At a reception in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin on Monday 28th January, Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar presented plaques to the winners of the prestigious CIE Tours International Awards of Excellence.

CIE Tours International, one of Ireland’s largest in-bound tour operators, is in business 81 years this year.  2013 sees the 23rd annual CIE Tours International Awards of Excellence, whose winners are chosen according to customer feedback.  62 winners including hotels, B&Bs, entertainment venues and tourist destinations received awards ranging from Best Hotel Dinner and Accommodation to Best Tour Feature.  Along with the 12 overall category winners, those achieving over 90% in customer feedback also receive a merit award.

Mr. Brian Stack, Managing Director of CIE Tours International, said: “Since 1932, CIE Tours International has brought in excess of three million visitors to Ireland.  The company’s success is due to the excellent service provided by hundreds of service providers around the country.  These awards celebrate the efforts of those in the tourism sector. Winners have been chosen based on feedback from over 22,000 customers who gave their views on over 400 suppliers of accommodation, dining and tourist attractions.

“As as one of the largest purchasers of tourism services across the country, we monitor all feedback to ensure our customers enjoy their visit and get value-for-money.  For example, CIE Tours booked 320,000 bed nights in towns and cities across Ireland last year.  We brought 28,000 visitors to the Cliffs of Moher, 15,000 to Bunratty, 18,000 to the Guinness Storehouse and 10,000 to the new Titanic exhibition in Belfast.  With these numbers, we are able to provide invaluable feedback to the tourism industry, which ensures that all tourists visiting Ireland have a top quality experience.

“In 2012 business performed well, with passengers and revenue up 10 per cent. Last year’s Navy v Notre Dame American Football game was a significant boost to the Irish tourism sector and CIE Tours hosted an additional 50 tour groups during that period.

“Building on this, I’m pleased to say that bookings are strong for 2013 and expected to surpass 2012 levels.  We have definitely experienced an increase in interest in early bookings that we are attributing to our expanded and focused web-based marketing investment, ‘earlybird’ discount offers made across our range of tours and the efforts of Tourism Ireland in marketing The Gathering.

“Our key strength is that our size enables us to negotiate excellent value-for-money packages for customers, who would be unable to travel independently as cheaply.  Our customers like the security of our all-inclusive prices as it helps them budget for their trips, combined with the quality of the experience they get. The best testament to the strength of our CIE Tours brand is that over 30% of our clients join tours following strong referrals from past customers.

“With the largest range of tour programmes for those wishing to visit Ireland, Scotland, England & Wales we bring tourists to many areas and attractions not covered by other companies. This includes many rural communities and particularly the North and Northwest of the country.

“Based on the fact that the economy in our largest market is improving, with house sales strong, car sales at record levels and a substantial increase in the number of available air seats to Ireland, we are cautiously optimistic that 2013 will surpass 2012. We appreciate the great boost that the advertising for “The Gathering” brings to our marketing efforts,” he said.

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The reception for the CIE Tours International Awards of the National Gallery of Ireland in DublinCIE