Featured Article 23 Jul 2013

Mark Paul
The Irish Times
July 23 2013

'The Foundry' expected to boost business tourist revenue by 17 per cent

Google is building a new ‘digital innovation centre’ in Dublin that will bring up to 15,000 extra overseas business visitors to the city each year. The 15,000sq ft premises, called the Foundry, is Google’s first such investment outside of the US and will be officially unveiled by the Taoiseach in September.

The Foundry is currently in the final stages of construction. It will host conferences and research gatherings for the staff of thousands of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) each year from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The new facility, which is located in its Gordon House building on Barrow Street in the docklands, contains a purpose-built 360-seat auditorium, meeting rooms, catering and broadcasting facilities. It also houses a Google merchandising store, its first outside of its Mountain View headquarters in California, although the shop will not be open to the public.

Google declined to reveal the value of the investment, but the company has been working on the project for more than a year and it involved a complete redesign of a large section of the Liam Carroll-developed Gordon House.

‘Ideas factory’
John Herlihy, who heads up Google’s Irish operations, told The Irish Times yesterday that the facility will operate as an “ideas factory” for small businesses.

Google will invite SMEs from across the EMEA region to participate in conferences and research events hosted by it. It will share with the businesses consumer-behaviour data and analysis mined from its website, and help them identify marketing trends and design digital marketing campaigns.

“We will essentially act as digital consultants for these companies. It is more or less a digital teaching facility and it is the first time we will have tried to do anything like this here,” said Herlihy.

The centre has more than 70 conference bookings pencilled in for this year, following its September opening.

Google said there were 5,000 overseas visitors due to attend these events, in addition to attendees from Irish-based business owners and staff.

If it were to maintain that rate of bookings, it will bring 15,000 extra business tourists from overseas to the city annually. Most of the events will be themed by business sector: for example, Google is hosting an event for European retail businesses in September.

“We hope there will be spin-offs for hotels and restaurants,” said Herlihy.

According to figures published by Fáilte Ireland, there were 154 international conferences in Dublin last year bringing 85,000 delegates and €106 million to the city.

In a full year, the Google investment could boost this by about 17 per cent.

Fáilte Ireland yesterday welcomed the plan: “Business delegates are high-yield visitors spending on average much more than that of a leisure tourist – we would hope that if they will like what they see, they may choose to bring their own corporate meeting to Ireland in the future.”

Official figures show business tourists generally spend about €1,400 each per visit, about triple that of a regular tourist.

Content supplied with the permission of The Irish Times Ltd. For more see www.irishtimes.com

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