Gulliver Ireland today (Wednesday, 16th January 2008) has cautioned against talking down the ability of the B&B sector to compete online. Gulliver is the leading promotional channel for B&Bs and delivered almost 50,000 bookings worth in excess of €7 million to the sector in 2007. Sixty per cent of these bookings were online. The Gulliver-owned GoIreland.com website delivers more B&B bookings by far than any other Irish website.
According to Gulliver, it is dedicated to promoting tourism SMEs and helping them develop online sales and marketing skills. The company operates a free helpdesk for members, provides free marketing advice and runs an annual awards scheme, now in its fourth year, to encourage and reward excellence in online marketing.
Gulliver also challenged the perception that B&B owners are not Internet savvy. "There's a difference between being Internet savvy and being technically savvy. Gulliver Ireland has almost 1,000 properties managing prices and availability entirely online. We introduced online membership services this year and the uptake among B&Bs was very strong," said Dr Stewart Stephens, Managing Director, Gulliver Ireland.
Each and every Gulliver B&B member has the facility to be booked online. "You don't even need a computer to get online bookings through Gulliver; we do it all for you. What's the point of trying to force technology on people who are unwilling or unable to deal with it. We need to find the appropriate solutions for different members of the B&B sector," added Dr Stephens.
Gulliver noted that Fáilte Ireland has identified the paucity of tourist information outside main centres as a significant obstacle to regional and local tourism development. Gulliver said that this 'long tail' represents a rich, varied and authentic tourism inventory and a large number of small enterprises and peripheral locations, which would benefit greatly from a modest share of visitor revenue.
The company emphasised that Ireland has a superb B&B product, which must be promoted effectively online. "The B&B product is the experience. All the ingredients are in place on the ground but do not exist online where most holiday research takes place. Currently, only a fraction of the rich cultural product available out there can be explored online. Plugging that online gap is vital to the B&B sector's success," said Dr Stephens.
With this issue in mind, Gulliver is massively expanding the capacity of GoIreland.com to feature this content. In the coming weeks Gulliver will canvass its members for rich and detailed content to showcase their properties and their localities online.
"The absence of B&B websites is cited as a problem but a website isn't effective if it can't be seen. A small B&B in a remote area is better served by offering good content about itself and its hinterland on high trafficked websites such as GoIreland.com. Good content means that people will be able to create a variety of experiences using the B&B as a focus rather than just trying to sell a bed," said Dr Stephens.
Gulliver Ireland, Ireland's leading cost effective provider of reservations and tourism information, has almost 1,200 B&B members and twice the number of online accommodation properties as the main B&B marketing groups. Gulliver B&B members pay only €70 per year, a fraction of the cost of other marketing groups.
Last year Gulliver Ireland recorded almost 25,000 online B&B bookings outside Dublin, an increase of six per cent on 2006. It said that non-Dublin bookings for all sectors through GoIreland.com have grown faster than Dublin bookings for the past three years. "We have proved what can be done if you have good regional inventory and execute effective online marketing solutions," added Dr Stephens.