Canada offers significant potential for Northern Ireland tourism, according to new research unveiled in Belfast by Tourism Ireland.
The Canadian market has performed strongly for tourism to Northern Ireland in recent years. In 2018, almost 66,000 Canadians visited Northern Ireland (+8% on 2017), spending almost £19 million. In fact, Canada was the fourth largest overseas tourism market for Northern Ireland in 2018 – in terms of visitors, holidaymakers and spend.
The island of Ireland is now the seventh most popular European destination for Canadian travellers. Canadian visitors tend to stay longer, spend more and visit more of our regions than the average visitor. One in four Canadian visitors include Northern Ireland as part of their island of Ireland vacation.
Tourism Ireland undertook research of the Canadian market this spring, which examined the profile of our current Canadian holidaymakers. It also identified the opportunities and challenges which will drive growth in Canadian visitor numbers to Northern Ireland over the coming years.
One of the key factors is the number of direct flights from Canada to Ireland. Summer 2019 will see an estimated 10,627 direct, one-way air seats available each week from Canada to Ireland – from major gateways including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax, Hamilton and Calgary.
Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland’s Head of North America, said: “Canada has performed extremely well for tourism to Northern Ireland in recent years and the future is undoubtedly bright. However, we can’t take this performance for granted; in order to ensure that success continues, we need to adapt and respond to new challenges and opportunities. I am confident that the opportunities identified in our research, and the strategy we will implement as a result, will deliver further growth in Canadian visitor numbers over the coming years.”
Tourism Ireland’s research has identified a number of opportunities which will help deliver growth in Canadian visitor numbers.
These include: shoulder and off-peak travel - year-round, direct flights allow us to promote Northern Ireland for shoulder and off-peak season travel; ‘new’ icons - highlighting our lesser-known visitor attractions and experiences allows us to promote the ‘newness’ of a holiday here – particularly to repeat visitors; strong interest in soft adventure, hiking and golf among Canadian travellers; the appeal of a combined island of Ireland and GB holiday in the winter months; and the increasing popularity of weekend city breaks among Canadian travellers.
Tourism Ireland will position Northern Ireland as a ‘must see’ part of an island of Ireland vacation for Canadian visitors.
The organisation’s focus in Canada will now include: dialling up what is different to home and the European appeal of a Northern Ireland holiday – highlighting our ancient history (such as Devenish Island), our built heritage (our National Trust properties), our contemporary history (including places like the Crumlin Road Gaol), our visibly different cityscapes (such as the walled city of Londonderry) and the vibrancy of our festivals and events; expanding its programme of promotions in western Canada and in Montreal – particularly in publicity, travel trade activity and co-operative promotions; targeting niche segments, with messages about soft adventure activities and hiking; an increased focus on golf; working more closely with the Canadian travel trade, to extend the Northern Ireland content of their programmes and to grow affinity group business; and expanding its travel trade education programme to feature lesser-known attractions.
There will also be an increased focus on promotions to reach people of Ulster-Scots heritage, and exploring opportunities with VisitBritain to reach new audiences, by promoting both GB and the island of Ireland for winter travel.