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HomeEventsVisit USA Committee & Aer Lingus Events at the Aviva

Visit USA Committee & Aer Lingus Events at the Aviva

ITTN and members of the Irish travel trade were at the Visit USA Committee and Aer Lingus events with Tony Lane and Jenny Rafter in the Aviva on Saturday.

The Aer Lingus College Football Classic spread across the heart of Dublin City Centre and out to Ballsbridge as tens of thousands of spectators descended on the Irish capital for the opening game of the American College Football season. Clashing were the teams from University of Notre Dame and the US Naval Academy.

“It has to be one of the most quintessentially American things possible…”

Visit USA Committee Ireland and in partnership with Aer Lingus invited travel trade and media to an event in the Morgan Hotel in Temple Bar followed by the game itself in the Aviva.

“American Football, it has to be one of the most quintessentially American thing possible…” shared Tony and it is – the larger-than-life players, the cheerleaders, the marching bands, the fireworks, the thunderous flyover – it all cumulates in much of the Americana we see from this side of the Atlantic.

Visit USA Committee Ireland

Hosts for the afternoon and evening activities were Tony Lane and Jenny Rafter as Executive Director & Chairperson of the Visit USA Committee Ireland. Jenny Rafter also represented Aer Lingus in her capacity as Head of Global Leisure Sales with the airline.

Tony shared, “Holidays to the USA are really back… it’s incredible – in 2023 we have c.77% of the visitation that we had pre-pandemic” and he explained we are aiming for 85% of pre-pandemic levels for 2023.

While the visitor numbers haven’t fully recovered to 2019 levels, people are spending more. Irish consumers are looking for upgrades both in terms of flight tickets and accommodation.

He continued, “This is all underpinned by a really fantastic restoration of the air routes that we have… We’ve got 16 cities right now, serving direct flights from Ireland… It’s not that we’re just talking about recovery anymore, we’re talking about expansion”. This doesn’t include the two new routes on track for 2024 – Minneapolis, Minnesota and Denver, Colorado (for more on Denver check out our ITTN feature: https://ittn.ie/travel-news/is-the-mile-high-city-for-you-discover-denver-colorado/).

To Inform & Inspire Travel to the United States

The Visit USA Committee, with 85 members, is there to support the travel trade in terms of selling the United States to customers and keeping the trade informed and inspired to travel Stateside – this includes ezines, the website, social media channels and events.

Tony added a save the date for the 16th of November as the Visit USA Committee Thanksgiving event!

Jenny Rafter – Chairperson of the Visit USA Committee Ireland and Head of Global Leisure Sales with Aer Lingus spoke to the audience:

“Aer Lingus are delighted to be the main sponsor of the North American College Football” which has been the case for a number of years. She continued “This [is] amazing for the Irish economy, there are 40,000 Americans coming into Dublin over this weekend spending money, seeing Ireland.”

Lynne Embleton, Aer Lingus Chief Executive said: “This year’s game will see the single largest-ever movement of US citizens internationally for a sporting event

In fact, in my short hop from Temple Bar to Ballsbridge, it seemed larger than any St. Patrick’s Day festivities in the city such was the swell of crowds for the duration of the journey.

Jenny highlighted that it’s not just about inbound tourism but that “the Aer Lingus brand and Ireland is spotlighted all across the sports channels in the US. So it’s a really, really big deal”.

Aer Lingus welcomed almost 1,000 passengers on board from the US to Dublin across the three chartered flights alone:

  • one flight operating from South Bend in Indiana for Notre Dame’s players and coaching staff;
  • one flight from Chicago for Notre Dame’s cheer team and band;
  • one flight from Washington D.C. for the Navy players.

Indeed, already in the diaries for 2024 is a game on the 24th of August in the Aviva Stadium between Florida State and Georgia Tech which is based in the heart of Atlanta. In fact, this is estimated to be worth nearly €70 million* to the Irish economy.

To be the Hub for Aer Lingus Short-Haul Network in Dublin

Jenny Rafter expanded, “This is something that Aer Lingus is committed to over the next couple of years. So it’s a really, really great opportunity to show our brand, showcase Ireland and to host you [the Irish travel trade].”

“It’s no secret that Air Lingus has been expanding to North America and that is our strategy – to be the hub for our short-haul network over Dublin and connect to North America.”

With 18 routes between the island of Ireland and North America in the schedule for 2024, Jennifer shared “We’re ranked number four, globally as an airline for widest reach across North America”. Aer Lingus has come a long way since its first transatlantic flight 65 years ago.

As has the little island of Ireland, with a population of just 5 million, we punch above our weight in terms of our relationship with the United States and our connectivity across the pond. Strengthening that bond, those connections, the holidays, the adventures, the family and friends uniting on either side of the Atlantic. This isn’t possible without the airlines and those routes linking cities and States to our shores.

For context, the two new routes to Denver and Minneapolis in the states of Colorado and Minnesota – these states are nearly 4 times and 3 times the size of Ireland, respectively. There is a whole lot of North America for us to discover and enjoy and new routes open vast new opportunities for adventure.

*According to Fáilte Ireland and Grant Thornton’s research

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.
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