Irish Tourism Chief thanks airlines, operators, St. Patrick

with Martha Chapman

Ian Duffy of Royal Irish Tours with Alison Metcalfe and Minister Brendan Griffin

Collette’s Brett Walker (left) with June Tiffney of Aer Lingus and Scott Baglole of Merit Travel

Minister Griffin addressing the appreciative audience

On a dreary grey day in Toronto it’s always nice to speak about a destination which is perpetually green. Particularly in the company of some of Canada’s leading tour operators and with folks as friendly as Brendan Griffin, Ireland’s Minister of State for Tourism and Sport.

With the ease of charm and self-deprecating sense of humour that the Irish are famous for, Griffin kept us entertained and informed about the state of tourism in his home country, particularly vis a vis the Canadian traveller.

And it’s a pretty good story these days.  Canadians have cracked the 200,000 travellers per year benchmark – most coming from Ontario – and there’s now lift from five carriers: Air Canada, Transat, WestJet, Aer Lingus and the French carrier ASL.

Griffin grew up on the west coast of the country and as the son of a hotel porter appreciates tourism more than some. “Over 10% of our workforce are employed in tourism – not only does it give the chance for young Irish people to stay at home, but it can provide a much-needed livelihood for our rural communities,” he told us.

Speaking without notes, he reminded us that one in five Canadians have Irish heritage and that like many European countries there’s a challenge in convincing visitors that Ireland is indeed open for business year round and that the winters can be quite mild by Canadian standards  (the average temperature in January is 7 Celsius). “My five year old just dreams about snow.”

Also present at the luncheon were members of Tourism Ireland’s Toronto team and New York-based Alison Metcalfe, head of Tourism Ireland for North America. “The wonderful lift makes it easy to buy Ireland year round and we’re encouraging travellers to get Ireland off their bucket list,” she remarked.

The Minister also took a moment to thank St. Patrick. Garnering a wave of laughter, he pointed out that “St. Patrick was very considerate in having his Saint’s day in March when so many are planning their summer vacations.”

The luck of the Irish indeed!

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.

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