With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, Royal Irish Tours, Invest Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland held an event in Toronto yesterday to get the festivities underway.
“A lot of people think that St. Patrick was Irish, he wasn’t — he was actually Welsh — and he was sent to Northern Ireland as a slave when he was about 16 years old,” said Sandra Moffatt, manager, Canada for Tourism Ireland, sharing some unexpected facts about the legendary St. Patrick. “Why March 17? A lot of people think that it’s St. Patrick’s birthday but it’s actually in catholic tradition the day of his death.”
For Canadians going to visit, she said there are lots of attractions and sites to visit along with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, such as following the St. Patrick’s trail in Northern Ireland.
“We have what we call the Pilgrim’s Way, which is kind of like our Camino de Santiago for St. Patrick,” she shared.
With over 4.5 million Canadians claiming Irish heritage, she said Canada turns green for St. Patrick’s Day across all major cities.
“All the cities celebrate with various events and parades. We call it March Madness — it’s a month of celebrations,” she added.
Meanwhile, John Kelly, CEO at McConnell’s Irish Whisky, was on hand to share information about a new visitor experience is opening this fall. Housed in a former jail, he said there hasn’t been a distillery in Belfast for almost 100 years.
“We’re opening in autumn of this year in a Victorian prison,” Kelly told PressToday. “We’ll have a blending experience room where guests will be able to make their whiskey and then we’re going to have a cocktail experience room where guests can learn how to make whiskey cocktails and all of that good stuff.”
Although the McConnell’s Irish Whisky visitor experience is new, the brand actually dates back to 1776.
Jonathan Sargeant, Director of Sales for Royal Irish Tours, “Canada’s leading tour operator selling Ireland,” said they plan on sending groups and FITs to experience the distillery in 2024.
Sargeant told PressToday that business is rebounding, reaching 70% of 2019 levels in 2022 even with a later season.
“This year is our first full season since 2019, which means our tours begin the middle of April and end in the third week of October. We’re already pretty much sold out for May and June, which is great,” he shared.
Pictured at the event are:
1) Sandra Moffatt, Tourism Ireland and Jonathan Sargeant, Royal Irish Tours
2) Sandra Moffatt, Tourism Ireland; Conor Duffy, Royal Irish Tours; Lynda Falcone, VisitBritain; and Greg Quinn, Acting British Consul General, Toronto