As travelers increasingly seek local, niche experiences, wholesalers like The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) Brendan Vacations have answered the call. The company, which started as an escorted tour operator to Ireland and Scotland 46 years ago, expanded globally but has gone back to its roots within the past five years, according to Paul Wiseman, Brendan’s president.
“Travel agents found it difficult to understand when we expanded beyond Ireland and Scotland,” he said. “Since we refined Brendan Vacations back to its original roots, the product is very clear, and the support they get is very clear.”
Among other things, Brendan prides itself on its local expertise. The Anaheim, Calif.-based wholesaler, which joined The Travel Corporation about 10 years ago, also has a staff in Dublin. Led by Managing Director Catherine Reilly, the local staff personifies the company’s tagline, “Taking You Personally.”
“Our office in Dublin oversees the delivery of every single trip,” Wiseman said. For example, the local staff handpicks the accommodations Brendan uses, which include upscale hotels, castles, inns and bed-and-breakfasts.
Going back to its roots also has been good for Brendan’s bottom line. “Sales in the past three years have been consistently growing, because agents can now easily understand what it is that Brendan actually does,” Wiseman said.
Brendan also has addressed the call for more independent vacations by broadening its product portfolio to include Locally Hosted, Chauffeured and Self-Drive tour options, as well as its Guided vacations. The company allows travelers to combine any of those tour types.
Clients who want to discover the destination completely on their own may want to consider booking a Self-Drive tour, which includes a Hertz rental car, accommodations (breakfast included), a suggested itinerary based on the clients’ interests and prepaid vouchers for admission to attractions.
One route may include Galway, a thriving port city on Ireland’s west coast; Killarney, located on the perimeter of the Ring of Kerry; Cork, with its English Market, Ireland’s most famous covered food market; and Dublin, Ireland’s capital city and site of such major attractions as Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse and the Graft on Street area with its pubs, restaurants and shops – all of which are along the route of the Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing bus tour.
In addition to cities, clients can drive to a slew of other scenic and historic sites, including Clonmacnoise, an ancient monastic site; Connemara National Park, where clients can hike through open meadows and up rocky hills; the Ring of Kerry, where they can drive through mountain ranges, valleys and quaint towns; the Cliffs of Moher, which rise some 700 feet above the Atlantic; and Blarney Castle and its famous Blarney Stone.
Clients who want the flexibility of a self-drive vacation without driving themselves can book a Chauffeured tour. The market for private chauffeurs is growing, Wiseman said, noting that Brendan’s drivers “are very knowledgeable about the destination. Clients are taken care of but have complete flexibility to change their itineraries.”
Clients booking a Locally Hosted tour travel between cities by rail or private car and are greeted upon arrival in each city by local hosts who provide an orientation tour and inside information and are available 24/7 for support. Those who want an escorted tour may still book a Guided vacation.
While age factors into which markets tend to book which vacation types, other demographics are at play as well, according to Wiseman. “The fly-drive products definitely skew younger. But the private chauffeured product is more in line with a financial demographic than an age demographic. It’s for those with more of a luxury mindset,” he said.
In any price bracket, Ireland is very affordable these days. “The U.S. dollar has strengthened and the euro has weakened, and that means much better pricing in 2017 than in 2016,” Wiseman said. “We’re seeing some fantastic airfares to Europe in general and to Ireland in particular.”
In other developments, The Travel Corporation is rolling out an electronic training program across its brands in 2017, including Brendan Vacations, Wiseman said. The program will be automatically added to TTC’s travel agent portal. Once all brands have released their first modules, agents will be able to access any of them with a single login.
Visit www.brendanvacations.com or call 800-687-1002.
Brendan Vacations’ Dublin staff handpicks all accommodations offered in the wholesaler’s portfolio. Here are a few examples:
Ashling Hotel, Dublin: The 225-room hotel is a short walk from Heuston Intercity Railway Station. It’s also a stop on the Luas Red Line tram, which travels to the city center in five minutes, and the Hop-On Hop-Off City Sightseeing bus tour.
Barberstown Castle, Straffan: Originally built in the 13th century, this 59-room property on 20 acres with surrounding gardens was once owned by music legend Eric Clapton.
Hayfield Manor, Cork: The property sits on the same spot as the original Hayfield Manor, an early 19th-century home. It was rebuilt and opened as an 88-room hotel in 1996.
Hotel Meyrick, Galway: Located across the street from Eyre Square (Galway’s main square), the 97-room Hotel Meyrick, adjacent to the city’s main train station, originally opened in 1852.
The Malton, Killarney: This 171-room grand hotel originally opened in 1854 at the edge of the city center, a 30-second walk from the main railway station.