Irish Eyes Are Definitely Smiling

with Martha Chapman

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, flanked by Niall Gibbons and Denise Heffron

Aer Lingus’ Mary Heron with Alison Metcalfe, Executive Vice-President/North America of Tourism Ireland




We’ve all heard about the luck of the Irish, and it seems that the Republic of Ireland, and its sister Northern Ireland, are definitely on a lucky streak when it comes to tourism.

Or maybe it’s a combination of luck, product, lift and that wee little TV show Game of Thrones. Whichever way you look at it, times are good. Which was part of the message from tourism execs and Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Prime Minister, known in Ireland as its Taoiseach (pronounced “tee-shuk”).

Fresh from walking in Montreal’s Pride Parade with our own PM on Sunday, Varadkar was in Toronto to promote industry and tourism in the Emerald Isle.

We Canadians are visiting the island of Ireland (i.e. the Republic plus Northern Ireland) more and more – 11 per cent up last year alone. A lot of this has been helped by increased lift, as Air Canada, Transat, Aer Lingus and WestJet are all now offering flights. Air Canada will take over from rouge on the YYZ DUB route this fall, while rouge will continue to serve YVR DUB.

And if the elephant in the room was named Brexit, Varadkar is confident that the current freedom of movement of people will not change, “whatever happens.” Tourism is the country’s number one industry, employing some 280,000 people, many in remote areas where there are not a lot of job opportunities.

To get more of a personal insight into some of Ireland’s many charms, I asked Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, about some of his personal favourite places and things at home. Here we go:

Best sunsets: “From Galway Bay.” Best festival: “Tradfest, a celebration of Irish music and history, held each January.” Best movie shot there: “Star Wars – no question.”  Best local seafood: “Salmon.” Why Irish whiskey is better than Scotch : “It’s triple distilled.” Best place to hear the Irish language, Gaelic, spoken: “Connemara.” What an Irish breakfast looks like : “Big plate, big feed – sausage, bacon, eggs, two kinds of breads, mushrooms, black pudding.” (Yikes.) Best place to sip a Guinness: “Anywhere, as far as I’m concerned!”

As the Irish would say, “Sláinte” (pronounced slan-cha) – which translates as Cheers!

Patrice Geske (Globus family of brands), Alison Metcalfe (Tourism Ireland), Ian Duffy
(Royal Irish Tours), Leo Varadkar, Niall Gibbons (Tourism Ireland), Luigi Iannello (ACV),
Denise Heffron (Transat) and Tim Morgan (TPI)

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