Starting a Tourism Business in Ireland: A How to Guide

Starting a Tourism Business in Ireland_ A How to Guide

Caitlyn Buchanan, 5th November 2019

If you are thinking about starting a tourism business in Ireland there has never been a better time. Ireland was recently named one of the top 20 countries to visit in 2020 by the Condé Nast Traveller, based on more than 600,000 reader submissions across the globe. This year Ireland was also ranked as the third-best country for doing business in Europe because of its supportive environment for start-up companies. This ranking was given by NimbleFins who based their decision on the economic data of 50 European nations and factors including economic health, cost of doing business, and business environment.

Business Tourism in Ireland

Tourism is commonly known as the organisation and operation of travel to locations of interest for recreational means. Business tourism, on the other hand, is a more limited and focused subdivision of tourism which includes business travel, typically to attend meetings, conferences, exhibitions etc. Since 2011, business tourism in Ireland has grown by 35% and is now one of the highest yielding sectors, accounting for 16% of overseas tourism spend. Additionally, business tourism is estimated to bring in three times the revenue of leisure tourism. 

Open a Tourism Startup Company

A Private Company Limited by Shares (LTD) is the most popular company type for private, tourism business ventures in Ireland. A major benefit of a LTD company is that it provides limited liability, protecting its shareholder’s personal assets should the company come into trouble.

Before embarking on a tourism startup be sure to sufficiently research and form a sound business plan. This will go far in engaging potential investors and increase the likelihood of securing government grants, some of which are outlined below. The following link defines the 8 essential items necessary for Company Formation in Ireland.

Obtain a Tour Operator Licence

When starting a tourism business in Ireland, it is important to note that the company may need to obtain a relevant tour operator licence. A tour licence will be necessary if the company intends to operate as either a tour operator or provide guided tours and are not established within another Member State. Applications for tour operator licences in Ireland are processed by the Commission for Aviation and Regulation. Further information including fees and documentation required on submission, can be found at this link. The Commission for Aviation and Regulation has also set out further guidelines to help with this process.

Tourism Business Funding Schemes

There are various funding schemes available through the National Tourism Development Authority.  

Tourism Development & Innovation

Failte Ireland has provided €150 million worth of investment funding this year alone under the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 Strategy. They are especially interested in supporting businesses that have a focus on the culture, heritage and people of Ireland. Such investment is a significant indication of the support behind tourism start-ups and the plan for their continuing contribution to the Irish economy and promotion of Irish culture. 

Festival Innovation Program

Another reason to consider a tourism start-up is the increasing focus on festivals and events that promote Ireland internationally. With a considerable calendar of events already scheduled in a given year, the Festival Innovation Program is designed to identify those new and unique events that will draw interest to the diverse landscape of Ireland and encourage visitors – especially during the off-peak season. Over the next 5 years, targeted funding will be offered to this area aiming to generate local employment as well as broader economic revenue of €150 million invested back into the country.

To get involved in this promising tourism business alternative the Failte Ireland provides links to guidelines and the application process, as well as tips on engaging with social media and converting website traffic to draw the most attention to a new tourism business.

The Employment Investment Incentive Scheme for Tourism

A further incentive to start a tourism business in Ireland is the Employment Investment Incentive Scheme (EII), which provides tax breaks to attract international investment into the country. The scheme aims to support companies by offering tax relief to their investors. Failte Ireland will consider each application to determine its viability as a tourism business before providing a certificate of approval, which can then be submitted to Revenue Commissioners to apply for the tax break. 


Ireland has a long-standing history as a top tourism destination that is continually expanding. There has never been a better time to explore the various business opportunities that recreational and business tourism industry has to offer. If you want to learn more about forming a company in one of the top countries for doing business in Europe or if you have any questions about the information covered in this article or please don’t hesitate to contact us on +3531 646 1625 or email