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11 Jun 2019

Canada offers significant potential for Northern Ireland tourism – according to new Tourism Ireland research

Canada offers significant potential for Northern Ireland tourism, according to new research unveiled in Belfast by Tourism Ireland today.

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. And, holiday visitor numbers to Northern Ireland from Canada have doubled over the last five years – from 20,111 in 2013 to almost 40,000 in 2018.

The island of Ireland is now the seventh most popular European destination for Canadian travellers, in a growing outbound market. Canadian visitors are highly prized as they 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 aims to build on the success of recent years. The organisation 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 working in our favour 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 Derry) 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; 
  • expanding its travel trade education programme to feature lesser-known attractions;
  • 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.
Dana Welch, Tourism Ireland’s Manager Canada; Siobhan McManamy, Tourism Ireland’s Director of Markets; and Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland’s Head of North America, at the launch of Tourism Ireland’s new research on the Canadian market, in the Grand Central Hotel Belfast.

Notes To Editors

  • Tourism Ireland is the organisation responsible for promoting Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland overseas as a leading holiday destination.
  • Tourism is responsible for in excess of 5.2% of GDP in Northern Ireland and supports approximately 65,000 jobs.
  • In 2018, we welcomed 2.218 million overseas visitors to Northern Ireland, delivering revenue of over £560 million. 
  • Tourism Ireland’s international website is, 29 market sites available in 11 language versions around the world, which attracted 20.3 million visitors in 2018.