Irish Tourism is on the move. Inspired by a 16% increase in visitors in 2017, representatives from 13 partner firms hosted an evening for Halifax-based travel agents in the Great Hall of the Dalhousie University Club. The Great Hall was a fitting setting since its two-and-a-half-story-high vaulted ceiling and minstrel’s gallery has an old-world, medieval castle-like feel.
The message was Ireland is what you imagine and much more. And its growth in tourism shows how on-point it is for the prime travel motivators for all demographics.
Sandra Moffatt, director of marketing promoted the high access to the country, the volume of ready-to-sell packages and ability to customize itineraries, authentic experiences, and the wide range of local experts to enhance any experience, the food and hospitality. She also noted that Ireland isn’t a summer-, winter- or three-season destination. It’s a year-round destination. One of the presenting partners, Siobhan Byrne Learat, from Adams & Butler, told the group, “In Ireland we don’t have summer and winter clothes. We have clothes. We wear them year round.”
Moffatt also mentioned Conde Nast Traveler listed Ireland as number three in their top 10 countries to visit.
Among its attributes is golf. Ireland is home to a third of the world’s links courses. That’s an interesting selling point since Canadians have the highest golf participation rates in the world.
In July the Royal Portrush Course is hosting the 148th Open. For non-players, The Open is such a famous tournament it doesn’t need a fuller name. On the edge of the Portrush course is the ruined Dunluce Castle which has a funny story – funny in the context of Irish humour – about a storm that sent the castle’s kitchen, cooks and pots crashing into the sea.
For those with Downton Abbey-addicted clients, Ireland has 600 stately homes and castles. Many of these homes and castles accept guests. Some make their owners available for a special event or experience. Among the possibilities are having a glass of wine with the Honourable Desmond Guinness, tea with the Earl of Rosse at Birr Castle (as Lord Snowdon’s brother he is the Queen’s former brother-in-law) or sharing a whisky with the Jameson Family (of the distillery fame).
For the more adventurous there are unique experiences from cycling, climbing, traversing the Garrick-a-Rede swinging rope bridge and exploring the 40,000+ natural stone columns of the Giant’s Causeway. For man-made creations, the burial mount at New Grange predates the pyramids by 5,000 years.
The 2,500-km-long Wild Atlantic Way is the world’s longest touring route. Its success has spurred the development of the 314-km-long Causeway Coastal Route, which is rated one of the world’s best touring routes, and The Gobbins guided adventure cliff walk.
For city experiences, Titanic Belfast maintains strong interest and has been rated the world’s leading attraction. Dublin is promoting five-day St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and Waterford, which is best known for the crystal produced here, is central to Ireland’s Viking triangle. Waterford has more national monuments in a three-block area than are found in all the rest of Ireland. It also has a 42-km cycling route.
Armagh is the country’s ecclesiastical capital. With two St. Patrick’s cathedrals – one Church of Ireland (Protestant), one Roman Catholic – it is a popular destination for faith-based groups and individuals who follow a pilgrim route. St. Patrick was actually dean of the Protestant cathedral (which at the time was a Catholic church).
Amargh, which is where Gulliver’s Travels was written, is also a foodie city, a genealogical centre and home to many traditional Irish sports. Among those sports is Hurling, which is played here year round. Hurley-on-ice, which was played in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1800, is considered the roots for hockey, so has that extra Canadian interest.
Screen tourism, driven by The Games of Thrones and Star Wars’ The Last Jedi, is drawing visitors on a type of cultural pilgrimage to locations where these productions have been filmed.
Some of the intense new travel experiences are the knitting tours. They’ve got the sheep and history and are drawing knitters from around the world who come to learn, experiment and pursue their passion.
Moffat’s colleague said they support agents and sellers with high commissions, value for money for visitors, authentic experiences, local experts, easy customization of packages and itineraries, a history of hospitality, and a real year-round destination. In addition to newsletters, e-zines, promotional literature, market advice, fam trips, workshops, trade shows, Irish Tourism will provide content for sellers’ social media accounts, as well as material targeted to client interest.
Another message was variation of price points. Ireland can provide luxurious five-star experiences in castle resorts, but for the price-sensitive also provide family-friendly-priced experiences.
The evening began with a reception-trade show, speed-dating-type-rotating table presentations, dinner and Irish music. Amongst themselves, the 70 Halifax-based agents considered it one of the better organized evenings they are invited to.
Participating Irish and Canada-based partners were B&B Ireland, The Griffin Group (small, Irish-owned hotel group), Visit Armagh, Waterford Treasures, Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site, Galway 2020 (when they are the European Capital of Culture), Adams & Butler, Moloney & Kelly, The Irish Tourism Group, Royal Irish Tours, Globus Family of Brands, CIE Tours and Collette Vacations.