Huge Demand for Northern Ireland Accommodation
as Gulliver Reports Increased Business to the North
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) has made a monumental mistake by wasting taxpayer’s money in creating its new accommodation reservations system, TIDInet, according to Dr. Stewart Stephens, Managing Director, Gulliver Ireland, Ireland’s leading cost effective provider of tourism information and reservations.
He was speaking today (Thursday, 21st October 2004) as Gulliver Ireland reported increased demand for Northern Ireland properties and growth of almost 20 per cent in business across all distribution channels to the North during the January to September 2004 period compared with the same period in 2003. All Northern Ireland counties, except for Armagh, experienced Gulliver booking increases this year.
Booking volume for Bed & Breakfasts (B&Bs) was static while hotel bookings grew by 61 per cent and self-catering accommodation bookings rose by 28 per cent. In the same period, the company noted that there was a fall of eight per cent in business through NITB channels - the Tourist Information Centres (TICs) and www.discovernorthernireland.com.
“The NITB invested in Gulliver originally to drive more business into Northern Ireland. We will continue to market our members, North and South, as effectively and aggressively as we can through every available channel. Our results speak for themselves and illustrate very clearly where the NITB should be spending the industry’s money.
“We have been inundated by calls from Northern Ireland accommodation providers who are angered and dismayed at the NITB decision to launch a new accommodation reservations system. The consensus is that there is an excellent reservations system operating on the island of Ireland in Gulliver and creating another system in Northern Ireland is a flagrant waste of public money.
“This new system will not put one extra bum in a bed in Northern Ireland. We know what the real priorities are and what works – to maximise the exposure of Northern Ireland on every available distribution channel, to help suppliers develop products relevant to today’s market and to grow within the industry the skills needed to market those products, particularly online,” said Dr Stephens.
Gulliver said that there were nearly 70,000 negative online search results for Northern Ireland properties this year to the end of September 2004. “Every one of these searches is a customer looking for a room in a premises that has not given us availability. Clearly there is a strong demand for additional properties and availability in Northern Ireland that would help Gulliver deliver increased tourism revenue to the North,” said Dr Stephens.
There was a significant increase of 73 per cent in Internet bookings to Northern Ireland during the January to September 2004 period. 31 per cent of online bookings to Northern Ireland came from GoIreland.com, Gulliver’s own marketing site for Irish tourism, which will generate 4.5 million unique visitors in 2004. A further 31 per cent of bookings were generated from Gulliver affiliate websites while 38 per cent came from NITB websites
Gulliver’s all-Ireland performance to September 2004 generated a total of 608,000 bed nights sold across all distribution channels which were valued at €18.8 million. 42 per cent of total bookings were made online. There was an increase of 29 per cent and 14 per cent of business to Northern Ireland through the North West region and Dublin Tourism respectively.
The three booking channels are the Internet, Gulliver’s Contact Centre and the network of Tourist Information Offices (TIOs). According to the company, it offers an unrivalled range of distribution channels including 51 TIOs, its Contact Centre and 50 websites including GoIreland.com which is the most booked Gulliver powered website. GoIreland.com experienced a 67 per cent increase in bookings compared with the same period in 2003.
Gulliver expects the strong growth in Northern Ireland bookings to continue and reiterated its commitment to the Northern Ireland market by offering accommodation providers and end-users the best possible service. The company is now working closely with Nova RentaCar Reservations Limited, an independent worldwide car rental reservation service based in Portaferry, Co. Down.
Nova was acquired by Gulliver parent, FEXCO, in August 2004 and offers discount rates on car rentals at more than 3,000 city and airport depots throughout the world with leading rental companies. Nova made over 60,000 rentals in the last 12 months, with growth of over 40 per cent in Northern Ireland rentals. The company has grown dramatically in recent years and illustrates what can be achieved with good online marketing combined with outstanding customer service.