Donohoe launches new strategy to boost tourism from Canada

16th September, 2014

  • Tourism Ireland targets +47% growth in Canadian visitors and revenue
  • High spend and length of stay are key positives for Canadian market


Canada offers significant potential for Irish tourism, according to a Tourism Ireland strategy launched today by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD.


A new plan, ‘Canada: Land of Opportunity – A Strategy for Growth 2014-2016’, sets out challenging and ambitious targets which will see the number of Canadian visitors to the island of Ireland grow by +47% to 184,000 by 2016, delivering revenue of €134 million (+47% growth) for the economies north and south.


Despite global economic uncertainty in recent years, the Canadian market has performed strongly for tourism to the island of Ireland. Visitors are estimated to have grown by +28% over the period 2011 to 2013. In 2013 alone, approximately 125,000 Canadians visited the island of Ireland, spending about €91 million.


This new Tourism Ireland strategy – developed in close co-operation with a wide range of industry partners, at home and in Canada – has been designed to build on this success. It has identified the opportunities and challenges which will drive accelerated growth from Canada to the island of Ireland over the next two years.


One of the key factors working in our favour is the number of direct flights from Canada to Ireland, which has grown dramatically this year; +70% increase for the peak summer season and +100% increase for the shoulder and winter seasons. For the first time ever this winter, there will be direct, scheduled services from Toronto to Ireland. It is also anticipated that there will be a further +18%, year-on-year increase in capacity in 2015. New, year-round access also allows us to promote the island of Ireland for shoulder and off-peak season travel, highlighting the wonderful festivals that punctuate our autumn and winter.


Minister Donohoe said: “The launch of ‘Canada: Land of Opportunity – A Strategy for Growth 2014-2016’ comes on the back of Tourism Ireland’s €11 million autumn campaign launch just last week. These two initiatives will work in conjunction with each other to build on the number of Canadians who are visiting Ireland each year by encouraging them to see Ireland as a year-round destination. Last week’s CSO figures, which outlined that overseas visitors to Ireland spent an estimated €1.5 billion between January and June this year, highlighted the importance of this sector to our economy. During the same period the number of trips to Ireland from holidaymakers rose by nearly 8%. With two-thirds of the Canadians who come to Ireland coming as holidaymakers, the need to continue to focus on increasing these numbers has never been greater.  Ireland and Canada have always had strong links. This strategy will help develop those links by enticing those who have never been to pay us a first visit and by encouraging those who have been here before to return again.”


Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “Canada has performed well for tourism to the island of Ireland in recent years and the future is undoubtedly bright. However, we can’t take this performance for granted; we need to adapt and respond to new opportunities to ensure that success continues. Building on the strong performance of recent years, and this year’s very welcome increased number of direct air flights from Canada, we have set challenging targets for the 2014-2016 period. I am confident that this new, focused strategy – developed in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation and our other key tourism partners at home and overseas – will deliver on the targets we have set for growth in Canadian visitors, between now and 2016.”


Tourism Ireland’s new strategy has identified the various challenges and opportunities that face the island of Ireland between now and 2016. The areas identified in the report which will help to deliver the ambitious growth targets include:

•Focusing resources

Tourism Ireland will prioritise a key audience of ‘Culturally Curious’ Canadian holidaymakers, who represent the highest potential for the island of Ireland. These tend to be well-travelled and are likely to have already taken a holiday in Europe; they live in higher income neighbourhoods in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, are looking to visit new places and value their cultural roots and family history. Tourism Ireland will primarily focus on the ‘Culturally Curious’ in Ontario, with a secondary focus on those living in Alberta and British Columbia.


Two other priority niche segments, which Tourism Ireland will continue to target, include the Irish diaspora and business tourism. Since almost 15% of Canadians claim ancestral links to the island of Ireland, the diaspora provides a ready pool of potential travellers that Tourism Ireland will encourage to come home, especially in the shoulder and winter seasons. A renewed focus on business tourism, and specifically the incentive travel sector, will include messaging about year-round access, our world-class venues, quality of service and professionalism.
•Positioning the island of Ireland as a year-round destination

Tourism Ireland will position the island of Ireland as a year-round destination – to both consumers and the travel trade in Canada, placing a special emphasis on good value in the shoulder seasons and on convenient, direct flights from Canada.
•Strengthening engagement with potential holidaymakers

Tourism Ireland will intensify its use of digital marketing and social media, in its year-round campaigns. It aims to move potential holidaymakers from simply considering a holiday to the island of Ireland to actually booking that trip. Authentic, immersive experiences that resonate with potential ‘Culturally Curious’ visitors will be highlighted, including the wide range of experiences available during the shoulder season, encouraging them to visit now rather than at some unspecified time in the future.
•Closer collaboration with key partners

Tourism Ireland will strengthen relationships with key airline and tour operator partners, who can drive growth in both visitor numbers and revenue. The organisation will also intensify relationships with leading online travel agencies (OTAs) in Canada – who are particularly important in this market, where levels of internet usage are high and Ireland’s ‘best prospects’ are extremely web savvy.
•Highlighting Northern Ireland

Tourism Ireland will present Northern Ireland as a ‘must see’ destination. It will also prioritise efforts to reinstate a direct flight from Toronto to Belfast.


Canadian visitors are highly prized as they tend to stay longer, spend more and visit more of the regions of Ireland than the average visitor. About two-thirds of Canadians coming here are holidaymakers, who avail of a wide range of paid-for holiday experiences and services.

•on average, Canadian holidaymakers stay for nine nights;
•typically, they each spend about €728;
•they prefer to stay in hotels, but also like guesthouses and B&Bs;
•one-third of Canadians travel on escorted (organised) tours;
•Canadian holidaymakers to the island of Ireland have traditionally travelled between May and September, mainly because of the seasonal nature of direct flights. Now with year-round, direct services from Canada, there is a new opportunity to generate incremental growth in visitor numbers year round, particularly during the shoulder season.