Tourism Ireland wants to get the word out that it’s easier and more enticing than ever to visit the Emerald Isle. How do they plan on doing this? By working with travel agents, for one. In this week’s Friday Five, we sit down with Dana Welch, Manager, Canada of Tourism Ireland to talk about how agents can help raise the destination’s profile, and the many delightful ways Ireland continues to surprise visitors.
1. How are visitation numbers so far in 2018, particularly from Canada?
In 2017, Ireland welcomed approximately 10.65 million overseas visitors to the island of Ireland. Latest results for January to July this year show arrivals from the U.S. and Canada up +14%, and with an increase in air access following Air Canada’s new flights from Montreal-Dublin and Toronto-Shannon. With the announcement of new routes from Hamilton-Dublin with Norwegian Air and a year round Dublin-Montreal route with Aer Lingus in 2019, we’re looking forward to continuing the momentum. The Canadian market is very important to Ireland, and is set to reach a record number of visitors in 2018!
2. What’s your marketing strategy in Canada? How do you plan on increasing Ireland’s profile?
We work across consumer, trade, and publicity channels to educate and inform industry, media and prospective visitors to Ireland about everything the country has to offer, for both leisure and business travel. Engaging with the diaspora community is also important to us with more than 5 million Canadians claiming Irish heritage. From organizing press trips and familiarization visits, working in partnership with key Canadian travel partners, tour operators and airlines – both on and offline – and engaging directly with consumers, our goal is to increase awareness about what makes Ireland a must-see destination, and inspire more Canadian visitors to experience it for themselves!
3. How are you working with travel agents, and how important is the agent community?
Travel agents continue to be an integral part of the travel landscape in Canada, with a high proportion of holiday makers still using an agent to research and book their travel plans. We have a comprehensive program of trade marketing activities, working very closely with agents across the country, having most recently completed sales missions in Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax. Similar to our West Coast roadshow earlier in the year, travel industry partners from both Canada and Ireland joined us to connect with travel agents and update them on the excellent opportunities Ireland has to offer their clients, as well as highlight the direct air access and unique travel experiences available only in Ireland.
We also have a wide range of digital support available to agents, including newsletters, online webinars, and an asset bank of Ireland imagery and video resources, as well as a free online education course known as the Ireland Specialist Programme, allowing travel agents to become a certified Ireland expert!
4. What’s new in Ireland in 2019?
2019 is going to be an exciting year for Ireland! For golf fans, The 148th Open – one of the largest golf championships in the world – is taking place in Northern Ireland. There’s also a lot of buzz surrounding the HBO announcement of the launch of Game of Thrones Legacy experiences opening in 2019. Getting off the beaten track is becoming increasingly sought after by visitors, and I think we will begin to see the previously undiscovered side of Ireland appearing more and more in Canadian Instagram feeds next year. There are amazing, authentic experiences to explore in Ireland, and I think 2019 will be the year that people begin to venture past the cities and bucket-list attractions and begin to explore more of the culture, heritage and adventure activities that the country has to offer.
5. Everyone knows Ireland for its castles and incredible landscapes. But what are 3 things that most Canadians would be surprised to know about the destination?
The food scene in Ireland consistently surprises people. As an island, Ireland is known for incredible seafood (we even host an International Oyster Festival in Galway), but outside of that, Irish cuisine is a lot more varied and exciting than people typically expect. From Michelin-starred restaurants to foraging for ingredients, and everything in between, there is something with an Irish twist for every taste.
The extent of the ancient culture and heritage is another surprising element of Ireland. For example, Halloween actually originated in Ireland with the Celtic festival Samhain being celebrated more than 3,000 years ago. Dracula was even written by Irish writer Bram Stoker – something that many people aren’t aware of. We also have monuments older than the pyramids, with over 5,000 years of history to explore throughout Ireland’s Ancient East, accompanied by stories and mythology that is totally unique to Ireland. A lot of people also don’t realize that Ireland has its own native language (Gaelige, commonly referred to as Irish), still widely spoken in the Gaeltacht regions.
Third is the ease of getting there from Canada – as well as the weather! As the closest European hub, a flight from St. John’s is just a short hop at four hours, with direct flights available year round from Toronto. While people tend to think of rain when they envision Ireland, the climate is actually very temperate and provides a refreshing break from harsh Canadian winters, or blisteringly hot summers.
For more information on travel to Ireland, go to Ireland.com, or follow Tourism Ireland on Twitter (@GoToIrelandCA), Facebook (DiscoverIrelandCA), Instagram (@TourismIreland) and YouTube (@DiscoverIreland).