It’s wild, it’s ancient and so much more
Between increased air access, the ease of getting around and visitor arrivals from Canada growing to 203,000 last year, there are many reasons for agents to sell Ireland, but Debbie Moran, trade engagement advisor for Failte Ireland can add to the list.
As a means of attracting more travellers, she says the tourism development authority frequently reinvigorates Ireland’s offer as a holiday destination.
“Ireland as a nation doesn’t actually get the visitor spread evenly,” she says. “A lot of the visitors will fly into Dublin, and they’ll go straight down to Cork and Kerry region, and Galway, and fly out again in Dublin or Shannon… What the business development team is trying to do is encourage tour operators, travel agents and visitors alike to visit the lesser-known areas.”
Three of the most recently launched core brand attributes for visitors to experience are:
1) The Wild Atlantic Way, the longest defined coastal touring route in the world, stretching 2,500 km.
“It’s all about the wild ruggedness,” she says. “We would encourage people to travel by car, to get into the towns and villages and experiencing local festivals, the Irish language, and some of the Irish cultures.”
The route is broken down into six zones with 188 marked discovery points – photo opportunities where clients can take a shot to post on social media. In each spot, travellers can also collect stamps in a Wild Atlantic Way passport, either at the local tourism or post office, available for 10 euro.
“It’s a collector’s item and encourages you to come back and try to finish and get every single stamp,” she says. “What we would recommend to your clients is to maybe come and do one or two of these zones at a time. We also have interpretation panels giving a little insight into what’s happening in the area.”
2) Ireland’s Ancient East, which features 5,000 years of Ireland’s history across must-see attractions such as Glendalough, Newgrange, and the Rock of Cashel.
“This is our second brand which we launched, and it’s very, very different with rolling lush green landscapes,” she says. “A lot of fields, Christian Heritage sites, manor houses, castles and gardens, they would all be in this particular area. And Canadians, from my research, they do tend to move around quite a bit in different areas, so when they come in on their holidays to Ireland they would like to do two or even three different regions.”
To encourage visitors to discover the region, she says main attractions along the path feature Ireland’s Ancient East signage, not only to orientate people, but also to showcase what else there is to do nearby.
3) Dublin: A Breath of Fresh Air, geared at getting visitors to take in the coastal areas and attractions along the capital city such as cycling in the soaring Dublin mountains or going for a dip at the famous 40 Foot, a bathing area beside Sandycove Beach.
“Dublin is very popular at the minute and is very, very busy, but a lot of people are coming right into the city centre and ignoring the beautiful coastal towns along Dublin city such as Malahide, Dún Laoghaire, Sandymount,” she says.
A few weeks ago, Travel Courier joined a group of 18 Canadian agents and tour operators for an eight-day FAM to experience the brand attributes and some of Ireland’s unique tourism offers, alongside Tourism Ireland in Canada, Failte Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland.
Along with visiting the capital city and popular attractions like the Guinness Storehouse and Titanic Belfast, the journey showcased some more off-the-beaten-path destinations and things to do, which agents can utilize to help increase their Ireland bookings, says Jonathan Sargeant, trade promotions and e-marketing executive at Tourism Ireland.
“Often agents are confident selling Dublin and areas that are well-known for tourism,” he says. “However, don’t be afraid to book lesser-known parts of Ireland that offer great value and have excellent experiences. We got to see some wonderful places such as Derry-Londonderry, the North Wild Atlantic Way counties of Donegal, Sligo and the northern part of Ireland’s Ancient East – Cavan and the beautiful town of Carlingford, Co. Louth.”
For Darlene St. Louis, UK product manager/air dept. manager at Senior Discovery Tours, the best parts of the trip were the authentic experiences like having a homemade meal and taking part in a soda bread-making demonstration by Fred the Baker at the home of Tracey Jeffrey of NI Food Tours, and learning about the process of making gin at the Listoke Distillery & Gin School, where the group got to distill their own blend of gin and enjoy some Listoke 1777 gin and tonics. Both ventures can be booked for clients.
“These were such interactive experiences, not just a visit, and bring the whole gastronomy aspect to a higher level,” she says. “The dinners outside of the hotels and seeing the high quality of accommodation — these aspects of the FAM have opened an opportunity to possibly create a smaller bespoke higher-end group tour that focuses on the food and drink.”
As the FAM marked his first return to Ireland in over 40 years, Eric Moe, special projects and student group travel manager at Carlson Wagonlit Victor Travel/Victours, counts seeing Belfast and Derry-Londonderry, and the Giant’s Causeway, which features 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, as the highlights of the FAM.
“I have always sold Ireland, but like most agents, the Dublin to Killarney to Waterford back to Dublin triangle is what most clients ask for,” he says. “And why not, it’s a great itinerary. But now we have an opportunity to sell… Ireland from top to bottom and all the treasures in between.”
For Shelly Monroe, Personal Travel Consultant at Sweet Escapes Travel – TPI, learning about the tourism offer in Northern Ireland was her favourite part of the journey.
“I really liked that we visited off-the-beaten-track places” she adds. “With the exception of Dublin we went to many areas that are not the typical touristy hot spots. Belfast is full of history, the Giant’s Causeway is a must-see, and I really liked the walled city of Derry-Londonderry.”
One way to learn more about the history of Derry-Londonderry is to embark on a walking tour with Martin McCrossan City Tours, a company that has taken the likes of Will Ferrell on a tour of the city’s political murals.
In addition to discovering how amazing the food is, how genuinely nice the people are and how easy it is to get around, Carla Wilson of Custom Travel Solutions, Calgary says Arranmore Island (pictured on the cover) and Glenveagh Castle really stood out.
“I loved the remoteness of Arranmore Island and the beauty of Glenveagh Castle and the National Park surrounding it,” she says, noting that the Epic museum in Dublin should also not be missed. “There is so much to see and do in that area.”
As for Karen Pearson from The Great Canadian Travel Company Ltd. in Winnipeg, taking part in the Winterfell Game of Thrones Experience at Castle Ward was a highlight. The series has had a tremendous impact on growing tourism to the region.
“It was a lot of fun, and I also think it was a great ice breaker for our group,” she notes.
Meanwhile touring around Northern Ireland, especially Belfast, also, “emphasized what a great place it is to visit.”
Similarly, Marie-Eve Derouin, product manager, Mediterranean and Europe destinations at Exotik Tours/TravelBrands, also enjoyed Belfast and seeing the city’s murals, among many other aspects of the FAM.
“To sell a destination well is all about feeling the country, talking with the people, tasting the food, learning the history, while walking in a castle, smelling the fresh air near the sea,” she says. “You can’t experience this online, and this is what makes you fall in love with the country… and when you are in love, you just want to talk about it all the time.”
Air Canada, Air Transat, ASL, WestJet, and Aer Lingus connect Canadians with the Emerald Isle. June 2018 will see the launch of new non-stop, seasonal Air Canada Toronto-Shannon and Montreal-Dublin routes. As of Oct. 29, the existing Toronto-Dublin service transferred to Air Canada mainline from Air Canada Rouge, with increased frequencies this winter, daily next summer. Seasonal Vancouver-Dublin service also resumes next summer with an increase in weekly frequencies to five, up from three.
Selling Ireland 101
Jonathan Sargeant, trade promotions and e-marketing executive at Tourism Ireland, provides some top tips on how agents can increase their bookings to the Emerald Isle.
Encourage clients to get off the beaten track – travel west, north and south from Dublin – there really is a great product offering throughout the island nowadays, and the lesser-known destinations offer excellent value, as well as superb product experiences.
Focus on food – food tourism is a new phenomenon in Ireland. We have an incredible food and drink offering, and it’s something that was perhaps not considered by Canadians 10-15 years ago. There’s a new restaurant or distillery opening almost every week. Gin has really taken off.
Sell the Ps – Place – we are a country full of breathtaking scenery, a fascinating culture and unforgettable experience. Proximity – many people don’t realize just how close we are to Ireland. Fly direct in 6.5 hours from Toronto and Montreal, and four hours from Eastern Canada. We also have direct flights from Vancouver, which is only a nine-hour flight. People are what make Ireland such a special destination. Meet friendly locals in every town, chat to them in the pub, or at a traditional Irish music session.
Utilize our resources – we have a new trade website which has some great content, and lots of cool ideas for your clients. We also have a content pool, which is a great resource for imagery and videos, and if you sign up for our e-zines (through the trade website), we can keep you updated on what’s new and going on in Ireland and about any in-market events we are hosting. Trade website – trade.ireland.com, Content pool – irelandscontentpool.com
The agents say…
After participating in the FAM, agents share tips for other travel advisors to increase their Ireland bookings.
- “I would suggest utilizing the Irish Tourist Board, as they have a wealth of knowledge. Of course, any time you can actually experience a destination it becomes so much easier to sell and promote. To be able to recount first hand knowledge to a client is a great selling tool.”
Carla Wilson, Custom Travel Solutions, Calgary
- “I would suggest selling a region of Ireland to explore and not try to visit most of the country in one visit. You miss so much immersing yourself and hanging with the locals, if you are rushing to get from point A to B. You need to focus on exploring an area and really do it right.”
Shelly Monroe, Sweet Escapes Travel – TPI, West Porters Lake
- “I love sharing my pictures and videos of Ireland on Instagram and Facebook. I truly believe social media is the way to advertise nowadays. I’m going to host an Irish Evening at our local library and share my pictures, as well as some great soda bread and Irish tea.”
Leah Holt, Go Travel, Edson
- “Just talk about being there. People can sense your enthusiasm, and it makes them want to go there. Our office also posts blogs on our website and photos on social media, as well as highlighting tours and destinations in our email newsletter.”
Karen Pearson, The Great Canadian Travel Company Ltd., Winnipeg
- “I always offer to add a few nights in Ireland when clients ask me to book Scotland… I would offer it for clients who loved nature or have been to Scotland or Iceland, to those who like golf, history, food.”
- Marie-Eve Derouin, Exotik Tours/TravelBrands
“I recommend becoming familiar with what is offered for Ireland travel with our local tour operators, as well as local suppliers. There are great opportunities to learn by attending Ireland travel trade events and through webinars.”
Denise MacKay, the Alberta Motor Association – Travel, Calgary