10 OCT 2014: “We’re the first port of call from Canada to Europe,” says Alison Metcalfe, head of Tourism Ireland in North America about the Emerald Isle’s proximity for Canadians who wish to experience something different in Europe during the offseason.

“In the same way that many Canadians love to travel to Europe in the offseason, say London, Paris, or Rome why not choose Dublin or Belfast?” she asks me at a media event that highlighted Ireland as a fall and winter destination with special guests the Guinness Storehouse alongside other tourism partners.

And how could you not?

With year-round air service, Tourism Ireland is basking in some rightfully deserved lucky charms, and in a good old fashioned Irish tradition we raised a pint of Guinness.

“This year we had a 70 percent increase in our direct service during peak season and 130 percent increase in service for the full year,” Metcalfe said and further added, “Air Canada rouge are going year round – Aer Lingus announced a new year round air service. There’s Air Transat and WestJet.”

WestJet she said is resuming its seasonal service from St. John’s Newfoundland to Dublin. And, this year Air Transat celebrates its 20th anniversary of service to Ireland.

From YYZ it’s roughly a five and a half hour flight so you get there in about the same time as you would if going to Vancouver. “The weather is similar but the experience is totally different.”

Guinness Storehouse

I knew beer culture is ingrained in the fabric, in the soul of what it is to be Irish but did you know Canadians hold a soft spot for the black stuff too?

“(Guinness) it is the most visited attraction on the island of Ireland,” says Metcalf and adds, “Almost every Canadian travelling to Ireland is going to the Guinness Storehouse.”

Youth market: the social energizers

A new trend with increased lift is reaching a younger audience, a demographic that Tourism Ireland has dubbed as ‘social energizers.’

“They are interested in similar experiences (as the mature market) but want more action packed itineraries,” Metcalfe said, explaining itineraries are more involved with physical activities like biking and hiking with city and country breaks. “Dublin and Belfast are both young vibrant cities with a great music and food scene.”

She further explained that this group which has done Las Vegas or Iceland could easily spend some time in Ireland. “They still want to see scenery and to do more while there, so they come back to the city for some more fun.”

Certainly Ireland’s accommodation rates are competitive and more affordable than many European cities plus you get a full Irish breakfast in the room rate.

The Numbers

Tourism Ireland is forecasting 154,000 Canadian visitors this year while in the previous year 125,000 Canadian visitors travelled to Ireland. By 2016, Metcalfe is hoping for approximately 185,000 Canadian visitor arrivals.

“We had a tremendous increase this year from Canadian visitors,” she said looking at the three year period from 2014 to 2016 in a positive light.

“The big driver is the direct air access. It’s really growing our business from Canada to Ireland by 47 percent. It’s important to reposition Ireland as a year-round destination.”

Fall/Winter

What’s Ireland like in November or January? It seems the climate is similar to Vancouver. It’s temperate and I understand in winter it might get to be -1 Celsius, nothing major.

If the upcoming winter is anything like last year’s Polar Vortex let’s set our sights on the shamrock isle of Ireland. For sure you’ll find a good pint there.



 

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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