The pipeline of bookings for CIE Tours this year is ahead of expectations which is good news for Ireland's tourism industry as the company attracts thousands of US visitors every year.

CIE Tours, which is celebrating 91 years in business, is the largest operator of guided tours to Ireland in the North American market. The company brought over 25,000 visitors to Ireland last year.

Its coaches are a familiar sight on the highways and byways of Ireland where it offers more than 40 all-inclusive guided tours hosted by nearly 160 knowledgeable tour directors.

Elizabeth Crabill, CEO said, "There's an absolute affinity with the Irish vacation experience in the United States with the depth of Irish American heritage and the connection culturally. Since the pandemic we have seen that the absolute love affair between Americans and Ireland is real and the pent up demand has been incredible."

She said, however, that some destinations still have "some rebuilding to do" in terms of capacity and staffing.

Many hotels in Ireland are currently accommodating Ukrainian refugees, but Ms Crabill said she doesn't expect CIE Tours will be directly affected. "However, there is a larger issue that still needs to be addressed which is the impact on the overall tourism industry and the downstream impact of not having those rooms allocated to tourists."

She said American tourists spend in restaurants and pubs, and if they're not accommodated in hotels, other local businesses will lose out. "It can hurt the ability to recover that tourism product."

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Overall satisfaction levels in 2022 were only slightly less than 2019 despite a very challenging year for travel.

Citing a recent Expedia survey which showed that consumers are increasingly seeking ways to have more conscientious travel experiences and options to support local culture and communities within a destination, Ms Crabill said that CIE Tours is well placed to help Ireland capitalise on the growing interest in sustainable and responsible tourism.

"Our itineraries visit many rural areas of Ireland and over many years we have helped local tourism operators to survive and thrive, creating valuable local employment," she said.

"With our experience and knowledge, we can be a strong partner in to Fáilte Ireland in achieving its ambition to develop Ireland as a high-quality tourism destination that facilitates a healthy and sustainable industry, while having positive impacts on host communities, and contributing to the preservation and enhancement of the environment." she added.

"As we develop and implement realistic and meaningful sustainability actions and behaviours, we are committed to working closely with our partners because it is their businesses which are facing first-hand the changing dynamics of tourism, the cash-flow concerns of seasonality, and the climate change impact on local communities and natural spaces," she stated.

"It is encouraging that so many have already begun their own sustainability journeys and together we can build an even stronger sector with responsible tourism at its core," she said.

The CIE Tours Annual Awards of Excellence took place in Dublin last night.