While self-catering is in high demand, less than 30pc of Irish hotel rooms are booked this summer, and availability is wide open in September, writes Pól Ó Conghaile
Yes, self-catering is selling like hot cakes.
The world and its mother are looking for a holiday home where they can control comings and goings this summer, we can confirm.
"Coastal, seaside properties are more or less booked out until end of August," reports Jacinta Doolin, chair of the Irish Self-Catering Federation (ISCF) - which refreshes its letsgoselfcatering.com website later this month.
While coastal areas have made up for lost overseas business, however, inland regions like Kilkenny, Carlow and Ireland's Hidden Heartlands, as well as nooks like south Co Wicklow, remain happy hunting grounds.
"The further in from the coast you go, the better the availability."
Meanwhile, 90pc of Ireland's hotels are expected to be open by mid-July, but the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) says confirmed bookings are low.
These sit at just 23pc and 26pc for July and August respectively, it says, based on a survey of members carried out last week. Dublin is extremely slow.
The results tally with another survey by Kerry Tourism Industry Federation, in which two thirds of members reported occupancy levels of below 30pc in August. Some famous properties, like The Dunloe and Ard na Sidhe, will not open at all in 2020.
“This survey indicates that the staycation market is not yet materialising in Kerry," says Chairman Pat O’Leary (self-catering excepted, he adds).
“It's bad news for the sector, but good news for the consumer,” he says.
While debates about Ireland's peak season rates continue, the tourism industry is calling for urgent supports: a VAT rate reduction and the inclusion of seasonal workers in the Wage Subsidy Scheme, for instance.
One thing is certain, however.
Whatever about prices and availability in July and August, both are likely to fall in September... and last week in August is looking like a sweet spot.
"There's an availability surge at the end of August," Jacinta Doolin says. "It's like a shutter coming down when kids go back to school, or are meant to be."
Here's a selection of some of the best deals and staycation ideas still on offer.
The Wilder Townhouse, a Blue Book property near Dublin's Iveagh Gardens, is talking up its residents-only policy this summer. A 'Together Again' package targeting couples includes B&B, a bottle of Bollinger, flowers, late check-out and breakfast in bed from €299 in total. Or you could dial down the price with a 'Summer Staycation' package including B&B, Prosecco and strawberries from €169. 01 969-6598; thewilder.ie.
Galway's four-star Connacht Hotel continues to be creative, with family-friendly rooms including one with a double bed and three-sleeper bunk. Expect to pay from €130 a night for a family of four in a standard family room in late August, to €193 per night for the bunk room. It also does self-catering apartments and, get this - a luxury RV (pictured). Though it can't be driven, the 'Connacht Cruiser' sleeps up to eight, with access to the hotel facilities, from €350 a night (min. two-night stay). 091 381-200; theconnacht.ie
The Sligo Park Hotel has a two-night family escape including B&B, one evening meal for two adults and two children (under 12), a welcome pack and free ice cream at Mammy Johnston’s in Strandhill from €427. A three-night deal is priced at €610. 071 9190400; sligoparkhotel.com
Self-catering is hard to find this summer, but not impossible - particularly if steer your search away from the coast. Trident Holiday Homes for example, has 20pc off weekly bookings from July 11, with a week in a three-bed house in Co Leitrim from €739 (the promo code EXTRA5 will get you another 5pc off the bill). 01 201 8440; tridentholidayhomes.ie
Another tip is to go to destination websites - visitkilkenny.ie, carlowtourism.com or visitwaterford.com, for example - and search 'self-catering' under the 'where to stay' menu bars.
Or look north! The Green Holiday Cottages in Kilkeel, Co Down, have five nights in a cottage sleeping six this August from £554.
While the Government is advising against overseas travel, Travel Department and TD active Holidays have come up with a creative wheeze: 'Homegrown', a new range of escorted group holidays departing from September. Think planned itineraries that include transfers, guides and excursions, starting from €559pps. Samples include a three-night tour of Galway, Connemara and the Aran Islands, or four nights travelling through Cork and Kerry. "We're bringing our expertise home," as CEO Sara Zimmerman puts it. 01 637-1650; traveldepartment.com/homegrown
One of our Fab 50 list of the best places to stay in Ireland this year, One Pery Square has a 'Discover Limerick on Staycation' offer priced at €499pp. It includes a five-night stay with breakfast each morning, one dinner, residential parking and tea and scones on arrival. Complimentary activities include visits to the People's Museum and a tasting at Cahill's wonderful tea and tobacco shop on Wickham Street. 061 402402; oneperysquare.com
The four-star Ferrycarrig Hotel, set just outside Wexford, has a three-night, midweek family break from ���500, a price for the total stay. That includes breakfasts and full use of its 20m pool. It's available on set dates in July and August, for families of four. 053 912-0999; ferrycarrighotel.ie
Avalon House Hotel in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, was another entry on our Fab 50 for 2020, and it reopens next week. Ideally located just a short walk from the cool Castlecomer Discovery Park (featured in our 10 great things to do in Kilkenny), it has family B&B breaks from €139 per night, or a couple's break with dinner from €200. 056 444-1302; avalonhousehotel.ie
A ground floor refurb is the latest development at the four-star Lahinch Coast Hotel, and there's some good value to be found on multi-day staycations, particularly in the last week in August (seven nights in a deluxe room for two is available for a total of €654). The hotel has a pool, two-bedroom suites are available with separate lounge and kitchenette, and there are family deals, too. There is 10pc off direct, online bookings for three nights midweek, too. 065 708-1100; lahinchcoasthotel.ie
Never one to rest on its laurels (or slash its rates), Adare Manor reopens from July 30 with a new suite of private Manor Lodges. Self-catering sorted, then? Well, for those who can afford it. The swish lodges are located next to The Carriage House, can accommodate up to four people in a two-bed or eight in a four-bed, with summer prices from €900 to €1,400 a night. Continental breakfast baskets are included. 065 605200; adaremanor.com
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NB: All rates subject to availability and change.
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