demands of wealthy travellers.
Specific requirements differ from market to market, but clients generally want experiences that are “less touristy than the mainstream attractions, as they want to feel ‘special’ and ‘precious’ as their time is limited and they want to make the most of it”.
“Most of the luxury travellers want a more authentic experience where they can be absorbed in local culture, meet (the) local farmer, author, minister and politician,” the report found.
Other more general demands include “being pampered and surprised at each touchpoint”, “having encounters with local aristocrats” and “soul-searching in most scenic destinations”.
The analysis suggested that the so-called shoulder season – the quieter times of the year when there is more capacity in hotels – best suits wealthy tourists in Ireland, particularly famous ones.
“During the off-peak season (October to February), the sun sets early and that’s the time when the high-profile visitors enjoy,” it said.
“This is because they can go out, enjoy the beauty of Ireland, take a walk around the city all without the hassle of being noticed.”
Some of the shortcomings identified by the report include Dublin’s association with hen and stag parties – “something that doesn’t go well with the image” – and some concern among agents that destination management companies “tend to mark up the hotel costs which can create suspicions in the minds of the client”.
The authors noted that the midlands – which is getting a marketing boost under the guise of the new ‘Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’ tourism brand – hasn’t received the focus it deserves as an area with unique properties and cottages.
The report recommended that in the short-term, Ireland should be “promoted as a detox destination” that gives visitors the chance to “reflect and indulge in soul-searching”.
It also encouraged Fáilte Ireland to use social media and other marketing tools to plug the island’s “culture and tranquillity”.
One of the mid-term suggestions is for the tourism industry to create more yoga camps and retreats so Ireland can claim to be a “wellness destination”.
It also recommended that the sector “establish a culture of discrete and instantaneous service” when dealing with luxury holidaymakers.
“This involves anticipating needs of the clients over time and implementing these without them having to raise a finger,” it said.
Following the Kantar Millward Brown report, Fáilte Ireland is collaborating with all-island marketing body Tourism Ireland to develop a strategy to grow the luxury travel sector, which will be unveiled in early 2019.