Sunday,  May 28, 2023  8:11 pm

PAX Checks In with Royal Irish Tours' Jonathan Sargeant

PAX Checks In with Royal Irish Tours' Jonathan Sargeant
Jonathan poses for a selfie from the top of Conwy Castle in Wales.

"I always worked in hospitality growing up, and really liked it – hotels, bars, catering jobs – so I decided to study tourism in Dublin Institute of Technology at the School of Hospitality & Tourism," recalls Jonathan Sargeant, sales manager, Royal Irish Tours

"I graduated in 2011, moved to Toronto to work for Tourism Ireland, and I’ve been in Canada ever since."

Sargeant spent his first few years in Canada working for Tourism Ireland (twice!), Trafalgar, and of course, Royal Irish Tours. While studying in university, he worked in bars, and also coached rugby to make some extra money on the side.

Now, Sargeant lives in Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood, though he admits he spends most of the months on the road.

When he's not helping travel professionals across Canada grow their Ireland and U.K. business, he's busy cultivating personal relationships with key members of the trade.

"I do sales calls three to four days a week, as well as attend trade shows, host webinars and I also co-host many consumer events with advisors across the country," Sargeant said.

Here, PAX Checks In with Sargeant to learn more about the famous last words in Ireland that led to a 'lock in', a seafood dinner so fresh it was rowed up to him by a local fisherman, and just how serious he is about rugby.

PAX: What are three essential items you always travel with?

Jonathan Sargeant (JS): My Bose noise cancelling headphones are the first thing I pack. I always bring along a good novel (for when I’m not sleeping on flights) and my gym gear.

PAX: What are some of your favourite vacation spots?

JS: San Blas Islands, Panama; Japan; North West of Ireland (Donegal).

PAX:What’s your favourite airport and why?

JS: Zurich, Switzerland. It's so quick and easy to get through security! And definitely the cleanest airport I’ve ever been in. And who doesn’t want to spend $7 for an Americano?

PAX: What do you love about your job? The travel industry?

JS: The people I get to meet and work with. Co-workers, agents, suppliers, consumers. There are so many interesting and fun people in this industry. People work hard in travel, but they also know how to have fun and not take themselves too seriously. 

Fam trips with RIT are always a highlight! And of course, selling my home country of Ireland for a living!

Jonathan seen here driving around Ireland last spring.

PAX: What was the first vacation you ever took?

JS: Do trips to my grandparent’s farm in Donegal count? I used to spend my summers up there when I was young, running around the farm, helping feed the animals – lots of fond memories of those days.

I didn’t get on my first plane until I was 15 – a school trip to Poland which I’ll never forget! We were left to explore Krakow on our own one day, and I just remember that feeling of being in somewhere totally new and different from what I was used to. It was a very cool city, and I’ve been back a couple of times since.

PAX: What’s the biggest splurge you’ve ever made on a trip? 

JS: I spent $1,200 on a ticket to a rugby game in Japan (and everyone’s reaction when I tell them that is ‘are you serious?’). I do really love rugby though! It was for the Rugby World Cup in October, and Ireland were supposed to win their group and play South Africa in the quarter final. 

As it turned out, Ireland didn’t win their group, so I paid $1,200 for a game Ireland weren’t even playing in! Luckily, the game was Japan vs. South Africa, and I was able to sell it to a well-off Japanese lady who was a big fan, and I got myself a cheaper ticket. Other than that, my biggest purchases have definitely been on food and adventure experiences. I spent $200 on bungee jumping in Whistler when I was 18. I spent the same amount for a seafood lunch in Croatia last year – definitely worth it though!

Standing on the Sliabh Cliffs of Donegal, Ireland.

PAX: What was the most memorable food/meal you ever ate and where did you eat it?

JS: The most memorable was probably when I was in the San Blas Islands, sailing on a catamaran from Panama to Colombia for five days. The captain bought some octopus off a local fisherman who literally rowed up to us while at sea on a home-made wooden boat. 

It was so fresh and delicious, I would go back there just to eat it again! It was served with salt and lemon, and some local Central American fruit and vegetables.

PAX: What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?

JS: How stressed people are getting on and off airplanes. I usually just wait until everyone’s on board before getting on. And then getting off, everyone stands up to go nowhere! What’s that all about?

PAX: What are your hidden talents?

JS: I am a pretty decent cook, which surprises people. I make a mean lasagna but also love cooking a good roast dinner for friends.

I am a pretty decent cook, which surprises people," Jonathan says, seen here during a cooking class at Rick Stein's Cooking School in England.

PAX: When flying, window shade up or down?

JS: Down! I sleep on most flights I’m on so no need for any light coming in. I do open it when landing in new destinations though. Recently, landing in Tokyo, it was incredible to see all the lights and just how big that crazy city really is!

PAX: What's your funniest travel anecdote?

JS: I’ve met a lot of characters on my travels. None more so than in small towns in rural Ireland! 

I was in a little village in Cork with a group about three years ago. It was a Monday night, and we went to the local pub for ‘one drink’ (famous last words in Ireland!). It was basically our group, and two local fisherman, one of whom spontaneously broke into song about 11 p.m. The owner of the pub’s son said they were closing soon, but we said we’d like to stay a bit longer. 

He wanted to go home, so he called his father (who lived upstairs) and he came down and let us stay and have another couple of drinks. But he gave us the option to stay or go, as he was going to lock the doors. So, we all stayed and had what’s known as a ‘lock-in’ in Ireland. We had a great sing song with two fisherman for the next few hours, and the owner even got involved too. It’s the people you meet on your travels that you remember, and it’s often the reason you want to return to those places!

PAX: What are several things travel agents should know about Royal Irish Tours right now?

JS: We are a Canadian company. A lot of people don’t know that. Our owner Ian Duffy is from Ireland, as are plenty of our staff, but all our tours are tailored towards the Canadian market, and it’s where 99% of our guests come from!

We just became a Virtuoso supplier last month (November), so there are exciting times ahead with that partnership.

Book early and save – clients can save up to $300 per couple with our early booking bonus until Dec. 31, 2019.

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