Visitor numbers to Ireland hit record levels last year. A relatively small but growing part of that involved business tourism. It is estimated there will be over 100 meetings and other business events in Ireland this year, involving 25,000 plus visitors and generating millions for the economy. Fáilte Ireland is keen to grow that business even further.

Fáilte Ireland's head of business tourism and events Ciara Gallagher said that business tourism plays a very important part in the overall component of the tourism offering here and it is made up out of a number of different sectors. These include association conferences, corporate meetings and the incentive travel market, or reward holidays. This is a relatively new area where big corporations reward their staff when they exceed sales targets with a holiday. She says this is a growing and potentially very lucrative sector for the Irish business travel market. 

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Ciara Gallagher said that business tourism is "big business". Figures for last year from the Central Statistics Office showed that business travel to Ireland was worth a "whopping" €700m, an increase of 7% on the previous year. It also supported 21,000 jobs. The average association conference delegate is worth about €1,600 to the economy, which is almost three times the value of a leisure traveller, she points out. 

Ms Gallagher said that business tourism receives a "team Ireland approach" and a lot of work goes into attracting business people here. As a small country, she said that Ireland definitely punches above its weight. Over the last five years, the country has had cumulative growth of 35% in the business tourism sector. She said that in terms of the recent ICCA rankings, Dublin was placed 13th in the world and Ireland 26% out of 123 countries. Irish cities are up against the likes of Copenhagen, Paris, Brussels, London and they are competing with these tier one destinations and performing very well, she added.

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