It’s always interesting to be able to see how another country does business and what ideas you can implement in your own world, but when that other country is a dream destination, it’s a win-win.
Denise Bryan-Williams, executive director for the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce, was chosen as part of a group of 12 executive directors from across Canada to take part in a six-day familiarization tour in Ireland and she jumped at the opportunity to go.
“I have wanted to go to Ireland for my entire adult life,” she said. “I’ve had tours booked, but I wasn’t able to go for various reasons. Being selected, I felt like I won the lottery.”
Bryan-Williams explained that the Canadian Chamber of Commerce recently formed a partnership with Indus Travels, a company that plans and books group travel and recently started working with chambers of commerce. Bryan-Williams was part of a webinar where the Canadian Chamber of Commerce was discussing this partnership and Tourism Ireland happened to be on the call as well, showcasing their country.
“I was so fascinated by it,” Bryan-Williams said of the presentation. “It was the most amazing webinar presentation. They showcased Ireland so well.”
Bryan-Williams said that at the end of the webinar, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said they would select a small group, a few executive directors from each region, to go on a trip to Ireland.
“I never thought I would be selected,” Bryan-Williams said.
She left on Oct. 6 and the six-day tour was jam packed, with travel every day and a different hotel every night.
“They kept us super busy, but it was fascinating and beautiful,” she said. “Tourism Ireland is really working hard to promote ancient Ireland and we travelled to a whole bunch of different places.”
Bryan-Williams said one thing she learned from her trip was that you can go to Ireland over and over again and always see something different.
“There’s something for everyone,” she said. “It was just really special.”
In addition to the never-ending beautiful sights, Bryan-Williams also noted that October in Ireland is not peak tourist season, but it was obviously a time of year that Tourism Ireland wants to showcase and develop.
“Why that’s interesting is Sylvan Lake is trying to develop its shoulder seasons as well,” she said. “So that was really cool to see.”
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce group was able to participate in whiskey and beer tastings, as well as orchard tours on their travels.
“It was very interesting to see how much had developed over the COVID times and how they used the grants they received,” Bryan-Williams said, adding that business owners in Ireland received business grants similar to what Canadian businesses received, in an attempt to boost businesses during and after COVID. “It was really fascinating to see what people did, which made us feel connected because our businesses have been going through the same thing.”
Bryan-Williams said this type of trip is known as experiential travel, which is a form of tourism in which people focus on experiencing a country, city or particular place by actively and meaningfully engaging with its history, people, culture, food and environment, and she said it was beneficial to experience Ireland that way.
“We have a ways to go, but I think we are understanding that more and more,” she said of that type of tourism here in Canada. “During my trip, I got to meet so many new people and we could pick each other’s brains.”
But that’s not the last Ireland has seen of this Sylvan Lake resident.
“I think it’s one of my favourite destinations in the world,” Bryan-Williams said. “This will not be my last trip.”
The Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce is currently selling tickets for a trip for two to Ireland, much like the one Bryan-Williams went on. Tickets are $20 each and the draw will be made on Dec. 1. There are only 1,000 tickets being sold, so Bryan-Williams said the odds of winning are great and the money being raised will go to the Sylvan Lake Community Partners Association.
The trip is also open to anyone else who wants to go and everything is bundled together in one package – flights, hotels, tours, most meals and more. The trip is for 10 days and begins April 23, 2023. Visit the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce website for more information.