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By 2013 there will be more mobile internet users than desktop internet users” – Brian Brady, Google, Ireland

(September 14th) Fáilte Ireland will hold its annual e-business conference which explores how we can bring technology and tourism together so that Irish businesses can sell more effectively to the 21st Century tourist. The event will take place at the Carlton Hotel, Dublin Airport from 8.00am.

This year’s conference, entitled “Engage, Explore and Ignite Your Online Presence”, will focus on how tourism businesses can use effective social media and mobile web apps as key sales channels, particularly given the fact that mobile internet use is set to exceed desktop use over the coming years.

Speaking in advance of the conference, Mr Kevin Moriarty, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of operations in Dublin, emphasised:

“The majority of travellers now research, plan and book their holidays through the internet and tourism businesses have no option but to engage with new technology. In short, if you’re not online, you’re dead to potential customers. To date, we in fáilte Ireland have helped over 3,500 small and medium enterprises to avoid that fate and to plug into their full potential via the internet through our Web Check and e-business training programmes.

“This conference will be an extremely important addition to this work and will provide business-friendly advice and valuable insights into how tourism can really win back customers by properly exploiting new social media”.

The internet has fast become the travel agent of choice for tourists. The Fáilte Ireland 2010 visitor attitude survey found that almost 70% of overseas holidaymakers used the internet to plan their trip to Ireland. Indeed, when it comes to actually choosing where to go, almost half (48%) of all holidaymakers surveyed cited the internet as the primary source of information which led to them choosing Ireland.

After choosing to come to Ireland visitors continue to use the internet to book or purchase some elements of their holiday. The most popular purchase/booking made online in 2010 was booking air or sea carriers at 96% which was then followed by accommodation at 73%.

120 delegates from the Irish tourism industry will attend the upcoming conference ranging from hotel managers and marketing managers to owners and proprietors of other accommodation, activity providers and more.

Delegates will hear from a number of online experts such as Brian Brady, Google Ireland who will outline how mobile devices can add to a business’s online marketing strategy and Andrew Weld-Moore, Manager of Online Sales Operations at Facebook who will examine the benefits of using social networking sites, such as Facebook, can help to optimise your businesses web presence.

Speaking about how mobile devices will impact on the Irish tourism industry Brian Brady, Google Ireland explained –

“Today over 50% of new internet connections is coming from mobile devices. By 2013 there will be more mobile internet users than desktop internet users, meaning smartphone devices will be the primary method of accessing the internet for the majority of people globally. As the mobile web expands and mobile applications proliferate, the opportunities available for businesses to reach consumers and grow their businesses will increase as well.

“The mobile revolution represents an enormous opportunity for the travel sector to acquire users. In Ireland, currently 7% of all travel related queries come from smartphone devices; in 2009 this was less than 1%, which is evidence of the exponential growth. In the UK 14% of all travel related queries come from smartphone devices, illustrating the continuing trend among consumers to rely on their smartphone device as the first step in the travel decision making process.

“Critically however, 79% of websites are not optimised for the mobile web and my presentation at Fáilte Ireland’s conference will focus on presenting the emerging trends in mobile usage and illustrate why it is essential to integrate mobile into your overall marketing communications plan”.

Fáilte Ireland’s new e-business tool – an online booking comparator application which can be accessed on the tourism authority’s WebCheck Facebook page (!/webcheck) – will be launched at the conference. This open access online comparator can be used to compare the costs, services and technical features of 15 different booking companies instantly.

Speaking about how tourism businesses are currently benefitting from social media Andrew Weld-Moore, Manager of Online Sales Operations at Facebook explained –

“More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared every month on Facebook and each person has an average of 130 friends that these actions are shared with through their news feed. This creates a personalised experience where you discover relevant information through the lens of your friends and communities.

“We have always known that a recommendation from a friend is the best kind of marketing and, on Facebook, those in the tourist industry can make the most of the social graph and let people talk to their friends about the places and things they’ve enjoyed.”

A workshop will also take place during the day which will enable attendees to meet with direct booking engine companies and Online Travel Agents (OTAs) to discuss their offerings on a one to one basis.