With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner it’s the perfect time to promote Ireland. For this edition of Friday 5 Susan Black, Chief Commercial Officer for CIE Tours, talks about CIE’s best-selling Ireland trips (and a few in England, Scotland and Wales too), and how the company is doing everything it can to win business from Canadian agents.
1. What is CIE Tours promoting right now?
“CIE Tours has so much to offer Canadian customers. Right now we’re promoting our most popular guided vacations. Our ‘Taste of Ireland’ tour, for example, is a perfect first trip to get a taste of the highlights of Ireland, including the Ring of Kerry, in a fast-paced jaunt, while ‘Taste of Ireland and Scotland’ is a great value trip that also adds on a leg showing the highlights of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast.
“Meanwhile ‘Scottish and Irish Gold’ is a grand tour that allows plenty of free time to stroll around charming cities, towns and villages while seeing some of the finest scenery. ‘Scottish and Irish Dream’ is another of our most popular vacations, complete with whisky tasting, castle visits, music and more.
“All of our guided vacations offer truly authentic experiences with top-rated Tour Directors, who add so much to the experience with their local knowledge and expertise.
“And we are very excited about our new partnership with Air Canada. This means we can offer air-inclusive guided vacations for Canadian travellers from any airport serviced by Air Canada with direct flights to Shannon or Dublin. It allows us to offer great value and convenience.
“Plus, in June, Air Canada is launching two new Irish routes, with four flights per week between Montreal and Dublin and between Toronto and Shannon. And nonstop Toronto-Dublin service will increase from four times per week to daily during the summer, and Vancouver-Dublin flights will resume this summer, five days a week.
“CIE Tours sells in Canadian dollars, which is rare for a U.S.-based company. We also operate a website exclusively for the Canadian market at www.cietours.com/canada. Travel can also be booked by phone at 1-800-243-8687.”
2. Ireland is on just about everyone’s bucket list. How is the Emerald Isle performing so far in 2018 and looking ahead to the rest of the year?
“Travel to Ireland is booming right now – 2017 was a record year, with 10.65 million people visiting. For 2018 Tourism Ireland is predicting visitor numbers of 10.8 million, an increase of 2%.
“Here at CIE Tours we are experiencing a period of a transformational growth, and our growth rate is significantly outpacing this. Interest in travelling to Ireland, and traveling with CIE Tours, has never been higher. The economy is strong in many markets and the new flights, in both the markets we serve and also around the world will make it easier than ever to fly direct – Cathay Pacific is launching the first-ever direct flight from the Asia-Pacific region in June, for example.
“The release of Star Wars: Episode VIII, which was filmed partly in the west of Ireland, will also no doubt serve as a key draw, calling attention to the beauty of Ireland’s western seaboard. There’s a lot of buzz around Ireland right now.”
3. CIE Tours is best known for Ireland but of course the company also offers Britain (including England, Wales and Scotland) as well. What new offerings does CIE have for Britain in 2018?
“We have a lot of exciting new offerings. We have a new collection of Family Collection guided vacations: ‘Irish Myths & Legends’, ‘Scottish Lochs & Castles’, and ‘English Knights & Wizards’. These three tours stress family fun and adventure, with so many memorable experiences.
“The Scottish tour offers activities like a speedboat ride on Glasgow’s Clyde River and a visit to a historic Tall ship, a spooky ghost tour of Edinburgh, a trek to see the Red Deer at Highland Safaris, and a journey on a steam train featured in the Harry Potter movies.
“The English tour features a visit to a falconer, Shakespeare’s birthplace, the Roman Baths, Stonehenge, the Tower of London, and many other famed landmarks.
“The Irish tour is great as well. It includes a fun bike trip through the Phoenix Park which is the home of the Irish President and also the largest walled park in Europe plus a sheep dog demonstration on a farm, an opportunity to cook a traditional Irish meal with a local chef, and a cruise to see Spike Island, a former prison which is now a beautiful park.”
We also have a great new tour called ‘The Outer Hebrides: Scotland’s Gaelic West’, which is a fantastic choice for people who want to visit some extraordinarily beautiful islands and dramatic scenery – places that few travellers ever get to experience. Another tour is called ‘Rockin’ Britain and Ireland’, which visits so many favourite highlights in England, Scotland and Ireland and also includes some fun musical highlights, like a stop in Liverpool with a Beatles tour, and a visit in Dublin to the Irish Rock N’ Roll Music Experience.
We have also introduced small group departures, for people looking for a more intimate group experience on our most popular itineraries. These groups are limited to 26 people, meaning more time and access with the tour directors and local experts, as well as perhaps making it a bit easier to get to know fellow travellers. Small group departures are available on the following British tours, as well as a number of Irish tours including ‘Scottish Clans & Castles’, ‘Heart of Wales & England’, ‘Taste of Wales’, ‘Best of Britain’ and ‘Grand Tour of Britain & Ireland’.
4. So many Canadian travellers are repeat visitors to Ireland & Britain. What are 1 or 2 travel ideas that CIE Tours would recommend for the frequent visitor, to show off a part of the region or a travel style that the client might not have thought of?
“We would recommend that a seasoned traveller looking for a more personal experience might take a look at our private driver options. Guests can take a group of between two and nine guests and travel together in their own private vehicle, with a driver who is a real expert on local insights and traditions.
“This is a great idea for someone who is interested in tracing their roots or is eager to have some really unique experiences. We handle all the planning and allow the guest to just enjoy the trip of a lifetime, customized for exactly what they are looking for.
“There are also lots of great tours featuring some lesser-known places. The tour I spoke of above, to the Outer Hebrides, for example, is an excellent option for anyone to go off the beaten path.
“Wales is a wonderful place that people probably don’t think about visiting on their first trip to Ireland and Britain. Our ‘Taste of Wales’ tour would be an excellent option for an introduction to this magnificent country, home of more castles per square mile than anywhere else on earth.
5. How important are travel agents to CIE Tours?
“Our travel agent partners are critically important to us for the past and future success of CIE Tours – so much of our business relies on them.
“We are preferred partners with some of the leading names in the business in Canada: Travelsavers, Virtuoso, Signature Travel Network, Ensemble Travel, Travel Leaders Network, The Travel Agent Next Door, Maritime Travel and TPI.
“We also run a special educational program that allows travel agents to become certified experts in Irish and British travel. The program offers plenty of perks: a $100 gift card after the first $20,000 in revenue, a free trip to Ireland for two after the first $100,000, monthly chances to win Waterford Crystal, and a lot more.”