A rainy day and a cozy, historic setting in Toronto's Distillery District created an appropriately Celtic vibe for Brendan Vacations’ launch event on Wednesday (Oct. 19).
Part of The Travel Corporation (TTC) family of brands, Brendan specializes in trips to Ireland and Scotland.
The evening saw the Brendan Vacations team, partners, travel advisors and media gathered in event space Archeo to celebrate Brendan’s Canadian launch.
Melissa DaSilva, president of TTC Tour Brands, North America, said it had long been a goal to bring Brendan’s over 50 years of Celtic trip-planning expertise to the Canadian market.
Although the brand technically made its Canadian debut in late 2020, DaSilva said the team wanted to take the opportunity to host a proper kick-off now that in-person gatherings are possible once again.
Attendees enjoyed light bites, as well as beer courtesy of Brendan’s partners at Guinness.
“Now that the world is back open, we wanted to make sure that we came here and shared with all of you, our travel professional partners, exactly what it is that we do and what we believe makes Brendan special,” said DaSilva, addressing attendees.
Speaking to PAX, DaSilva added, “This event is to relaunch Brendan in Canada so that everybody knows that our 2023 product is live and on sale and now is the time to sell it because [Canada] is such a key destination for Ireland as a top 10 source market.”
Travel in any style
Brendan caters to Scotland and Ireland-bound travellers with a wide range of budgets and interests.
“We have everything from a self-drive vacation to our locally-hosted rail where your clients can travel by rail but they're met by local hosts in each destination,” DaSilva explained. “We also have our very high-end chauffeur vacations and really everything in between…we offer travel in any style”
DaSilva said she believes Brendan’s luxury trip types are a particular asset in the current market.
“Anybody that you talk to in the industry, they'll tell you luxury is coming back first and best, so we really see that as an opportunity for our partners,” she said.
DaSilva added that Brendan’s deep knowledge of the two destinations allows their team to create itineraries suited to whatever travel advisors are seeking for their clients.
“If they know what they want, great, we can build that; but if they don't, we can have those conversations and build out that trip based on their interests, based on the budget, or whatever it happens to be,” she said.
A sense of connection
Catherine Reilly, managing director, Brendan Vacations said that Brendan’s long-standing ties with its suppliers in Ireland and Scotland enables the company to offer one-of-a-kind experiences for travellers.
”We've been around for a long time and we have really good connections with our supplier partners in Scotland and Ireland, but also with the various different characters we introduce guests to, whether it's on a food tour or a historical tour,” she said.
Reilly added that Canadian travellers' own familial connections to Scotland and Ireland make trips to these destinations particularly impactful.
Through its partnership with EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Brendan gives travellers a memorable opportunity to learn about their ancestry as part of its genealogy packages.
David Cleary, head of sales at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, delivered a demonstration of these genealogy experiences by exploring the Irish family history of Allana Haines, a travel consultant with Creative Travel & Tours, who was in attendance at the event.
“When Brendan Vacations’ clients are coming over to EPIC, when we sit them down with our genealogists, it's really making that sense of homecoming real,” Cleary explained.
“Three months before your clients come to Ireland, our genealogists reach out to them and get their information and we do all the research in the meantime. Then, when they come to EPIC, we will sit them down and we will serve them either breakfast or afternoon tea and then we show them and tell them their family history…it’s a really bespoke experience,” he added.
Anything in a kilt
“Think of us as anything in a kilt,” joked Reilly of Brendan’s expertise in Ireland and Scotland.
DaSilva emphasized the importance of Brendan’s relationships with its travel agent partners, sharing that they’re responsible for 98 per cent of the brand’s sales. “A lot of suppliers can put together an itinerary, but we can connect you with the people,” she said.
Reilly noted that trips to Ireland and Scotland have a lasting impact on all kinds of travellers.
“We pride ourselves on our hospitality. We pride ourselves on our storytelling,” she said. “People, regardless of whether they have ancestry or not, do somehow feel a connection when they visit Ireland and Scotland. They feel at home.”