Gulliver 2004 Tourism Market Review:
Surge in Online Tourism and Domestic Bookings
Savvy Irish tourism businesses are reaping huge rewards from effective online marketing yet Ireland, as a tourism and visitor destination, is not similarly benefiting due to legacy tourism industry infrastructure and vested interests, according to Dr Stewart Stephens, Gulliver Ireland’s Managing Director.
He was speaking today (Friday, 4th March 2005) at the launch of Gulliver Ireland’s ‘2004 Tourism Market Review’ which revealed that online tourism’s dominance was matched only by massive growth in domestic tourist bookings as the key tourism trends last year.
The Managing Director of Ireland’s leading cost effective provider of tourism information and reservations said, “The Irish economy needs tourism to perform well and tourism needs Ireland to deliver as an attractive tourist destination. Most customers are online customers in today’s tourism business and Gulliver has shown what can be achieved with excellent online marketing at modest investment levels. Many of our client accommodation premises around the country are also doing excellent business online. Last year we began acknowledging their accomplishment with the Gulliver Online Marketing Awards.
"In contrast, national tourist boards worldwide have generally failed to get to grips with the online world. This is partly because they are hamstrung by legacy tourism industry infrastructure and vested interests. There is a huge opportunity here for Ireland. The potential benefits of a well-funded and properly integrated Internet-focused marketing strategy are enormous for the tourism industry. Ireland could be the world leader in online tourism within the next two years. However, we have to stop tinkering around the edges of the Internet, roll up our sleeves and act smartly online", added Dr. Stephens.
Gulliver 2004 Tourism Market Review - Highlights
- Online tourism is the leading tourism sales channel while "offline" booking methods are decreasing in use.
- Gulliver’s online bookings represented 44 per cent of Gulliver’s total tourism booking business - an increase of almost 31 per cent on 2003.
- GoIreland.com’s booking volume rose by 82 per cent on 2003.
- Gulliver’s online booking engine received 2.7 million visits last year while GoIreland.com recorded 15 million page impressions.
- Search engines continue to account for 80 per cent of tourism traffic.
- Domestic tourism market bookings surged with a rise of 167 per cent on 2003.
- The North West and Northern Ireland experienced strong growth.
Overall Tourism Bookings
Last year, each tourism booking was made for an average six bednights. Gulliver sold over 710,000 bednights in 2004 which were valued at €22 million. This represented more than 112,000 bookings throughout the year where Gulliver arranged accommodation for almost 280,000 people. This is equivalent to the population of Belfast or Iceland.
Bookings were made through three sales channels, the Gulliver Call Centre, Tourist Information Offices (TIOs) and the Internet. However, the phenomenal growth of Internet usage has copperfastened the pre-eminence of online tourism and the market’s increasing reliance on the medium as the main tourism sales channel. It has also led to an associated decrease in the tourists using "offline" methods, particularly Tourist Offices.
Online Tourism - The Preponderance of the Internet Effect
Gulliver recorded more than 50,000 online tourism bookings in 2004 which were valued at €10.8 million. This represented a 31 per cent increase in online bookings on 2003. Online bookings accounted for 44 per cent of all Gulliver bookings last year which is double the figure made in 2002. Gulliver’s online booking engine, available on more than 50 online booking sites such as GoIreland.com, Fáilte Ireland’s www.ireland.ie and Dublin Tourism’s www.visitdublin.com (*), experienced almost 2.7 million visits throughout the year. The company said that more focused online marketing and added-value tourism products would drive increased conversion and improved booking levels in 2005.
GoIreland.com was the most booked Gulliver-powered website last year and accounted for nearly 40 per cent of Gulliver’s total online bookings (€4.1 million worth of bookings). The website averaged 40,000 unique visitors per week (**). Domestic holidaymakers accounted for more bookings (29 per cent) than any other tourist category on GoIreland.com. Growth has continued in 2005 with almost 50 per cent more bookings recorded in January compared with the same four-week period last year. 90 per cent more domestic market bookings were made in January 2005 compared with the same month last year.
Tourism in Ireland in 2004 - A Regional and County Analysis
The two most popular regions were Dublin and the West (***). The former received almost €9 million in bookings with a 41 per cent market share. The West generated bookings worth nearly €4.5 million, representing a fall of four per cent on 2003, to hold a 17 per cent market share. 64 per cent of GoIreland.com’s bookings were for properties outside Dublin. "This reflects the extent to which GoIreland.com promoted properties of all types and sizes throughout the country. Despite the huge growth in Dublin bookings through the website last year, Dublin’s market share fell slightly compared with 2003. This should offer Gulliver member properties outside the capital encouragement for positive booking prospects this year", said Dr Stewart Stephens.
The South West was the only other region with a double-digit market share (13 per cent). However, one of the most noteworthy performances was in Northern Ireland which experienced a 10 per cent increase in bookings on 2003. This was the second best relative performance of all the regions in 2004 on the island of Ireland. Only the North West grew its bookings more last year (by 16 per cent) while the South East grew by eight per cent on 2003. Gulliver noted that the rate of growth for the North was achieved on the back of increasing accommodation supply which allows it to offer more options for visitors to Northern Ireland. Furthermore, the company said that there was a direct correlation between the increased bookings for Northern Ireland and the growing number of domestic holiday makers on its websites.
Dublin was the most popular county for tourists last year with 42 per cent of total bookings. The other top 10 counties in 2004 were, in descending order: Galway (13 per cent), Kerry (seven per cent), Cork (six per cent), and Clare (four per cent), with Mayo, Antrim, Kilkenny and Waterford all at three per cent while Donegal had two per cent. Dublin generated almost €9 million worth of bookings compared with over €2.5 million for Galway. Kerry’s tourist bookings amounted to almost €1.7 million while Cork had nearly €1.25 million in bookings. Gulliver noted that the Cork figure should rise significantly given its designation as European Capital of Culture this year.
Sourcing Visitors and Tourists - Where Did They Come From?
Domestic holidaymakers made the most bookings (23 per cent) in Ireland last year and their booking contribution grew by 19 per cent on 2003. The very significant growth in domestic tourism reflects the growth in popularity of short breaks in Ireland and the industry’s ability to deliver added value tourism services and products, according to Dr. Stephens. He noted that Fáilte Ireland’s ‘Value Breaks’ initiative, aimed at the domestic market, was a welcome and fundamental step towards adopting an online perspective on tourism marketing. "Ireland has a fantastic product and there is great value to be found, but it must be presented properly and put in front of people to book there and then. That is essential if we are to generate growth in overseas tourism revenue and spread the benefit of that growth around."
The next best tourist source was the UK with a 21 per cent share. However, previous reports regarding the drop in UK visitors were borne out by Gulliver figures that showed a 10 per cent decrease on 2003 UK bookings. Other leading sources of inbound tourists were the US (17 per cent), Northern Ireland and Germany (both five per cent), Australia, Italy, Scotland, France, Canada and Spain.
Gulliver noted that Northern Ireland’s strong positioning underlined the growing opportunities that market offers Irish accommodation providers. "A continuing focus on exploring opportunities to develop the North-South tourism market could and should deliver enduring benefits for both economies", said Dr. Stephens.
For further information, please contact:
Dr Stewart Stephens, Managing Director, Gulliver Ireland.
Telephone: (066) 9792112
Barry Ahern, Business Management Communications.
Telephone: (087) 6683574
Notes to editors:
(*) More than 50 different websites use Gulliver’s booking engine. These include Fáilte Ireland’s www.ireland.ie, Dublin Tourism’s www.visitdublin.com, regional websites such as www.irelandwest.ie, www.southeastireland.com and www.corkkerry.ie as well as www.gotobelfast.com.
(**) A unique weekly visitor means that a visitor is counted only once in any week regardless of the number of times (s)he may have visited the website.
(***) In analysing the island of Ireland, Gulliver breaks the island into a number of regions. These include Dublin (Dublin Tourism), Ireland West (West), the Shannon and Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Tourist Board).
Gulliver Ireland, which is headquartered in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, is Ireland’s leading cost effective provider of tourism information and reservations. The original Gulliver system was developed by Bord Fáilte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
Following a partnership agreement with FEXCO in 1997, the financial services company acquired a majority shareholding in Gulliver and since July 2004 is the 100 per cent owner of Gulliver Ireland. Since 1997 a significant investment has transformed the Gulliver database as Ireland’s destination management system and one of the leading systems of its kind in Europe.
The company’s destination management system operates an advanced and comprehensive tourism database that provides an information and reservation service for Irish tourism products and services. The Gulliver database contains all approved accommodation providers on the island of Ireland, regardless of size or location, and the system processes bookings for almost 10,000 member properties from the internet, tourist offices and the international call centre. It functions as Ireland’s national tourism information database and powers, among others, the Fáilte Ireland website, www.ireland.ie, and Dublin Tourism’s website, www.visitdublin.com.
FEXCO is a global payments company headquartered in Kerry, Ireland with operations in the Ireland, UK, Spain, Scandinavia, Malta, Australia and USA. The company was established in 1981 by its Executive Chairman, Brian McCarthy, and offers a range of Global Consumer Payments, Global Corporate Payments and Business Services. The company is privately owned with USA-based First Data Corporation, the world’s leading payment processor, holding a minority shareholding in the business.