Gulliver Launches Irish Self-Catering Market Review
Gulliver Ireland, Ireland's leading cost effective provider of tourism information and reservations that is part of FEXCO AllTravel, announced today (Monday, 22nd October 2007) a support programme of initiatives for the self-catering sector. These include subsidised online marketing support, collaborating on a national self-catering guide and a commitment to approval and grading.
Gulliver Ireland said that its priority is to minimise any negative effects arising from the proposed regulatory and support changes for the sector on its individual self-catering members. This will be achieved by providing enhanced marketing opportunities and ensuring that its members continue to be marketed through all available channels. Gulliver plans to provide an effective platform for the continued promotion of a top class self-catering product against a backdrop of uncertainty that has gripped the sector in recent months.
The company also launched the Gulliver Ireland 'Self-Catering Market Review', which analysed self-catering market booking trends and issues to date this year.
Gulliver Ireland has by far the largest number of individual self-catering properties in Ireland, numbering almost 5,500 properties, and over half of all approved properties in 2007. Many of these are small operator-owned properties, which are located in areas that depend heavily on tourism.
Gulliver has reported solid growth in self-catering bookings over the past few years, but the company says that the sector needs a coordinated and focused approach to product development and marketing. "An apartment in Castleknock and a castle in Knock are both self-catering properties but they are totally different products that appeal to very different customers. The Internet has affected the self-catering sector as it has all tourism products, but there are important differences. A self-catering break is much less a commodity than, say, a night in a city hotel and self-catering customers need much more information and reassurance before booking," said Dr Stewart Stephens, Managing Director, Gulliver Ireland.
"Despite the growth in self-catering bookings through GoIreland.com, the proportion of people who book self-catering online is far lower than other sectors. That is why it is so important to present good information and images online, not just of the property but also on its location and what's available nearby. A clear quality control and grading scheme is also vital, particularly for smaller self-catering operators who do not feature with a lot of marketing organisations," added Dr Stephens.
In order to address this issue, Gulliver Ireland has cut the price of its GoIreland.com Enhanced Entry by 50 per cent for 2008 for its self-catering members. This is effectively a mini-website for each property, which will be further developed in the coming months to include rich content on the property, local amenities and things to do. For 2008, Gulliver has frozen its membership fee at €65.29 + VAT for the fourth successive year.
Separately, Gulliver Ireland is supporting the publication of a national self-catering guide where, at one stage this year, no self-catering guide was being produced for 2008. Tony Meighan Ltd, publishers of the guide since 1983, in conjunction with Gulliver Ireland is producing an improved 2008 guide. The new-look guide has a number of display options for properties and will be available free of charge through tourist offices. 60,000 copies will be printed in time for January's holiday fairs and the guides will be distributed through tourist offices at home and overseas. All premises in the guide will feature on a dedicated self-catering website, www.irelandselfcateringguide.com, which will be powered by the Gulliver booking engine.
Regardless of the outcome of the Fáilte Ireland self-catering review process, Gulliver confirmed that it is committed to ensuring that all member properties are approved and graded and that they comply with any accreditation scheme introduced by Fáilte Ireland. This will ensure that Gulliver members will continue to feature on Tourist Board distribution channels including tourist offices and websites.
The highlights of the Self-Catering Market Review were:
The average online booking value in 2007 rose by four per cent to €505 from €484 in 2006 for the January to September period.
The self-catering sector, which represents seven per cent of all Gulliver tourism bookings, maintained its market share versus its 2006 level.
Half (49 per cent) of all self-catering bookings were made online. Gulliver believes that the sector will continue to benefit from the growth in online bookings.
Regionally, the West was most booked region for self-catering bookers followed by the South West, North West and Shannon regions.
Galway was the most popular county for self-catering bookings so far this year. It was followed by Mayo, Kerry, Clare and Cork.
Self-catering customers are looking for higher standards. Four-star properties saw increases in booking volumes. Bookings for one-star properties were static while two- and three-star properties experienced marginal decreases in bookings.
The value of sector bookings to the end of September 2007 was almost €4.3 million and accounted for 53,500 roomnights. The Tourist Information Office (TIO) channel generated 30 per cent of bookings this year while call centre bookings accounted for 21 per cent of all self-catering sector bookings.
Online self-catering bookings through GoIreland.com grew by 15 per cent in 2007 compared with 2006 and booking value is up 20 per cent, which far exceeds that of any other online or offline channel. This continues the trend of previous years and once again demonstrates GoIreland.com's ability to deliver bookings to smaller properties right across the country. In addition, despite the wet summer and the number of trips abroad made by Irish holidaymakers, domestic self-catering bookings are up almost 50 per cent compared with 2006.
Regionally, the West maintains its destination leadership position in 2007 (42 per cent of all self-catering bookings) followed by the South West (22 per cent), the North West (11 per cent) and the Shannon region (9 per cent).
The top ranking counties this year were Galway (26 per cent of all self-catering bookings), Mayo (16 per cent), Kerry (15 per cent), Clare, Cork, and Donegal (all with six per cent), Dublin (four per cent), while Sligo and Wicklow both secured three per cent of all self-catering bookings.
Domestic holidaymakers made 42 per cent of self-catering bookings through Gulliver this year, up from 38 per cent in 2006. English and Northern Irish visitors are the next best bookers of self-catering holidays with 21 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. Tourists from the US, France, Germany and Scotland are also significant bookers of Irish self-catering holidays.
Three-star and four-star properties won the self-catering sector booking battle again this year and accounted for a combined 89 per cent of all self-catering bookings. However, a comparison of grading price average weekly rates between 2007 and 2006 shows that one-star, four-star and other grades increased prices by three per cent, eight per cent and 15 per cent respectively. Two-star and three-star rates fell by 21 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.