Shopping trips to New York are on the rise again
'Big surge in Irish guests' for Manhattan hotels
The shopping trip to New York, the ultimate expression of boom-time opulence, is surging back as hotels in the Big Apple fill up with Irish guests.
Bookings for pre-Christmas retail therapy at Manhattan's finest hotels have significantly increased on last year, according to a top New York hotelier.
John Fitzpatrick, of the four-star Fitzpatrick Manhattan and Fitzpatrick Grand Central hotels, says Irish clientele is up by an estimated 10pc.
"We're seeing a big surge in Irish guests coming over this Christmas compared to last year. It's not as crazy as the Celtic Tiger but it's a lot better than it was in the last few years," he said.
"We thought, with the dollar being so strong, that they may not come but they seem to be travelling. There just seems to be a little bit of extra cash around so we do see a big increase, thank God."
Although this year's contingent of bargain-hunters is coming from all over the country, Mr Fitzpatrick says it's really a trip for the ladies.
"The men go on their golfing trips throughout the year but for the women it's all about the shopping. This special Christmas break has been kind of neglected for the last few years, because they just couldn't do it, but now it's coming back," he said.
So far, hotel bookings have not been affected by the United States' global travel alert, issued last week due to increased terrorist threats after the deadly attacks in Paris.
"It's too early to say if it will have an impact. I'm sure people are worried about flying and are talking about it but I think overall people realise that, sadly, this is the world we live in today and they will take precautions. Life has to go on. If we sit back we'll just give in to the terrorists and that's what they want," Mr Fitzpatrick told the Sunday Independent.
"New York is a very safe city. An attack like Paris can happen anywhere but you pick your destinations and the place that you think has the most security," he said.
Although the hotelier - who started out mowing the lawn and washing dishes at his family's Killiney Castle Hotel in Co Dublin during his summer holidays - spends most of his time in New York, he says Ireland's rising tide of optimism is becoming more and more apparent every time he returns home.
"I've absolutely noticed a new wave. I'm back every four or five weeks and I can see a huge change. It's mainly probably in Dublin, I don't think it's in the whole country. But in Dublin especially the Celtic Tiger traffic is back and I'm seeing a lot of 15-D cars on the roads," he said.
"If you're living here and seeing it everyday you don't see the increase as much. But if you're away and come back six weeks later, you would see that the confidence is coming back.
"It's great the way the Government are controlling how it is coming back - so it's not a big burst. I think everybody is cautious but willing to dip their foot in the water," he added.
When asked about any future plans to invest in Ireland's hotel industry, Mr Fitzpatrick says he probably didn't make a move when he should have.
"Full marks and fair credit to the ones that took that chance, they deserve it. Now the prices are gone back up to where they were and I wouldn't have as much appetite for it now as earlier on," he said.
Meanwhile, up to 600,000 shoppers descended on the capital last week as Black Friday fever gripped the country.
Irish shoppers were expected to splurge almost €130m on slashed-price electrical goods and luxury items in-store and online.
The bargain bonanza caused traffic chaos for commuters with heavy congestion reported near Dundrum, Liffey Valley and Blanchardstwon shopping centres.