HomeEventsVisit USA Committee Ireland Roadshow Lunch at Iveagh Gardens

Visit USA Committee Ireland Roadshow Lunch at Iveagh Gardens

The Visit USA Committee Ireland Roadshow lunch was held in the Iveagh Garden Hotel in Dublin on Wednesday, 26th April. The 2023 roadshow had participants from Visit Utah, Los Angeles Tourism, Hertz, Mall of America, Florida Keys & Key West and Virgin Atlantic. Executive Director of the Visit USA Committee, Tony Lane hosted attendees at a lunch in Iveagh Garden Hotel including ITTN’s Shane Cullen.

A Thank You to You All

Jenny Rafter, (Chairperson of Visit USA Committee Ireland & Head of Global Leisure Sales, Aer Lingus) led the presentations by thanking the Visit USA Committee for their time and expertise to the non-profit organisation. 

Jenny explained how they “inspire travel to the US… through all of our channels and tools through our social media, the events that we have throughout the year and our training tools on the web”. Given it is a non-profit organisation, she continued by thanking “everybody on the committee for giving of their time for the Visit USA committee”.

She extended a sincere “real thank you to you, the trade, for your support and everything that you do – promoting the US as a destination”. 

“Absolutely Rebounded”

In terms of statistics, Jenny explained, post-COVID, the demand for travel to the US has “absolutely rebounded… 2022 saw c.77% of pre-covid levels return and for Q1 2023 we’re already exceeding 80%, so in terms of the demand from Irish consumers to travel to the US has never been stronger”.

Interestingly, she added, Ireland is “16th globally in terms of visitation. If we look at that per capita we’re placed number one so that is just incredible and with a population of just over 5 million”.

Visit Utah

“Here, surrounded by wind-sculpted sandstone, our minds open. Here, tracing ancient layers of sediment, we feel hopeful for our future. The desert is a land of contrast and contradiction. Within its desolate beauty, our spirit is renewed.” 

Jenni Bridgman, who covers UK & Ireland for the Utah Office of Tourism, detailed what this US state has to offer. Nestled between Nevada and Colorado (under Idaho and above Arizona), Utah has spectacular stargazing, superb skiing and stunning sculpted sandstone. 

For clients wanting something a little different to add to a Las Vegas adventure, Southwest Utah is a great option. Jenni shared Utah is “very much a road trip style destination”. If anyone wants that classic American US road trip. It’s very, very easy – very manageable”

Alpine Scenery & Ski

“People go to Utah for the scenery and we’re very, very lucky that we have very contrasting scenery. In the north, we have the Rocky Mountains, so very, very Alpine landscapes. And we also have some of our urban centres there – Salt Lake City is located in the north of the state”.

Jenni continued, “…that alpine scenery comes with very lovely, beautiful mountain towns as well. The most well-known is probably Parks City, which was actually an old mining town. It still has that old mining heart and that historic downtown area. So whether it’s a winter destination to ski or summer destination for those outdoor activities in the mountains – there are really, really great experiences there”. 

Mighty 5 National Parks

Looking south highlights what Utah is best known for its Mighty Five National Parks.

“Southern Utah, a red rock desert landscapes very, very contrasting scenery and each of those why national parks are very, very different” explains Jenni.

The Mighty 5 comprise: Arches National Park which is home to 2000+ naturally formed arches; Canyonlands, a little bit similar to the Grand Canyon; Capital Reef National Park; Bryce Canyon National Park; and Zion National Park (closest to Vegas) & a huge narrow natural canyon.

Jenni added, “Over and above that, we have National Monuments National Forest, Monument Valley – home to many a Western film” with its iconic sandstone buttes instantly recognisable. 

In terms of navigating the State, Jennie explains “The great thing is that everything is linked by a scenic Byway”. Utah has 28 national and state-designated Scenic Byways renowned for visual and historic interest – check out visitutah.com/scenicbyways

Jenni added, “So when you’re in your Hertz rental car driving along… sometimes the actual road trip is the destination in itself as so many places to see in between those national parks and sites as well so really slow down and experience that scenery.”

Sun Goes Down & Stars Come Out

Finally “When the sun goes down the stars come out and the stargazing in Utah is absolutely incredible”, Jennie shared. She continued, “I’ve seen the milky way on quite a number of occasions. There’s very, very little light pollution. The dark sky is clear. There are lots of great experiences for telescopes and stargazing opportunities either in the National Park with ranger-led tours or private guided tours”.

E-Learning Platform

The new e-learning platform called Utah Specialists Academy will launch in the next couple of weeks. This will take you on a journey through Utah as your clients would experience it! –

Mall of America

Gary Fletcher, with a rich Scottish accent, started “Let me place the Mall of America in context of where it is for starters. It is in the Great Lakes region, in the wonderful state of Minnesota. It is close to a number of airports”

Close to Cleveland & more

It is close to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and, he added, “It is an experience. This is the biggest shopping complex in the United States, not the biggest shopping centre because Mall of America has 500+ stores”. Also, remember the new flight from Dublin to Cleveland commences shortly. 

Tax Free Shopping & More

It’s worth remembering that it’s more than a place to go shopping tax-free, the Radisson Blue Hotel is at one end and a host of attractions. These include the Nickelodeon Universe, ClimbZone, Crayola Experience, Dutchman’s Deck Adventure Course, escape rooms, a Sea Life aquarium and more. – https://mallofamerica.com/entertainment/attractions/all

Why LA?

Hayley French (Director, Travel Trade, Europe & Middle East – Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board) – all about LA. https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/travel-trade

She shared LA are hosting IPW in 2024! 

The city of LA is 4,000 square miles which equates to 10,400 sq. km (for context, the entire County Cork is 7,500 sq. km). Hayley explains it’s easier to absorb in terms of regions or neighbourhoods, namely the Beach Cities, Westside, Downtown, Hollywood, The Valley, Mid City and South Los Angeles.

300 Days of Sunshine

“We really do have some great weather, we have on average around 300 days of sunshine a year and which is a great place, a great way to be able to plan in holiday and be outside and with over 75 miles of beautiful coastline, it really does lend itself to being an outdoor destination”.

“We’ve got real diverse culinary landscapes – everything from Michelin Star restaurants to some really cool food trucks, and a real renowned art and culture scene and great new museums”

LA Attractions

In terms of attractions, there is the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood which was home to the 2022 Super Bowl. The Academy Museum is dedicated to the Academy Awards and has no less than seven floors of movie memorabilia including the Wizard of Oz shoes and R2D2. For those of you who dreamed of the silver screen, there is an immersive experience where you can accept an Oscar and record your speech! For those of us more interested in a misspent youth in front of a games console, Super Mario World has opened at Universal. It’s worth remembering 2023 is a year of milestones with both the Hollywood Sign and Warner Brothers celebrating a centenary. 

Hayley also highlighted the extensive training and resources available to the travel trade on their dedicated trade website including hotel videos for every single hotel with 50 rooms, neighbourhood videos, things to do for free, family activities plus images and video content.


Paul Manning highlighted the benefits of car hire, particularly with the appeal of road trips in the  USA. He shared, “At the end of the day you can hop in a car and drive, you can explore, you can go to see all awesome things that would just blow your mind”. With presentations from the west coast’s LA, east coast’s Florida Keys & Key West as well as the stunning state of Utah, it’s clear how much freedom a car can give for visitors looking to absorb the culture and scenery of the United States of America. With road trips around the USA on many bucket lists, Paul explained Hertz keeps it simple.

He added that for any trade partners that do deal with Hertz, they have launched a new portal with additional training coming soon. Equally, for anyone seeking to partner with Hertz, contact Paul, he would be more than happy to discuss it with you.

Florida Keys & Key West

Fenella Tobey shared the top ten facts about the Florida Keys:

  1. The Overseas Highway which is made up of 42 bridges that connects the Keys to the mainland.
  2. Key West Airport – most fly into Miami, pick up their rental car (Hertz, of course) and drive down the coast, however, you can fly out of this airport and connect onwards to New York, Orlando, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta… offering lots of flexibility for itineraries. Also, a ferry connects Key West with Fort Myers 
  3. Key Largo, the northernmost island, is the dive capital of the world. This is home to John Pennekamp State Park with 600 different species of coral. This is also the start of the Shipwreck Trail.
  4. Key Largo has the gateway to the Everglades National Park
  5. Conservation is key in the Florida Keys with the Turtle Hospital and the Dolphin Research Centre open to visitors. Also on offer are various aquarium encounters, ideal for “budding marine biologists and conservationists” explains Fenella.
  6. Wildlife – from alligators, crocodiles, dolphins and turtles, there are also stingrays often visible from the shoreline and at a mere 1 ½ foot tall, Florida Key Deer are indigenous to the Keys. In the lower Keys, visitors can expect to enjoy a day trip rather than finding accommodation. These are shallow islands you can explore on a kayak or paddleboard. Fenella explains these are “great for anyone that doesn’t like deep water. If you fall out of your boat, just stand up and walk back to the shore!”
  7. “One Human Family,” says Fenella. She continues, We have an incredibly welcoming atmosphere, thriving LGBT community and incredible nightlife down in Key West… amazing live music down every alleyway, karaoke bars – that’s where you’ll find me”.
  8. Sunset sailings – Fenella boasts, “You can go paddle boarding, go on a tall ship with cheese and wine or hire a private catamaran”
  9. Fresh seafood – unsurprisingly, Fenella shares that they “have fantastic fishing throughout the whole of the Keys” and “anything that you capture, you can take to a restaurant and they will cook it up for you”.
  10. Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park – Fenella highly recommends this national park located 70 miles off the bottom of Key West reached via a ferry ride (2 hours) or 20-minute sea plane ride (depending on budget). This was a fortress built to protect Florida. Wander around, eat, shop or visit the museum or opt for swimming, scuba diving, or jet skiing around the impressive structure.

Fenella ended with a nod to the online training programme plus the YouTube channel has a range of videos and virtual fam trips for people to do. 

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has just signed an agreement with Air France, KLM and Delta, joining the SkyTeam Alliance. Virgin Atlantic will be the first UK member airline and offers connectivity, in particular, through Heathrow and Manchester airports.

Virgin Atlantic customers will benefit from a consistent, seamless customer experience, across 1,000 global destinations in 170+ countries. Customers can conveniently book every SkyTeam member flight on a single ticket, checking in with baggage just once through to their final destination. 

A Fond Farewell

Paul Nolan, representing Virgin Atlantic, presented for the last time before his retirement this Thursday. Jenny shared the news which received rapturous applause (and maybe a hint of envy from a few in the audience!). Very best wishes to Paul from the ITTN team and best of luck in all your future endeavours as you start the next phase of your life.

Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen has been managing director of a media production studio for nearly 20 years working on projects for a global clientele. He has worked in the travel industry for over a decade and as a travel journalist since 2015. He is passionate about travel, film & photography. He also has a keen interest in emerging technology.

Must Read