TORONTO — Bolstered by a 130% increase in air access, Canada has the potential to be one of Ireland’s fastest-growing markets, says Alison Metcalfe, Head of North America for Tourism Ireland.
The number of Canadians visiting Ireland grew 28% from 2010 to 2013, and the projected figure for 2014 is 154,000, up from an estimated 125,000 in 2013, said Metcalfe. Canadians stay an average of nine to 10 days in Ireland and spend an average of 800 euros, slightly higher than the average U.S. traveller’s spend.
Until now, Ireland was seen as a seasonal destination out of Canada. Aer Lingus’ new nonstop year-round service from Toronto to Dublin gave Tourism Ireland’s plan to market the destination as a year-round getaway a shot in the arm. Air Canada rouge, Transat and WestJet also have flights.
Metcalfe says Tourism Ireland “is setting out to achieve sustained growth from Canada”, with a goal of 47% growth over the next three years, and increased market share from 2.8% to 3.6%.
Part of the plan is making sure the right product is on the shelves, she added.
Tourism Ireland has identified key markets including Social Energizers (typically younger and plugged-in travellers who offer good potential for shoulder season traffic) and the Culturally Curious (well-travelled vacationers who are 45-plus with higher incomes and a desire for authentic travel experiences).
Two priority markets for Canadian travel to Ireland is the diaspora and the business tourism market, including incentive groups.
Distribution is key, said Metcalfe. About 30% of Ireland travel out of Canada is booked through tour operators, “and that’s more than in other markets.” Retail travel agents are very critical at the itinerary planning stage, she added, and Tourism Ireland is looking at ways it can deliver more online tools for agent education.
Tourism Ireland is also maintaining its focus on the Ontario market while renewing its efforts in B.C. and Alberta. Above all it wants to develop a season-extension strategy with year-round product.
The goal is 184,000 Canadian visitors by 2016 “but I don’t see why we can’t get to 200,000,” said Metcalfe.