The longest established and most important travel trade event for the Irish tourism industry gets underway in Dublin today.
Meitheal - running since 1975 - is being held at City West in Dublin today and tomorrow. 

The event brings 600 Irish tourism businesses and 300 international buyers and tour operators from more than 22 countries together to do business.

More than 13,500 appointments or "pitch meetings" have been scheduled and deals worth millions of euro to the Irish economy will be signed over the next two days at Meitheal. 

The business tourism market will also be targeted by the Irish tourism industry for the first time at Meitheal, with international business events and conference planners from the US, Canada, Britain, France and Germany attending. 

This year's event is also the first time the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands regional experience brand will be unveiled to the overseas market. 

But one of the biggest challenges facing the tourism industry this year is Brexit.

Research from the National Tourism Development Authority shows that in the event of hard Brexit, Ireland could lose more than one million tourists from Britain and other core markets.

That could cost the sector €380m and 10,000 jobs in the first year.

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Fáilte Ireland's chief executive Paul Kelly said that 2018 was a "best-ever" year for tourism in Ireland and the industry now generates €7.8 billion in revenue and employs 260,000 people. 

"To maintain this momentum the industry must intensify its international sales focus, showcase Ireland as a highly authentic holiday destination; and demonstrate a willingness and ability to adapt to ever-changing markets and consumer preferences," Mr Kelly said.

"This is even more important now as we face Brexit and the challenges it brings to the wider industry," he added.

Mr Kelly said that through initiatives like Meitheal, Fáilte Ireland works closely with Tourism Ireland to select, attract and host high quality international buyers at the event. 

"We also work hand in glove with tourism partners to find ways to develop and enhance our offerings to attract visitors from all corners of the globe," he said.

"This year’s event will have a strong focus on retaining business from the UK, as well as winning business from other lucrative markets. I’m confident our overseas delegates will see first-hand what it is that sets Ireland apart as an outstanding visitor destination," the CEO added.