“Travellers are embracing the group tour dynamic”: Interview with CIE Tours CEO Elizabeth Crabill
Elizabeth Crabill

“Travellers are embracing the group tour dynamic”: Interview with CIE Tours CEO Elizabeth Crabill

TORONTO — It’s March, and for many travellers, that means Ireland.

Some vacationers will head to the Emerald Isle to take in the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in person. It’s a high-energy, once-in-a-lifetime party, as you might expect!

Many others will see all the green shamrock decor leading up to March 17th and think, hmmmm, Ireland could be the perfect destination for a holiday this year.

CIE Tours has been perfecting the art of the Ireland vacation for decades now, and both Ireland and Britain have been the mainstays of the CIE Tours’ operations since 1932. In recent years, Italy and Iceland have rounded out the company’s portfolio.

CIE Tours CEO Elizabeth Crabill wants Canadian travel advisors to know that the company’s contact centre is fully staffed, and response times are generally back to pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, agents can use the chat feature on cietours.com “with response times that are almost instantaneous,” says Crabill. “Short of payment, anything that can be done via phone can be done via chat.”

We connected with Crabill to hear more about how CIE Tours is doing as it heads into the spring months, after a great start to the year.


Crabill tells Travelweek that CIE Tours’ Q1 bookings for 2023 are back to 2019 levels.

“Demand has exceeded expectations and remained steady,” she says. “The strong rebound proves the appeal and resilience of our core destinations of Ireland, Scotland, and even Iceland and Italy, and demonstrates the continuing love affair that North American travellers have with these wonderful European destinations.”

Crabill adds that the type of travel being booked is a welcome surprise.

“Many in the industry thought that the pandemic might impact willingness to travel in a large group, but across North America travellers have bounced back and are embracing the group tour dynamic,” she says.

While CIE Tours’ portfolio includes many small group departures limited to 26 people for those looking for a smaller, more intimate experience, demand for full-size coaches with up to 44 passengers is by far the most popular option, she adds. “The camaraderie and appeal of traveling in a large group is still alive and well.”

She adds that while guided coach tours with pre-set itineraries are what CIE Tours is best known for, the company has a range of custom travel options for guests looking for smaller groups and a more personalized style of travel. Custom group tours can be arranged for 10 or more travellers, and up to nine guests can enjoy the experience of a private driver vacation.

With either option travellers get private transportation and a dedicated driver who knows the local history and has plenty of insider stories to share. Itineraries for custom groups and private driver are varied and can be matched to the guests’ trip length, pace and budget – from luxurious 5-star adventures to family-friendly.


Many in the industry are watching to see what happens in Europe this year, as sky-high demand shows no sign of abating. The calendar had barely flipped over to 2023 when reports emerged about higher than average forward booking volumes for spring and summer.

Crabill says that in times of shifting prices and uncertain inventory, the unique value and access a tour operator offers makes a tour a traveller’s best option.

“CIE Tours’ long-standing relationships with hotels combined with the fact that we contract for space well in advance means that travellers can book with confidence knowing that space has been secured at a preferred rate,” she says.

She notes that in Ireland specifically, hotel capacity and prices have been impacted by a significant number of rooms being allocated to house Ukrainian refugees. “CIE Tours guests can rest assured that the company has space available,” says Crabill.


We asked how agents can best get in touch with CIE Tours. While travel advisors are thrilled that travel is back, many are feeling overwhelmed with the sheer volume of inquiries, and some tour ops are still lacking sufficient call centre staff, adding to the stress for travel agents.

In addition to CIE Tours’ fully-staffed contact centre, and the chat feature on cietours.com, Crabill says CIE Tours has plenty of other website tools that allow agents to self-serve on their own schedule. That includes the ability to complete a quote end-to-end online with no deposit needed. Another suggestion? “Download a full-colour PDF for each tour including starting price, a map, day-by-day itinerary, as well as a space for the agent to customize materials with their contact information.”

She adds that agents can maximize their commission opportunities, thanks to the company’s All-In Inclusive Advantage. “Every experience and most meals are included so guests won’t be surprised by add-ons, daily hidden charges or asked to pay for optional excursions.  And because everything on the itinerary is included in the upfront price, everything is commissionable, allowing maximum commissions for agents.”

More details are at CIETours.com.

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