Business Personal Finance

Tuesday 23 April 2019

High cost of staycations pricing families out of top beauty spots

It could cost thousands for a fortnight in a holiday home or hotel this summer

'No matter how much time pressure you are under to book a property, don't risk losing your money to a scam.' Stock image
'No matter how much time pressure you are under to book a property, don't risk losing your money to a scam.' Stock image
Louise McBride

Louise McBride

The cost of an Irish staycation has shot up since the recession - with families struggling to find a holiday home for less than €1,000 a week in popular Irish tourist spots during the summer holidays, the Sunday Independent has found.

In 2011, the most that a family would typically have expected to have paid to hire a standard holiday home was around €700 a week, according to research by this paper at that time.

Furthermore, the bill for hiring a luxury holiday home in Ireland could come to €3,000 or €4,000 a week or more today - particularly if the property is on the seafront. Some top-end properties close to Dingle beaches cost more than €6,000 to rent for two weeks in July. Rental for a luxury seafront property in certain parts of Cork could set you back €9,000 for two weeks in July.

Eoghan Corry, editor of Travel Extra magazine, believes the cost of hiring a holiday home in certain parts of Ireland has increased by around 30pc over the last five years. This has in part been driven by the increased popularity of the Wild Atlantic Way, according to Corry.

"There's been a big increase in the number of visitors coming to Ireland from Canada and North America," said Corry. "The sort of locations these visitors gravitate towards tends to be the Wild Atlantic Way and the west of Ireland. These visitors are used to paying high prices internationally."

This ability of wealthy overseas visitors to pay high prices for accommodation can push up the cost of Irish holiday homes - and place them out of reach of Irish people seeking to holiday at home.

Half of self-catering operators reported an increase in visitors from the US last year, according to Failte Ireland's latest tourism barometer report. "The number of hotel beds available in the west has not risen in line with the growing demand [for accommodation] from those visiting the Wild Atlantic Way," said Corry. This is believed to have pushed up demand for, and in turn the price of, holiday homes.

Another development that has helped to drive up the cost is the increased tendency of owners to advertise their properties on the internet - through a holiday home firm.

"This means that instead of putting small ads in newspapers, people who have houses to let in the west of Ireland just pay a holiday home website commission so they can advertise their property on the internet," said Corry. "The access that holiday home owners has to the customer has been greatly increased by the internet. Holiday homes are often booked up fast as a result."

Sun v home holiday

You're unlikely to get a sun holiday in July or August for cheaper than the cost of hiring a standard holiday home in Ireland during those months - but this is largely because the cost of flights must be factored in. However, the price of a sun holiday might only be several hundred euro more than an Irish staycation. A family of four, for example, could easily pay €2,000 to hire a holiday home in Dingle or Waterville for two weeks in July - and for some homes, the bill could be nearer €2,200.

By contrast, a family of four could get a two-week holiday in Kusadasi in Turkey from July 6 for €3013, according to offers advertised by Sunway earlier this month. Sunway also recently advertised a two-week holiday in the Algarve for a family of two adults and two children for the same weeks for €3,471. Both prices included self-catering accommodation in a one-bedroom apartment as well as flights, coach transfers and baggage. Under another recent Sunway offer, a two-week holiday in a two-bedroom apartment in the Algarve in July for a family of two adults and three children cost €4322.

Some of the cheaper sun holiday destinations include Bulgaria, Turkey and Morocco, according to Corry. "Tunisia can also be cheap - if you can get there," said Corry. (Some travel agents have started to offer holidays to Tunisia again. Terrorist attacks a few years ago prompted them to cancel holidays there.) Holidays in the south of Spain or south Portugal over the summer school holidays will be pricey, however.

Irish hotel stay

A stay in an Irish hotel could work out cheaper and better value than a holiday home - if you book early. For example, a room which sleeps two adults and two children in the Quality Hotel in Youghal costs €119 a night from July 6 - which would add up to €1,666 over two weeks, depending on availability, according to research conducted by this paper earlier this month. The hotel also offers self-catering accommodation - at a cost of €2,366 for a family of four to stay in a two-bedroom apartment suite for two weeks from July 6. These self-catering apartments are near a beach and include free wifi and use of the hotel's swimming pool and other leisure facilities.

Hotel stays in popular tourist spots can be expensive though. A two-week hotel stay for a family of four in Killarney in July could cost about €3,000. The price of a family room for a two-week stay in the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney from July 6 came to €2,926 for a family of four. That rate included breakfast, access to the hotel's swimming pool and wifi. In the nearby four-star Lake Hotel Killarney, a two-week stay from July 6 cost from €3,186 for a family of four - including breakfast and wifi.

To save money on Irish hotel stays and self-catering accommodation, check the daily deal websites, such as groupon.ie, escapes.ie or livingsocial.ie, advised Sarah Slattery, founder of the travel website, thetravelexpert.ie. "I can't believe the difference between the price you get when you ring a hotel directly - and when you use one of the daily deal websites," said Slattery.

Up-front payment

When booking a holiday home, as well as paying an initial deposit to secure it, you must often pay the full cost of the holiday home rental at least a month before you're due to arrive at the property - particularly if booking through a holiday home firm. For example, with Trident Holiday Homes, full payment is due no later than eight weeks in advance. This is very different to hotel bookings where you'll often pay most of - if not, the full - bill when checking out at the end of your stay. "It is normal practice [for the full bill for a holiday home hire to be paid in advance] as a seven-night booking in peak season is very difficult to resell at the last minute because it requires a whole family to be available to travel at short notice - which is a lot different to a hotel bedroom for two people which can easily be resold," said James Flynn, director with Trident Holiday Homes.

However, many people could be uncomfortable paying in full for a holiday home before arriving at the property. You may be happier to settle the bill when you turn up at the holiday home and can see the condition of the property and indeed, that it exists. The requirement to settle a holiday home bill in full before arrival could also leave would-be holidaymakers vulnerable to a rental scam.

Holiday rental scams - where fraudsters advertise holiday homes which don't exist or copy genuinely advertised rental accommodation and re-advertise it as their own - are common. With these scams, the fraudster will typically send you photos of the property and fake documents - and then seek a deposit, or full payment. You may only discover you've been conned when you turn up at the property at the start of your holiday.

"To avoid falling for holiday home scams, never pay by bank transfer or Western Union as you have no protection with such payment methods," said Flynn. "Always pay by credit card - as you will have credit protection from the credit card company. Only book with recognisable long-established companies and avoid listings in newspapers." Be wary too of holiday home owners who appear to be based abroad.

You can sometimes avoid paying the full bill for a holiday home in advance if you book directly with the owner of the property. Be sure the owner is genuine though. No matter how much time pressure you are under to book a property, don't risk losing your money to a scam. As always, it's buyer beware on price and potential scams.

How to keep cost of Irish staycation down

Avoid beaten track

"The closer you are to the major attractions - such as the local beach, the more you will pay," said Eoghan Corry of Travel Extra. "If you want to holiday along the west coast, it will usually be cheaper to do so in Donegal, Mayo and Sligo than in the south-west."

Accommodation will usually be pricey in the tourist spots that are most popular with international visitors. Being open to other destinations could save you a few bob. "Destinations such as Kilkee, Dunmore East, Bundoran, Killaloe, Courtown, Killorglin, Tralee, Ballybunion, Aughrim and Bettystown are examples of seaside locations where we would have family holidays at under €1,000 a week," said James Flynn of Trident Holiday Homes.

Roscommon and Leitrim - well-known for their water-based holiday activities - are other locations worth considering. "If you stay away from the sea and go for a water-based holiday in the likes of Roscommon or Leitrim, you can get very good value," said Corry.

Book early

Holiday home bookings for popular spots in Kerry in summer 2019 started as early as October 2018. Booking early usually allows you to get the best properties in the best locations and at the best price.

Check daft.ie

Check the holiday home section on daft.ie as it may be easier to find an affordable holiday home here than on the website of a major holiday home firm - particularly for a holiday during peak season. Although there are listings from holiday home firms on daft.ie, holiday home owners also advertise their properties here. Don't send a deposit to an owner by Western Union or bank transfer as you will have no comeback if it's a fraud.

Go for family-run

"Very often, it will work out cheaper to rent a holiday home that's owned by someone who inherited that property than to rent one owned by someone who has bought or built a number of holiday homes," said Corry. "Also, if you spot a holiday home you like on a holiday home firm's website, try to contact the owner directly as he may give you a cheaper price over the phone."

Do free things

"The Office of Public Works offers free entry for children under 12 at many heritage sites across the country such as Kilkenny Castle and Clonmacnoise in Offaly, which could save families a great deal when looking for things to do on holiday here," said Niall Tracey, director of marketing at Failte Ireland. "On top of this, a number of heritage sites are free to visit on the first Wednesday of every month. What people often forget is the abundance of free things to see and do in Ireland." For example, it is free to visit the National Botanic Gardens or Cavan Burren Park (where there are Neolithic tombs).

Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business