Tuesday 17 September 2019

'There's nothing like it in Ireland' - Center Parcs defends high price of holidays at grand opening

Booking cost: Fees quadruple depending on the time of year

TV personality Karen Koster with her daughter Eve (1) and sons Finn (4) and JJ (3) at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest
TV personality Karen Koster with her daughter Eve (1) and sons Finn (4) and JJ (3) at the official launch of Center Parcs Longford Forest
Dad Stuart, Effie (4) and Hugo (3) and mum Shari Wilson, from Banbridge, Co Down
Brian Finnegan and his son Brian (11), from Dublin, enjoyed climbing at the park
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

Center Parcs has defended the high prices at its new resort in Co Longford and said it has a "price point for every person".

The holiday company has come in for criticism for increasing prices during the popular school holidays.

Speaking as Center Parcs Longford Forest welcomed its first visitors this weekend, CEO Martin Dalby defended its high prices and insisted the company was here to stay in Ireland despite the burden of Brexit and higher insurance costs.

Mr Dalby admitted prices might range from around €400 to €1,600 for the same accommodation during a short break - typically four nights - depending on the time of year.

With Irish school holidays lasting longer than the UK, those higher prices are likely to stretch right through July and August.

"It's a €233m investment so we have to make a return," he said. "There's a price point for every person. Our bookings for the next four weeks, which is summer, are mostly full - the value is amazing - there's nothing like it in Ireland whatsoever.

"We are not any dearer than the UK. It's based on a similar pricing system."

The firm has been criticised in the UK for hiking prices during school holidays, with one mother creating a stir on Twitter last week with a satirical post about its pricing model.

She said Center Parcs offered a "handy tool" for parents to work out when the school holidays ended, because that is when their prices dropped.

Center Parcs Longford Forest offers unique attractions including Ireland's largest water park, heated to 29.5C, plus more than 100 indoor and outdoor activities, as well as restaurants and a spa.

And there are some notable differences from the five parks in the UK - including an Irish pub, an independent coffee shop, and striking green phone boxes.

GAA is also among the list of activities being considered to join the likes of soccer, archery and badminton.

After the company spent up to €3m on marketing and advertising in Ireland, Mr Dalby is confident that consumers here will be persuaded it's worth the price, and that the park's 466 accommodation units will be full.

"We expect 90pc occupancy," he says of their first year - even in the depths of winter, as it is open 365 days a year.

He foresees that 70pc of customers will hail from the Republic, 20pc from the North and 10pc from the UK, even with the threat of a hard Brexit.

Meanwhile, the sister of 'Love Island' sensation Maura Higgins has scored a job at the new resort.

While Maura prepares for Monday's finale of the reality TV show, her sister will be welcoming the first guests to the spa.

She is among 1,000 mostly local people who have got jobs at the huge resort, which is the culmination of four years' work.

Several Irish rugby stars including Rory Best and Devin Toner are relaxing at the resort this weekend ahead of their World Cup warm-up games.

Irish Independent

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