Thursday 22 March 2018

Staycationers and keener pricing are boosting the custom for hotels

George Garvey

More stay-at-home holidaymakers and keener prices have meant that most hotels had a better summer in 2010 than 2009.

After a catastrophic summer in 2009, Irish hotels have done better this year. Optimism seems to be hot-wired into the DNA of most hoteliers and they can always be relied upon to look on the bright side.

However, even allowing for this natural optimism, the hotel sector does seem to have enjoyed at least a slight improvement in its fortunes this summer.

"The summer has gone well. Since April, a lot of events-based business has come to Cork. So far we have had a good summer and a good year," says Ruairi O'Connor, general manager of the River Lee Hotel (formerly Jurys) in Cork.

In Killarney, Co Kerry, Michael Brennan, general manager of the Europe Hotel, says that his hotel has had an "excellent" summer.

"So many more people have decided to holiday in Ireland. There is great value out there," he adds.

Unlike hotels in the larger cities, Killarney is predominantly a leisure market. While it has benefited from the increasing popularity of home holidays or staycations, it has been hit hard by the downturn in the number of North American visitors. At one stage last year, the number of North American visitors to Killarney was down by up to 50pc on peak levels.

While there has been a noticeable increase in the number of domestic visitors to Killarney, the number of North American visitors has been slower to recover, according to Brennan.

This is because, while Irish leisure business tends to be spur-of-the-moment, North American business has a long lead time.

However, Brennan believes that North American business has bottomed out with the number of inquiries related to new North American business starting to rise.

Galway's G Hotel, which opened in 2005 with an interior designed by Philip Treacy, is one of the many new hotels that came on the market during the Celtic Tiger years. Despite frequent media stories of "zombie" hotels, the G Hotel has had a "very positive summer", according to general manager Damien O'Riordan.

"A lot more people are holidaying at home and we are benefiting from that," he says.

While most hotels are certainly doing better than last year, the continuing tough economic climate means that they are having to cut their rates and offer special deals to entice customers.

"Families are availing of hotels more than they used to. We are putting together packages for families," says the River Lee Hotel's O'Connor.

It is a similar story at the G Hotel.

"Typically, in summer, we do a lot of leisure business. We are seeing a lot more families, grandparents, parents and children. Every business, not just hotels, has had to adjust its pricing. It is all about giving people value," says O'Riordan.

"People are thinking a lot harder about spending money than they did two or three years ago," he adds.

The G Hotel has offered a wide range of deals designed to attract leisure and family business including three nights for the price of two, golf and family packages.

Just because hotels have had to cut their rates, customers still demand the same high levels of services. This creates its own problems for hotels. "You still have to meet customers' expectations when they arrive," says O'Riordan.

The word on the tourism industry grapevine is that, with UK visitor numbers well down, the capital's hotels have been suffering more than most from the economic downturn.

That's not how they see it at the five-star Westbury Hotel, which is just off Grafton Street in Dublin.

"It is clearly a competitive market but we have benefited from the loyalty of our business and leisure guests with continuing high levels of occupancy.

"We are now seeing the benefit of the multimillion euro investment of the past few years," says a Westbury spokesperson.

Irish Independent

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