Thursday 27 April 2017

B&Bs back in business as bookings jump 15pc

Irish homestays

B&B Ireland - a traditional Irish welcome
B&B Ireland - a traditional Irish welcome
Crowfield House B&B, Co. Derry. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Anglers Return B&B, Connemara. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Avlon House, Carlow. Photo: trivago
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Demand for B&Bs now exceeds supply in several tourism hotspots, according to figures released this week.

B&B bookings surged by 15pc in 2016, according to a members' data collected by B&B Ireland, a representative body for the sector.

Demand for B&B accommodation in Galway, Kerry, Cork, Dublin, Clare, Donegal, Antrim and Kilkenny now exceeds supply, it says.

Members are also optimistic about "greater growth" in 2017.

B&B Ireland chief executive Helena Healy attributed the success to a combination of factors - including increased air access and visitor numbers.

“The very strong growth in overseas visits to Ireland during 2016 is welcome news, especially for communities across the country where tourism is a mainstay of the local economy and an important revenue generator,” she said.

Crowfield House B&B, Co. Derry. Photo: Fáilte Ireland
Crowfield House B&B, Co. Derry. Photo: Fáilte Ireland

Separately, Fáilte Ireland figures show an 8pc rise in approved B&B occupancy from 2015 to 2016 - up from 40pc to 48pc year-on-year.

Are B&Bs bouncing back?

Of course, the figures come from a relatively low base - with B&B bed nights and market share having dropped off a cliff in the 2000s.

Bed nights spent in Irish B&Bs by overseas visitors plummeted from 8.7 million in 2000 to 4.3 million in 2009, according to CSO statistics.

The figure had clawed its way back to 6.7 million by 2015.

Clearly, despite competition from hotels and Airbnb, the retirement of many hosts and a perceived slowness to engage with online and mobile technologies, the draw of warm welcomes and Irish homestays hasn't gone away.

Over 90pc of Irish B&B bookings come from overseas visitors, according to B&B Ireland, which does much of its promotion through tourism and trade partners.

As many hotels move to 'debundle' their services, offering breakfast at an extra cost, B&Bs are also recapturing a traditional point of distinction.

Avlon House, Carlow. Photo: trivago
Avlon House, Carlow. Photo: trivago

Last November, for example, hotel search site trivago named a B&B - Avlon House in Co. Carlow (above) - as Ireland's best value accommodation.

It offers bed and breakfast rates from just €25pp per night.

Tourism trending upwards in 2017

2016 was a record year for Irish tourism, with 9.6m arrivals.

In recent weeks, both Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland have unveiled plans to keep those numbers trending upwards in 2017.

Last Sunday, An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, announced a new strategic partnership between the former and the National Parks and Wildlife Services that will see a €500,00 investment in tourism projects at the sites.

Fáilte Ireland has also announced the formation of the Skellig Coast Tourism Network, a visitor experience plan designed to increase dwell time in a region many see as simply defined by a trip to the Skelligs - a recent Star Wars location.

This week, tourism Ireland launched its marketing plans in New York, where it said it hoped to attract 1.7 million transatlantic visitors in 2017.

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