Bookings for Irish B&Bs have risen by over 20% this year, despite the overall drop in numbers visiting Ireland, according to the latest figures from the Town and Country Homes Association, the largest organisation representing and marketing B&Bs here.  

TCH chairperson Kate Burns says it’s a remarkable turnaround, given that their figures were showing a decline in January.  “In the last 2 months online bookings have shot up, so it’s great news but it has been the result of hard and focussed work by the sector.”  

 “We have been on a major international marketing drive and we have revolutionised our IT to make online booking easier, particularly for travel agents and tour operators.  The other factor behind this incredible success is the attractiveness of the B&B product itself in terms of value for money, convenient locations and the growth of activity holidays, which are all increasing consumer demand.”

TCH say central bookings from tour operators are up over 20% compared to this time last year and that consumer online bookings for March are up 13% on 2008. “Tour operators and travel agents make up the bulk of our online business and a lot of changes to our new booking engines have been in direct response to their demands for more accessible systems,” says Ms Burns.   “They find the new system easier to use, mainly because it’s live and you can book a whole trip – including stays at different B&Bs – in one sitting.”

“But we have worked very hard to get the technology right, investing in staff expertise and training of B&B owners all over the country. This time last year, just over 300 of our properties were live online, now it’s 750 and we have trained every one of them.”

In terms of where the rise in bookings is coming from, TCH say that there has been a big increase in demand from continental Europe.  Chief executive Helena Healy says TCH has targeted Europe as part of their international marketing over the past 6 months, and that the big rise in bookings has come from France.  “What our figures show is an increase of 22% in consumer visitor bookings from this market. The German trade business is also very healthy showing an increase of 10%.

“For TCH, the rise in bookings is a vindication of our strategy to invest in developing our marketing and IT infrastructure and activities”, says TCH chairperson Kate Burns.  “It also affirms our confidence in the B&B product, and the development of activity and packaged breaks, such as walking, angling or gourmet regional foods.  This is a great start to 2009 for those who own and run B&Bs all over the island, and the local businesses that rely on the tourism they bring to the regions.”

Background information/Notes to Editors:

  1. The TCH figures show that tour operator and travel agents (trade) bookings are up 20% for this period. (Jan to Mar 2009)
  2. Consumer bookings are up 13% for March 2009 compared to last year’s figures.
  3. TCH figures show that there has been an increase of 22% in consumer visitor bookings from France
  4. The German trade (travel agents and tour operators) business is showing an increase of 10%.
  5. January 2009 Tourism Ireland figures show that there were 424,200 overseas trips to Ireland 2009 and this was down by almost 3% from the same month in 2008. Visits by residents of Great Britain accounted for virtually all of this decrease, falling by almost 16,000 (7%) to 208,300. Meanwhile, visits by residents of Other Europe and North America recorded slight increases to 149,500 and 45,200 respectively.  (Source: CSO)
  6. October to December 2008 quarterly figures show that there were 1,665,000 Overseas Visits to Ireland compared with 1,756,000 in the same period of 2007, a decrease of over 5%. The number of Overseas Visits by residents of USA and Canada fell by 14% to 179,000 and visits by residents of Great Britain decreased by 8% on Q4 2007. The number of visits by residents of Other Areas grew by 6% while visits by residents of Other European Countries remained almost unchanged.  (Source: CSO)