“Airlines are increasingly treating Ireland differently, recognising that we are a distinct single market and quite different from the UK, and they are reaping the benefits – and you should do likewise,” Ed Burke of Twohigs told some 30 Thai hoteliers attending the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s panel discussion at the Westbury Hotel on Monday.
Ed was speaking after Cathy Burke had given a concise presentation on Travel Counsellors, which now has 47 agents in the Republic of Ireland and 25 in Northern Ireland – “with an average of 18 years’ experience in travel agency or tour operating in Ireland”. Turnover, which was €17 million in Ireland last year, is up by 11% in the first three months of this year.
“Some 60,000 Irish people visited Thailand last year – and the figure for January 2013 was 14% up,” said Ed Burke. “The media play a very important role and I recommend that you do joint promotions through them in conjunction with Irish tour operators.
“It is important to build direct relationships with Irish tour operators – and when you promise special rates, then deliver on them. Price and incentives such as free nights are important, but remember that Irish holidaymakers are big spenders and you will more than make up for these on your food and beverage.
“Irish people are also adventurous and so they will be attracted by two-, three- or four-centre holidays in Thailand.”
“Historically, the Irish market to Thailand was seasonal with peaks and troughs, but now the business is pretty much level all year round, from January to December.”
Michael Flood, Editor of Irish Travel Trade News, summerised the numbers of travel agencies and tour operators currently in Ireland, north and south, and emphasised the importance of the growth of consortia, such as Travel Centres, Travelsavers, Worldchoice, Consort and Travel Counsellors.
“Another significant development has been the growth of dynamic packaging,” he said. “However, Thailand continues to be primarily packaged by the Irish tour operators – and you should work closely with them, along with the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The fact that so many of you are here today, meeting seven of our top tour operators, shows your commitment and bodes well for the future in travel to Thailand.
“I would endorse Ed’s comment about the spending power of Irish holidaymakers. In a recent survey by a major cruise line, the Irish were the top spenders out of all nationalities on board. As hoteliers, you can benefit from this, not only through F&B expenditure but also from the variety of add-ons that you can offer, including activities, tours, etc.”
Travel journalist Eoghan Corry said that in long-haul destinations Irish travellers’ top three destinations were, in order, Australia, Thailand and South Africa, and added: “We would love to see direct flights to Thailand again.”