Brian W. Stack was born in Dublin and educated at 0’Connell Schools in Dublin and Salford College in Manchester UK (Marketing).
Following a ten year career with Aer Lingus in the UK, Brian joined the Irish Tourist Board in Dublin and New York – specializing in the meeting and incentive travel area.
In 1990, Brian joined CIE Tours International as President, and in 2007 was appointed to the additional role as Managing Director, with responsibility for the world wide operation of CIE Tours International.
CIE Tours International is one of the largest producers of tourists from the U.S. to Ireland and has been profitable each year since 1990.
Travel Research Online: First of all, thank you for taking the time for this interview.
Brian Stack: You’re welcome.
TRO: Before you entered the travel industry, what experiences did you have in travel?
Brian Stack: We vacationed when I was younger in Ireland, and we’d visit Paris and London, so I’ve always, even since a young age, enjoyed traveling.
TRO: Did that translate to a greater understanding or appreciation of travel?
Brian Stack: I think it does, you just have a natural affinity for travel and seeing places. As I tell my colleagues, we’re in the business of creating happy experiences for people. We’re not in the heart transplant business. We’re in a business where 97% of our customers have an excellent experience. In other words, we’re in a happy business.
TRO: What was your first experience in the travel industry?
Brian Stack: I joined Aer Lingus back in the 1960’s. I was living in Dublin at the time. I worked in many areas of the airline – airport, cabin service and reservations.
TRO: Did that experience make you want to dive further into the industry?
Brian Stack: Well, while working at Aer Lingus in Ireland, I got a job as a sales manager for Aer Lingus in the north of England. I worked in the north of England for four years, then moved down to South England and worked for four years. Then I moved back to Ireland and worked there with the Irish Tourist Board.
At that time, there was no such thing as ‘career guidance’ – in fact, I actually was going to go to college to be a dentist, but once I started working in the airline business, I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll just continue doing this.’ I joined the Irish Tourist Board and they asked me to move to New York, and I became involved in the meetings and incentive travel business. Eventually, I became President of an organization called SITE (Society of Incentive Travel Executives).
TRO: How would you characterize your role at CIE? What kinds of responsibilities do you handle?
Brian Stack: Obviously, I’m responsible for everything that happens in CIE Tours, both in America and in Europe. Specifically, I am involved in public relations, marketing, management and development. I take pride in growing the brand of CIE. We are just now more focused on the social media and new outlets that can assist us in marketing CIE Tours.
TRO: Are there any aspects of CIE or Ireland travel in general you would like more travel agents to be aware of?
Brian Stack: Ireland, basically, as a country, is a hugely attractive tourism destination. When you think about it, there are not many destinations where the people absolutely love Americans. The population of Ireland is 4 million, but there are about 40 million Americans who claim to be Irish-connected, so there’s a huge bond between Ireland and America. You take that friendliness aspect, take the fact that the island of Ireland is a really scenic place, and then you look at the history – it’s a very historic country, you can’t wander around Ireland long before coming across something that was built a thousand years ago – then you add the culinary aspect, Ireland is a great destination for food, particularly since it uses natural and organic ingredients; you take all these things together, and you have an exceptional tourist destination.
TRO: Growing up in Ireland, do you feel you have a unique perspective on what makes Ireland a destination worth travelers’ consideration?
Brian Stack: Having grown up in Ireland gives you an appreciation for nature, and you understand what the country has going for it. It makes it easier to promote the country and promote tourism when you have a unique understanding of what you’re talking about.
TRO: Let’s briefly touch back on the travel industry as a whole: there has been so much change in the industry since you first began. What has changed the most, and what is still very much the same?
Brian Stack: What’s changed – other than of course the distribution system for a tour operator – there are so many different channels available now to promote, which did not exist when I first joined. When I first joined, you advertised in print, that was it. There was no such thing as e-ads, the internet was not there. I think the opportunities to get your message across are much greater, there are so many more choices
I think that people regard vacations more as a right than anything else, that they just need it, they need to get away and refresh themselves. And going on vacation is a great way to do that, and people realize that more today, and cherish those moments. Vacations are the antidote for stress.
People are living longer now than they were – 60 is the new 40. After families have educated their children through college, they can then focus on themselves – our average passenger is 55, and 65% are women. These are people with time and money and the ability to enjoy traveling.
TRO: Is there anything new or exciting on the horizon for CIE Tours?
Brian Stack: Yes; we’ve always been known for our vacations to Ireland, but we’re now very much involved with Scotland – we’ll probably be one of the biggest individual companies providing tours to Scotland. We’re now expanding our tours to begin including Wales as well.
The other thing worth mentioning is that, being in business for 81 years, the reality is that, every year, our tours include some new elements. So as we find and learn about new things that are happening, we can wrap those things into our tours. For example, if we know about a new restaurant or hotel opening, we can incorporate those ingredients into our tours to keep up with what’s happening in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
TRO: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share with us?
Brian Stack: Barring any unforeseen problems, I think that the whole tourism scene, as the American economy improves (and every indication is that it is improving), is going to steadily see a travel increase. Our numbers for 2013 – well, I’ve never seen such a large percentage of our travel booked this early. The future for travel is very bright.