Anne Majumdar

When you think of “Big Things”, you’re more likely to think of Australia than the Emerald Isle. But this Friday, some of our kitschily iconic landmarks will take on a green hue as part of the “Global Greening” in honour of St Patrick’s Day.

Three of the Aussies icons – the Big Banana, the Big Kangaroo and the Big Tasmanian Devil – have been enlisted as part of a major local marketing drive being undertaken by Tourism Ireland as it seeks to build on the strong Irish diaspora in Australia and the growing popularity of Ireland as a holiday destination for Aussies.

The Global Greening, now in its eighth year, will these year see a record 240 landmarks around the world light up in green, with 19 of those in Australia. They include Town Hall in Sydney and Council House in Perth.

Sydney Opera House was actually one of the first monuments to “go green” back in 2010 when the initiative started.

Big Banana-karryon

The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour is going green again…

Tourism Ireland market manager Australia and New Zealand Sofia Hansson described the lead-up to St Patrick’s Day as a “really important time” for the tourism board.

“We have a lot of major landmarks going green, and also a lot of quirky ones too,” she told KarryOn.

And while the tourism body will certainly be joining in the party on Friday, it is simultaneously working to get the message out that Ireland is about more than sinking pints of Guinness and whisky – undoubtedly popular activities on Paddy’s Day worldwide.

“Its all about the rich tradition, the culture and the connection,” she stressed.

“We are talking about that all year round, not just this week.”

Although there has been a slowing of growth, the picture has remained positive overall with numbers from the local market still up 6% in 2015 on the back of four very strong years, according to Hansson.

“Australians stay longer than any other market – they stay around 13 days and they spend more than the average,” she said.

Screen tourism is expected to continue to be a major driver of growth with the Game of Thrones effect continuing to be felt, and a boost created by the Star Wars films expected to gather momentum with the launch of the next film later this year.

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“It’s great to get that exposure through film,” she said.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan  also highlighted recent growth in tourism numbers to Ireland.

“Irish tourism has gone through something of a renaissance in the last few years,” he told media at an event in Sydney on Wednesday.

Last year, more than 10 million people visited Ireland, with tourism worth 5 billion Euro to the Irish economy.

Image credit: Tourism Ireland

Image credit: Tourism Ireland

“There are only around six million people that live there so that’s quite sizeable,” he said.

As a result, the government has decided to invest heavily in markets such as Australia with the aim of further growing that inbound number to 12 million.

“Our tourism product has developed substantially over the years,” O’Donovan added.

He highlighted initiatives such as the Wild Atlantic Way along the west coast and ancient settlements in the East that predate the Egyptian pyramids.

But he still underlined the Irish people as the destination’s greatest asset.

“It’s a warm welcome you won’t find anywhere else.”

During his visit, he will also be talking up Ireland’s bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup which Tourism Ireland is confident will be a major driver for tourism from Australia.

 

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