NEW YORK -- More than six out of 10 of Northern Ireland's best
prospects (62.7%) said they are likely to use an agent when taking
an international vacation, and group travelers are the most loyal
agency clients, a study for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board here
Menlo Consulting Group of Palo Alto, Calif., conducted the
December 1999 survey, which found that from a sample of the "best
prospects for Northern Ireland," 37.2% said they were "extremely
likely" and 25.5% said they were "very likely" to use an agent when
taking an international vacation or pleasure trip.
"Group travelers are much more likely to turn to travel agents
for assistance than are independent travelers," said Heather
Hardwick, Menlo Consulting Group research manager.
Among travelers in the Northern Ireland market who generally
prefer to travel as part of a group, 56.1% are extremely likely to
use a travel agent, compared with 31.2% among respondents who
generally prefer to travel independently.
CIE Tours International of Cedar Knolls, N.J., has a department
of eight that works exclusively on the company's group
Brian Stack, the firm's president, said the company will bring
more than 250 groups to Ireland this year, with an average size of
"The big way for agents to earn a lot of money is to book
groups," Stack said, "because around the corner from every travel
agency in America is a group that wants to go to Ireland, and it's
just up to them to find them."
Declan O'Brien, president of New York-based Destination Ireland
and Great Britain, said 50% of his firm's business comes from
travel agents; groups account for approximately 30% of his
Speaking of group business, the matriarch or patriarch of an
Irish family can be a very valuable customer for an agency.
"We do a lot of family groups," O'Brien said, "where we have a
matriarch or patriarch who decides to bring a lot of their family
back to Ireland. It's not unusual for us to have a group of 25 or
30 traveling back. We feel that's a growth area, family group
travel, and Ireland as a destination is well suited to it.
"The more affluent groups will stay at a castle for a week,"
O'Brien said. "Other times, we'll give them a driver guide, luxury
coach and they'll stay at two or three locations for four
"Sometimes a family group may be from a certain area," he added,
"and we'll spend a lot of time visiting the area they hail