TORONTO — Canada got a later restart than other markets, but despite this “stop-start” year, Canadian travel to Ireland is recovering well and in fact better than anticipated, says Tourism Ireland’s Executive VP, Alison Metcalfe.
Metcalfe along with Market Manager, Sandra Moffatt took the opportunity to update the trade press yesterday ahead of Tourism Ireland’s annual industry briefing for its partners.
“The recovery’s been stronger and faster than we thought,” said Metcalfe, adding that by the end of 2022, the Canadian market should be 65 – 70% back to what it was pre-pandemic. That’s just about on track with Ireland’s recovery from all of its international markets, averaging about 75%, and just behind the U.S. at 80%.
This year was all about the restart, and driving conversion. Now Tourism Ireland will move into the next phase of its recovery plan, and that means focusing less on volume, and more on revenue.
“SEEING IS BELIEVING”
Canada already punches above its weight when it comes to length of stay – 11.4 nights, the highest of all the international markets – and that helps with spend. Pre-pandemic, Canada’s 248,000 annual visitors to Ireland spent some 209 million euros.
Ireland’s focus on luxury product will boost spend too, and if the current wave of pent-up demand stays strong, demand for ‘bucket-list’ trips to the Emerald Isle could fuel revenue increases for years to come.
Moffat says Tourism Ireland is very much focused on a message of ‘seeing is believing’ when it comes to promoting Ireland to the trade, which is why fams showcasing top-level luxury product are so important. Tourism Ireland hosted several fams for Canadian travel agents in 2022, including luxury-focused fams, with more to come in 2023.
While luxury means different things to different travellers, who could say no to a private Bushmills whiskey tasting on Northern Ireland’s famous Giant’s Causeway? It’s just one of the special high-end experiences available to luxury travellers to the Emerald Isle. “It’s all about custom private access,” says Metcalfe.
A new global brand campaign will also launch in 2023, on the heels of increased investment in this market this year, and that should bring a revenue boost too. “We want to inspire people to think about Ireland and build longer-term demand,” says Metcalfe. Adds Moffat: “We want to build on Canadians’ passion points for Ireland, like culture, music and dance and castles.”
The destination is also continuing efforts to extend its travel season, something it started working on before the pandemic. The move dovetails with Tourism Ireland’s three sustainability pillars: economic sustainability; environmental sustainability; and community / social sustainability.
The hope is to get back to 2019 revenue levels, plus inflation, “certainly by 2025”, and maybe before that, says Metcalfe.
Speaking of inflation, the travel industry is watching closely to see what impact those concerns have on travel intentions and bookings. “Certainly there are economic headwinds, especially with people’s concern about the cost of living,” says Metcalfe. “Despite all that, people are still prioritizing travel. They’re making choices. And they’re choosing travel.”
Lift to Ireland is strong, with 96% of pre-pandemic capacity already back thanks to the destination’s airline partners, including Air Canada, WestJet, Transat and Aer Lingus.
Additional capacity is expected in 2023, however Moffat says Tourism Ireland has received confirmation from WestJet that it will no longer be operating its Halifax-Dublin direct flights for summer 2023, as part of its focus on Western Canada.
Lots of competition should keep fares reasonable, and that’s crucial for recovery to continue in this economic environment. “Having the lift is key to recovery. But the lift has to be at the right price,” says Metcalfe.