Tourism Ireland announced today that it has bought the domain name ‘Ireland.com’ from The Irish Times for €490,000.

The all-island tourism marketing body said the new domain name will deliver greater stand-out for the destination around the world and bring significant long-term benefits for tourism in Ireland.

It said the move is part of a redevelopment of Tourism Ireland’s suite of websites designed to capitalise on the growing importance of the internet in travel and holiday planning and to harness growth in social media.

The new website will be unveiled to tourism industry leaders at the launch of the organisation’s 2013 marketing plans towards the end of the year and will roll out across top tourism markets from 1 January 2013. The website will support 11 languages and over 30 individual markets.

The organisation’s sites attracted almost 12 million unique visitors from overseas in 2011.

“We are very pleased that the organisation responsible for promoting the island of Ireland overseas will have the opportunity to leverage the brand and URL that is Ireland.com,” said Liam Kavanagh, managing director, The Irish Times. “From an Irish Times perspective, we will now focus on the continued development of irishtimes.com and to position it at home and internationally as Ireland’s leading quality news and information website.”

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said the domain name is a natural fit for the work his agency does to to promote the island overseas. “There are obvious benefits for tourism, including ease of recognition and sheer memorability which will allow us to achieve greater ‘stand-out’ in the markets and will bring increased efficiencies in terms of promotion and search engine optimization,” he said.

“The acquisition is timely as we look forward to launching our new website towards the end of the year. Tourism Ireland’s Facebook audience is the third largest in the world for tourism bodies (after Australia and Spain) and our new site and new URL will help us to harness more effectively the phenomenal growth in social media and to project an even stronger online presence to attract more visitors here.”