This week PressToday’s Ann Ruppenstein is on the road in Ireland as a group of Canadian travel agents and tour operators learn more about the tourism offer in the island nation on an annual FAM put on by Tourism Ireland in Canada, Tourism Northern Ireland and Failte Ireland.
Along with taking in some stunning sights and attractions across the country, such as the cliffside shores of Arranmore Island on the Wild Atlantic Way, an interactive demonstration on seaweed by Dr. Prannie Rhattigan of Irish Seaweed Kitchen in Stranhill beach — a company offering tours where visitors can harvest and prepare their own seaweed based meals — and not to mention indulging in countless locally sourced meals, the FAM trip also provided the trade with the opportunity to network with Irish industry partners.
During a workshop day yesterday (Oct. 20) at the Slieve Russell Hotel & Spa, Belturbet, Co. Cavan, the Canadian group met with more than 60 Irish tourism representatives like Ashford Castle Hotel, Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, and Guinness Storehouse.
Although Ireland has already been a big part of the offering at Kensington Tours, Toronto-based Jolene Plant, director of product development, Europe, says getting first hand experience in the destination will help increase their product offering.
“Getting to meet these guys on the ground, the ones who are handling our business, that can only help you grow exponentially, having those key contacts,” she says. “Being able to see Northern Ireland, I think it’s an area that hasn’t been out there as much especially to the North American clients. I think having the opportunity to come and see it first hand, being able to put those experiences together for clients will be huge.”
Denis Martin, travel consultant at TPI, in St. John’s, NL, said he learned more during this trip, particularly through meeting with the hoteliers and suppliers during the workshop, than in his 14 previous visits in southern Ireland.
“The reason I came on this trip was to open my ears and eyes to new options for Ireland. I’ve been doing Ireland for a long time and I wanted to do something different,” he says. “This was excellent for me. I’ve got itineraries going through my mind now — I’ve got a Halloween one planned already… You can be 18 you can be 88, there’s something here for everybody.”
With a very diverse tourism offer, Danielle Lemire, Travel Consultant at Transat Travel in Ottawa, believes that Ireland will be an easy sell for her clients.
“I think it’s a great combination of new world with old world with scenery all mixed together,” she says, adding that she’ll be able to grow her business exponentially from what she’s learned at the FAM. “Now I know where to send them, which tourist attractions are best for them, what hotels are going to be best for them, it’s a game changer for me.”
Meanwhile Jennifer Chedore, travel consultant at Blowes Travel and Cruise Centres Inc. in London, Ont., says she hadn’t associated Ireland with active travel before embarking on the trip.
“The hiking, the cycling, you can do it all over the island, the surfing, the zip-lining, it’s amazing. I didn’t know that you could do river cruises in Ireland — that’s awesome because we’re running out of rivers in Europe,” she says. “Although we haven’t seen all of Ireland on this FAM, we’ve learned that the northern part is a huge attraction that maybe a lot of people are missing because they’re going to the Cork, the Kilkenny, the Waterford, whereas Donegal, Belfast, Derry, they’re just incredible places with a lot of history. I’ve had clients that have wanted to come over and take a day to visit grave sites of their ancestors. If they’re interested in their ancestry, they can actually do it prior to coming down, and they’ll have it all planned out for them and work a tour around that, that’s cool.”
Pictured above on scenic Arranmore Island are (l-r) Leah Holt, Go Travel; Jennifer Chedore, Blowes Travel and Cruise Centres Inc.; Karen Pearson, The Great Canadian Travel Company Ltd. and Carla Wilson, Custom Travel Solutions.
Stay tuned for more on the FAM in the next edition of Canadian Travel Press.