Further Growth in Regional Online Tourism Bookings - Gulliver Ireland Tourism Market Review
Tourism regions and businesses should adopt a practical seven-step strategy to address the critical regional disparities which pose the biggest challenge facing Irish tourism, according to a leading tourism sector stakeholder today (Tuesday, 19th February 2008).
Dr Stewart Stephens, Managing Director of Gulliver Ireland, called for a partnership approach to providing an integrated Irish tourism product and rebalancing the regional tourism scales at the launch of the company's Tourism Market Review. Gulliver Ireland, the cost effective provider of reservations and tourism information, is part of FEXCO. The company has handled more than 1.4 million bookings, worth over €260 million, since 1997.
Gulliver Ireland's review revealed that Dublin remained the most popular county for tourists last year with a 32 per cent share of total bookings. The company noted that non-Dublin bookings across all accommodation sectors for GoIreland.com, Gulliver's flagship website, grew faster than Dublin bookings for the third successive year. This underlined what can be achieved with effective online marketing and a comprehensive inventory of regional accommodation. The company is proposing a seven-point practical strategy for Irish tourism regions and businesses, which is aimed at reinvigorating confidence, encouraging practical planning and boosting returns in light of changing tourism patterns.
The review's headline results for last year showed that almost 770,000 bednights were sold through Gulliver Ireland, which were valued at €31.1 million. This represented 145,000 bookings where Gulliver arranged accommodation for almost 210,000 people. Continued online booking growth saw a nine per cent rise in the value of GoIreland.com bookings on 2006.
Almost all accommodation categories registered online booking increases through GoIreland.com. The B&B sector's continued growth, for example, saw it record an improved year-on-year performance yet again. GoIreland.com delivers more B&B bookings to more properties than any other website and Internet bookings now account for 65 per cent of all Gulliver bookings. The company is unique in that member properties do not even need to own a computer to tap into the ever growing online tourism market. Property providers who do not have computer access can maintain prices and availbility on a LoCall number through the Gulliver Helpdesk.
Gulliver's seven-step practical strategy for tourism regions and businesses is:
Tourist Bookings in 2007 - Gulliver's Regional and County Analysis
- Learn about the Internet and online marketing. Avail of the upcoming Fáilte Ireland workshops or other courses available locally.
- Work together with other local enterprises to paint an online picture of the wonderful experiences on offer on your doorstep.
- Sell the tourism experience and not just the bed or the single tourism product. Sell this tourism experience through all the high-profile, high-traffic Irish destination websites such as GoIreland.com, Discoverireland.ie and Discoverireland.com.
- Demonstrate that your tourism business has something unique to offer visitors by using competitive advantages to develop tailored products.
- Create a local tourism network with other businesses in your area with the knowledge to cross-promote and cross-sell the overall product.
- Identify your customers and how to sell to them. The Irish over-50s customer segment, for example, made 39 per cent more domestic trips in the first half of 2007 compared with 2006. Increasing tourism's regional spread and reducing seasonality could be encouraged by focusing on this segment's selling points including health, security, culture, people, places and the environment.
- Identifiy your role in and practice sustainable tourism so that local economies, natural environments and destination improvement benefits dovetail with a relaxing and rewarding visitor experience. The country's unspoilt environment is a key attraction that must be both protected and promoted.
Dublin, the West and South West were the three most booked regions last year with a 32 per cent, 18 per cent and 17 per cent share of bookings respectively. The most improved online booking regional performances compared with 2006 were by the North West (22 per cent increase), Midlands East (12 per cent increase) and the Shannon regions. The Shannon region saw a nine per cent increase through Gulliver versus a five per cent fall in overall visitors according to Fáilte Ireland figures for the region.
Dublin remained the most popular county for tourists last year with a 32 per cent share of total bookings. However, Gulliver Ireland noted that other counties ate into Dublin's market share, which dropped nine per cent on 2006. The other top 10 counties in 2007, in descending order, were: Galway (13 per cent), Kerry (nine per cent), Cork (eight per cent), Clare (six per cent), Mayo (four per cent), Kilkenny, Waterford, Donegal and Wexford, which were all had a three per cent share. Ireland's Tourist Well - Domestic Holidaymaker and Tourist Sources
Domestic holidaymakers accounted for 36 per cent of all Gulliver bookings last year. Together with UK (24 per cent) and US visitors (14 per cent), the next most popular tourist sources, these three sources made up almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of all bookings.
"Changes in tourist behaviour and rebalancing the regional tourist scales should frame the planning and promotional thinking of all tourist businesses and stakeholders around the country. While we should be mindful of enduring challenges such as the multiplicity of shorter breaks versus traditional two-week holidays and pressures on tourist spending, a renewed partnership approach to offering an integrated Irish tourism product would chime well with tourist needs.
"Individual tourism businesses and regions need to practically address the cost and value perceptions that prevail so that better value, innovative online marketing and effective tourist products awaken tourists, both domestic and visitors alike, to thinking of Ireland as a must-book destination," said Dr Stephens.