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There’s a simple reason why Brendan Vacations isn’t yet as well known in Canada as other The Travel Corporation brands like Trafalgar and Contiki.
Melissa DaSilva, president of parent company TTC Tour Brands in North America, explains that although Brendan Vacations has been around for 54 years, it only recently launched in Canada.
“We have wanted to start selling out of Canada for quite a while and we took the opportunity during the pandemic to do all the things that we needed to do to sell in Canadian dollars,” she explains to Travel Courier during an interview ahead of a Toronto trade event. “We’re here tonight to really relaunch our brand and make sure all of our trade partners know about Brendan Vacations, what we do what we stand for, because almost 98% of our sales come from our travel partners, and so it’s really important that they truly understand exactly what we can offer them.”
Describing the product as “anything in a kilt,” Catherine Reilly, managing director for Brendan Vacations, says the tour operator specializes exclusively in Ireland & Scotland.
“We just do Ireland and Scotland,” she says. “We introduce our guests to a nation of storytellers. Every opportunity we have, we put our guests in front of local people who will tell them what life is like in both Ireland and Scotland. From Brendan’s perspective, we pride ourselves in taking everything personally, but particularly our relationships with our guests.”
With many Canadians having family ties to both nations, many guests also incorporate elements of tracing their ancestry into a voyage.
“I would say we do every travel style so there’s nothing you can ask for in Ireland or Scotland that we won’t be able to provide whether it’s a guided vacation or self-drive vacation, we do locally-hosted rail, we do high end luxury self-drive vacations as well as private chauffeur vacations,” says DaSilva.
DaSilva sees huge potential in capturing the luxury market to Ireland and Scotland in Canada. However, the product offers a wide range of affordable options as well.
“If you’re on a self drive vacation, it could be quite budget friendly, you could be staying in four star properties but driving yourself and you can still have a lot of great inclusions for a very value driven price,” she says. “Whereas if you’re doing a high-end, private chauffeur vacation it is as luxurious as it gets.”
For example, bespoke tours could include private experiences where couples make their own whiskey and overnight in exclusive castles.
“We also do golf vacations in Ireland and Scotland as well, which I think is definitely high on people’s bucket list,” she adds.
Meanwhile, Reilly says that having been in operations for over 50 years means they also have a lot of special established relationships on the ground.
“I lead the company in Ireland and Scotland and I’ve been with the company for more years than I care to admit — 38 years,” she says. “We have amazing relationships with not only just the hoteliers but also all of the local people that depend on our business and we almost feel a responsibility to them, to spread this further because they are such wonderful characters. They do such a good job. They have invested their lives in their businesses and we want to show them off.”
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