Sunday 25 February 2018

Web Summit loss could be a 'fatal' blow for business

Bono speaking at last year's Web Summit
Bono speaking at last year's Web Summit
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The loss of the Web Summit to the capital will be a "fatal blow" for some businesses in Dublin, according to hotelier and publican Louis Fitzgerald - who owns a number of high-profile bars such as the Stag's Head.

He said that his Arlington Hotel on Dublin's O'Connell Bridge experienced a surge in business last November during the Web Summit.

"It would have seen a 25pc to 30pc increase in turnover during that week," said Mr Fitzgerald.

The hotel hosts a daily 'Celtic Nights' show, but Mr Fitzgerald said a second, afternoon production was added during the summit due to demand.

He said it's a "little too late" to be talking about the loss of the major event now.

"Maybe we should have put more into it," he said. "Maybe we were too complacent."

Failte Ireland has previously estimated that the value of the Web Summit to the economy was about €100m.

The chairman of Failte Ireland, Michael Cawley, told the Irish Independent that the State agency is disappointed at the loss of the summit, but pointed out that it had enjoyed "phenomenal" political support here.

"I regret it, and I'd like to think that it's not a done deal yet and that something can be done about it," said Mr Cawley, a former deputy chief executive of Ryanair who still sits on the airline's board.

"There won't be any country without issues and it's unfortunate that Paddy Cosgrave's perception is that they can't be fixed here," added Mr Cawley. He pointed out that air connectivity to Lisbon from the United States isn't as strong as it is to Dublin.

According to the fare comparison site Skyscanner, there's only one direct air service between New York and Lisbon during the first week of November, for example, and no direct flights from San Francisco - a major tech hub.

The boss of Ireland's biggest hotel group, Dalata, claimed the loss of the event will not be "terminal".

"It's obviously disappointing, but it's at a time of the year when we can replace business like that," Dalata chief executive Pat McCann told the Irish Independent.

He said it was difficult to determine how many hotel bookings Dalata typically handled as a result of the Web Summit, because many people who booked rooms did so individually, rather than as part of an event package, or as a group.

Mr McCann conceded that while the loss of the event to the capital would be "hurtful", it won't be terminal.

He pointed out that with the convention centre in Dublin now operating successfully, there remains strong demand in the capital from business travellers for rooms.

Dublin currently has an under-supply of hotel rooms. Occupancy levels were running at close to 80pc last year.

Hotels in the capital had been accused last year of raising room prices by as much as 600pc over the course of the Web Summit event.

Indo Business

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Promoted Links

Also in Business