Web to dispel
rip-off Ireland slur

4 Mar 2005

The tourism sector has been called on to embrace Fáilte Ireland’s new internet-focused campaign, a move its IT partner Gulliver claims will help dispel the rip-off Ireland accusations that have unfairly plagued the sector.

“The new online domestic breaks initiative will open Irish holiday makers’ eyes to the reality of available and affordable added-value short breaks around the country,” said Dr Stewart Stephens, managing director of Gulliver Ireland.

Gulliver Ireland is based in Killorglin, Kerry and its destination management system operates an advanced and comprehensive tourism database that provides an information and reservation service for Irish tourism products and services. 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 in 1997 and since July 2004 is the 100pc owner of Gulliver Ireland.

Yesterday, Fáilte Ireland launched a €3m home market campaign that will use the internet as a primary device for selling holidays. The campaign, which promotes and sells added-value domestic breaks to holiday makers in Ireland via www.ireland.ie, uses a Gulliver-developed bespoke booking engine, extranet and backup technology. As well as building the technology, Gulliver assisted in developing the online products and securing accommodation availability. The company also provides call centre services for the campaign and offers the Gulliver tourist information search facility on the website.

Stephens states that recent allegations of rip-off Ireland were unwarranted when it came to the value offered by domestic hotels and B&Bs and said that more can be done using technology to dispel this myth. “Accommodation providers throughout the Irish tourism industry have sustained repeated, unwarranted attacks that mistakenly claim that their prices epitomise the rip-off Ireland culture that prevails in parts of the wider service industry. Even a cursory analysis of Irish tourism accommodation price changes over the past three years shows that average price increases have been reasonable.

“For example, the average cost of three-star hotels, which provide a range of extra facilities and services, has fallen over the past number of years and is a key contributory factor for Ireland’s deserved reputation as a popular short-break destination for visiting tourists. Together with the availability of low-cost air fares, accommodation pricing has facilitated the increasing popularity of short breaks in Ireland and contributed positively to the tourism industry’s overall performance and its importance to the economy.

“Accommodation providers, for their part, should provide sufficient availability and added-value options to ensure the initiative’s success in driving domestic bookings. Fáilte Ireland’s €3m investment in the biggest ever domestic marketing campaign of its type underlines the importance of and commitment to developing a widespread and valuable internet-based tourism product for domestic holiday makers,” said Stephens.

The revamped www.ireland.ie site will be updated daily and has approximately 20,000 pages of holiday information. More than 600 offers currently on the site are broken down into speciality dates, health and wellness, festival breaks, outdoor activities, city breaks, family breaks and golf breaks.

A 12-month development plan is in place to modify and further improve the site as customers begin to use the key features. Plans include further development of product offerings; personalisation features and permission-based marketing with the users of the site. A key feature of the site is the Value Breaks section, which is syndicated on two online channels, namely www.pigsback.com and www.unison.com. Both channels have large domestic audiences and their users will benefit from being able to book a value break through these channels.

“We have placed increasing emphasis on ensuring that a strong regional choice is presented to the customer, flexing the strengths of each area, whether in terms of activities, festivals or attractions available for the customer. The site is a platform for the industry to leverage and sell their products,” said Fáilte Ireland chairwoman Gillian Bowler.

Failte estimates that Ireland’s 1.8 million internet users are ripe for holiday and leisure deals, citing the results of a Commission for Communications Regulation Trends Report Q3 2004 undertaken by Amarách Consulting. The top 10 online purchases in Q3 2004 were airline tickets 61pc, concert tickets 23pc, music 19pc, books 18pc, videos/ DVDs 16pc, package holiday 13pc, other travel services (eg hotel, car hire) 11pc, computer software 7pc and clothing 6pc.

By John Kennedy