When and why did you move to New York?
“I moved in 1994. I was fortunate that I did not need to emigrate unlike a lot of people who traveled before me, but wanted to experience life in the big city. In 1996, I moved back to Ireland and was accepted to DIT”s Cathal Brugha Street where I received my degree in tourism marketing. I returned to New York in 2000 as I received an internship with Tourism Ireland in New York. My main reason for returning to New York in 2000 was to be with Liam, a native Cavan man who was/is firmly rooted in New York!”
Tell about your role with Specialized Travel Services.
“I joined the company in 2002. By this time I had worked almost two years with Tourism Ireland in their New York office and gained valuable experience in working with the public sector of the industry so it was an exciting challenge to get the opportunity to work in the private sector.
“Specialized Travel Services is an Ireland only destination management company in business since 1974. We customize trips to Ireland for groups and individual travelers.
“As the sales and marketing manager, my main role along with the sales team in New York is sourcing potential groups through a wide variety of distribution channels. Our groups range from alumni and college groups, religious and faith based groups, golf tours and special interest groups, literary, culinary tours and even knitting groups.
“We have our own transport company in Ireland and do a lot of chauffeur driven tours for individuals and smaller groups. Tourism is a dynamic industry to be working in.”
Where are the most popular destinations in Ireland?
“It really depends on the client/group and their reason for visiting Ireland. From our first contact with our clients we get as much information as we can about them and their group and if feasible I will meet them as this will make for a better trip for them.
“Their reasons to visit Ireland are all different and unique, and of course the areas they wish to visit all vary. In general though, Northern Ireland is a huge sell this year with so much new and improved product, while Dublin, Galway and the south west are always favorites.”
Are a lot of your customers first time visitors to Ireland?
“About 60% are first timers and 40% are repeat travelers. About 90% of our travel trade business is repeat business. Repeat customers are usually more focused and have a specific itinerary which we develop with them. We did get a group that returned earlier this year and said their trip surpassed their first trip which was great.”
What is the strangest request you have ever got from a tourist who wanted to visit Ireland?
“Are there any leprechaun farms? (There aren’t!)”
What do you think makes Irish hospitality so special?
“It’s warm and its real and it is genuine. Irish people love an outing, an event, a chance to get together with family and friends and this is deep rooted in our culture. The Gathering Ireland 2013 is about the people of Ireland welcoming anyone with a connection to Ireland to come and visit, and we are delighted to be part of it.”