Booking a trip to the Emerald Isle is not without its challenges – unless, of course, you have professional help. Recently we spoke with Ian Duffy of Royal Irish Tours from his office in Richmond Hill, Ontario, about his passion for his profession.

What are your roots?
I was born In Dublin in the lovely village of Raheny, about 5 kms from the city. So that makes me a proud Irishman.

When and why did you start the company?
I started Royal Irish Tours in October, 2001 – this was just after September 11 in the U.S. It was a very scary time to be opening a new travel business. Some people thought it was not such a good idea. We had a really good plan to specialize and sell only holidays to Ireland. We were unique in the marketplace and were the only company in Canada to have a stand -alone brochure on Ireland. Thankfully it all worked out and this year we are 16 years strong and probably the biggest providers of holidays to Ireland in Canada.

What are your roles and responsibilities there?
I am the owner and President of the company. My role is to oversee all aspects of the running of the company, with an emphasis on marketing. We have however, a great staff in all areas of the company, who ensure that our clients have the experience of a lifetime.

What are the challenges involved?
There can be a lot of challenges in the travel industry. One of the biggest threats we face in our industry today is terrorism. As we saw in Paris and Brussels, terrorism has an impact and can affect whether a client will go there or not. Thankfully our main destinations – Ireland and Scotland – have remained untouched by these types of threats. Recent problems that have had an impact would be the Icelandic volcanoes and something like the foot and mouth disease in Britain a good few years back. Other than that, currency can be an issue, as well as political issues like Brexit and even Donald Trump.

What are the rewards?
We run a weekly coach tour program, sometime even 3 or 4 of them a week. It gives me great pleasure when I am over in Ireland and I see one of our coaches with the Royal Irish Tours logo on it, full with happy customers. Another reward is the hundreds of letters/emails we get from delighted customers commenting on how their trip to Ireland was brilliant. It is really nice when they say they will recommend us to all their friends and family. They certainly do it because we have a huge repeat clientele and we also receive thousands of referrals.

What is the company’s history and current mandate? 
We started in 2001 and very quickly became very popular in the Ireland market. People kept asking us about other destinations and it became clear to us that we needed to expand. Scotland came on the horizon in 2006 when we launched our first brochure to great success. We now offer a large program to Scotland today and have enhanced it further by adding England & Wales. So we are truly the Britain and Ireland experts now. Our current mandate now is to offer the best touring experience to our valued customers. We love hearing from our clients and we will do our best to ensure that we will be hearing from them for many years to come.

What are your core products?
Our core products are Ireland, Scotland, England and  Wales. Then they are sub divided into first class coach tours, mini sightseeing tours , driving holidays  , rail tours and accommodation choices such as deluxe castles , stately manors , charming hotels and delightful B & B s.

Who are your core clients?
Our core clients would be Canadians – We mostly sell in the Canadian market. We would have 2 types of clientele – the 50-plus market who tend to be interested in the coach touring side of our business. We would also have a 30-50 year-old market, who are looking for a driving holiday experience. This would be something we specialize in as well – customizing the perfect driving holiday. We have expert staff on hand to help design the ultimate driving holiday , whether it includes a simple B&B or a stay in a luxurious 5 star castle.

How do you reach them?
We publish 2 main brochures every year, a 68 page Ireland booklet and a similar one for Scotland, England & Wales. These brochures are distributed to most travel agents across Canada. People can just call us on our toll free line and request one. We also have a great website where all this information and more is published. We also have an online version of the brochure on the website.

What are they looking for?
In general, our coach tours and our driving holidays are the most popular items. If they do not see something they like, they can call us and we will try to help.

How do you differ from your competition?
We are a family run Canadian business with a strong Irish heritage. We specialize in Ireland and Scotland, unlike our competitors who sell every destination in the world and claim they are the best. This is not possible. We are niche company offering a niche product to a niche destination. All our staff is hand – picked and experienced in the destinations we offer. We have all travelled extensively in Ireland, Scotland, England & Wales. We know our product and every time someone calls our office, they are dealt with by a professional.

How has the internet helped your business?
The Internet has helped our business for sure. We have a great website which people can access 24/7 and it contains basically everything they need to know about our product. It is a great tool for information but we still find a lot of people still love the idea of talking to a real person, discussing a tour in detail , finding out the person you are talking to has been to the destination. You cannot beat talking to a real person, who in turn has a huge knowledge personally on the city or town that you wish to visit. I am still a firm believer in brochures and also print media for advertising.

What are the company’s future plans?
Our plan is to grow and be the best that we can be. We have opened our own office in Dublin now and that is a huge step for us. Our customers now have a local contact to help and assist them when they are in Ireland. We are still trying to grow our clientele in British Columbia , Alberta and the Maritimes. We believe there is still a lot of potential growth from these markets. We also will one day look to increase our profile in the U.S. That is a huge market and even if we just scratch the surface, our business would double overnight.