TORONTO — With more than 8,000 seats every week in high season from gateways across Canada, Tourism Ireland is certainly getting the lift it was after, and the hotel space crunch in major cities like Dublin should ease with 800 new rooms coming in 2018, part of a goal for 5,000 new rooms by 2020.
That’s good news for the Canadian market, growing year by year and now with arrival numbers to the Emerald Isle well over 200,000, putting Canada in Ireland’s top 10 source markets. Canada’s arrivals to Ireland were up 12% in 2017, on top of an already strong year in 2016, when there was an 11% jump.
Tour operators at yesterday’s industry lunch event, hosted by Tourism Ireland and Ireland’s Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin, TD, say the hotel space situation is still a challenge but they’re loving all the additional lift.
Air Canada, Aer Lingus, Transat, ASL and WestJet all offer flights to Ireland now, says Griffin. New flights and extra capacity include Air Canada’s new nonstop Toronto-Shannon and Montreal-Dublin routes starting this summer, expanded Vancouver-Dublin service with Air Canada with up to five flights weekly between the two cities, and more capacity with Aer Lingus on its Toronto-Dublin route.
In the summer months Ireland can count on more than 8,000 seats from this market. That combined with Canada’s new top 10 status “is fantastic, from our point of view,” said Griffin. “It’s very encouraging for us to see, it’s a real milestone for the Canadian market. We want to keep you there.”
The year-round air access is another bonus. “There was no year-round access before,” says Alison Metcalfe, Head of North America, Tourism Ireland. “They all came on at once. There were challenges but it’s working out very well. If you lose a route, it takes 10 years for it to come back.”
Year-round lift also, ideally, translates into year-round visitation and part of Tourism Ireland’s marketing plan is four-season travel. Are Canadians embracing the idea of off-season travel to Ireland? While most are more attuned to a trip to the Caribbean and Mexico in the winter months, as several tour operators speaking at a roundtable discussion at yesterday’s lunch pointed out, there are off-season success stories too. Contiki Canada President Gabrielle Nydam says Contiki clients have embraced the company’s off-season product, Europe Winter. All the top selling points – fewer crowds, better prices – are resonating with clients.
Says Griffin: “We’re trying to ensure that as many people as possible see as much of Ireland as possible.”
Themed vacation ideas like the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as iconic sites like the Causeway Coast, plus year-round attractions like Titanic Belfast, are all geared to four-season travel, adds Griffin.
The hotel space situation is an ongoing challenge, but a good turn of events considering that Ireland’s economy, like economies around the world, took a dive in 2008. Recovery took several years and it was a wake-up call after the Celtic Tiger days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Ireland’s economy was booming. “In 2011 the hotels were empty. There were tumbleweeds in the street. The current hotel space situation is a challenge but it’s a good problem to have. We’re working to get the room supply issue resolved.”