Ireland: Shopping and Entertainment Insider Tips for Your Clients
In this two-part series, we reached out to Evan McElligott, CTA to discuss the changing face of tourism in his native country. Owner of Independent Ireland, a company specializing in custom-designed tours (FITs) and small groups, Evan believes travel advisors should widen the scope of how to market and promote this remarkable island. In the series, we dive deep into some of the modern delights Ireland offers. Read on as we explore shopping and entertainment.
Note, too, that we will follow up soon with a webinar—titled “Ireland: Beyond the Blarney”—and will dig even deeper into this constantly evolving destination. Evan’s passion shows through as he states “It’s more important now than ever to stay current and bring fresh content to our clients. The visitor experience has been through many changes in the last decade, and how your clients are interacting with Ireland looks very different now than it did 10 years ago.”
Visitors to Ireland nowadays are often surprised with the many options available when it comes to shopping, not just in the cities or highstreets, but also in the towns and villages. All too often, we pack itineraries full of activities and don’t allow enough time for clients to ramble and get a sense of place or chat with local store owners and producers. The same is true for entertainment; new opportunities are opening all over the country that will enrich your clients’ experiences and allow them to make a much richer connection with the culture. Staying on top of these changes is now a big part of our role as destination specialists.
Makers, Markets, and Merriment
The 2009 recession hit Ireland head-on, and many professionals reluctantly found their way back into the art studios, galleries, and garages. Authors and poets also seemed to find their inspiration once more. A new wave of creativity washed over the country, which is evident today in every village, town, and city. Nowadays, there is a harmonious blend of traditional and modern Ireland. Fortunately, most visitors today have learned to support local artists and artisans and steer clear of the trinketry stores selling Chinese-born leprechauns and other bedazzled lucky charms.
The classics always will hold strong, and visitors can find hand-knitted Aran sweaters, hand-cut crystal, woolen rugs, handwoven shawls and throws, tweeds, and linen in shops all over Ireland. But, it’s important to seek out stores that support local industries, and they may not always be obvious.
The crystal industry that Waterford built is flourishing, and crystal is now being produced all over the country. Jewelry has come a long way also, and, while the Claddagh ring is a fan favorite, shoppers can find other hand-made variations in many regions, still staying true to tradition and folklore but with a modern style and design.
The cosmetic and spa industry is also one that has gained a lot of traction. Lotions, oils, and soaps made from locally sourced plants, herbs, and seaweed products are all enjoying significant growth in the marketplace. So, when researching areas for your clients to shop, it’s worth diving deeper and asking beforehand what they’re looking for and who they’re buying for.
The mention of an Irish pub brings a smile to many who have experienced it done well, and with good reason. I’ve been to many Irish bars in Ireland and beyond, and, while the product seems easy to export, most fail gloriously at re-creating the atmosphere found within the walls of any pub in Ireland. It’s as if the walls seem to vibrate with the secrets and stories they hold within.
An evening chatting with strangers, listening to a well-played fiddle competing with an overzealous accordion player, mixed with laughter, song, and storytelling: it’s a beautiful formula for a good time and a brilliant place to meet locals and fellow travelers. But don’t overthink it. The pub experience is about the people you meet and the conversation that follows. In the end, if you find “The Craic,” that’s what it’s all about.
If your clients are not pub-goers, it’s good to remind them that pubs are much more than a place to grab a pint. Nowadays, it’s normal to order a coffee or soft drink and still enjoy the atmosphere and entertainment. But sometimes pubs are not for everyone, and some people are more into the arts, theater, or music (trad or modern). If so, it might be best to leave less to chance and book them into a more polished experience to match their preferences. Irish dancing is currently going through a resurgence and can be witnessed in a professional setting in venues like Siamsa Tire (Folk Theatre of Ireland) in Tralee, or Trad on The Prom in Galway.
Additionally, there is a revival in poetry, literature, and theatre in Ireland, and you don’t have to look too hard to build a relevant event into an itinerary. It’s a fantastic way to support the local artists and communities. Research what’s on in the area, look at theatres or events taking place that might interest your clients. For example, taking in a show at The Abbey Theatre in Dublin is an amazing experience to incorporate into an itinerary.
Ireland has done a great job in promoting its festivals in recent years, and with good reason. They are incredible cultural experiences: literary festivals, theatre festivals, music, food, dance, sports… even a Match Making festival that’s been running for 150 years! More than anything else, encourage your clients to be curious and to interact with the country and the people as much as possible. They will be so glad they did.
To learn more, register to attend Evan’s August 27 Ireland: Beyond the Blarney webinar, and be on the lookout for part two of his series, coming out August 27. Also, be sure to check out our all-new Northern Europe Destination Specialist course.