Ireland

With new direct flights, Ireland hoping to lure Canadian visitors in winter

TORONTO — Traditionally, Canadians visit Ireland between May and September. The rest of the year, not so much.

But Irish tourism officials are hoping that is about to change, with the introduction this fall of direct flights year-round from Toronto to Dublin offered by Air Canada Rouge and Aer Lingus, Ireland’s national carrier.

In addition, Air Transat and WestJet offer seasonal, warm-weather flights between Canada and Ireland.

With the new off-season flights, Tourism Ireland has embarked on an ambitious strategy to bump up the number of Canadian visitors to Ireland by 47 per cent over three years. In 2013, about 125,000 Canadians visited the island.

Why go to Ireland in the winter? The advantages include smaller tourist crowds and better deals on airfares and accommodation, said Tanya Warren, Tourism Ireland’s Toronto-based publicity executive.

Events include Dublin’s three-day New Year’s Eve festival, the city’s four-day Temple Bar Tradfest of Irish music in late January, and the weeklong countrywide St. Patrick’s Festival in March.

Tourism Ireland, which promotes both Ireland and Northern Ireland, is also pushing the idea of shorter holidays for winter — such as five-day breaks, possibly combining Dublin and Belfast, with a two-hour drive between the two cities — instead of the traditional 10- to 14-day vacations that Canadians typically take on the island.

Any disadvantages of visiting in the off-season?

“In the western counties, some of the operators might be closed during the winter, which is why we’re presenting Dublin and Belfast as being probably a little bit of a better option for those months,” says Warren.

As for what to expect weather-wise: “It’s a temperate climate in Ireland. It never gets too cold,” she said.

“But if you’re visiting Ireland at all, even during the summer months, we will tell people to bring your raincoat with you because the likelihood is that you will have some rain.”