Irish tourist information and booking engine Gulliver has told the Irish Hotels Federation Annual Conference that in January and February this year online hotel bookings made were up 50pc on the previous year, representing almost €850,000 in revenue and over half of overall hotel bookings made in Ireland during the period.
In the first two months of 2004, approximately 24,286 hotel bed nights were sold, representing €1.3m in revenue to Irish hoteliers.
Gulliver, which is part of the Kerry-based global payments company Fexco, is the world’s most widely used national booking system, with over 9,000 linked properties, representing 60pc of approved accommodation on the island of Ireland. It is understood that the booking engine now powers more than 60 website, including the Failte Ireland website www.ireland.ie, the Dublin Tourism website www.visitdublin.com and the Irish Times’ web portal www.ireland.com.
Gulliver warned, however, that the 50pc increase in online bookings in the hotel sector was achieved against a backdrop of reduced visitor spend. Fexco provides dynamic currency conversion to over 600 Irish tourism related businesses, which enables overseas customers to pay in their own currency and provides extra revenue for the retailer. Like for like sterling spend was down over 17pc in January compared with last year and US dollar spend was down almost 20pc.
The managing director of Gulliver, Dr Stewart Stephens said: “Gulliver Ireland’s performance in the hotel sector to date this year demonstrates that we are growing our business in an increasingly competitive tourist market environment. The volume of bookings made over the Internet has grown by 70pc this year compared to the same period last year and we believe that this trend of increasing online bookings will continue over the next number of years.
“The fall in sterling and dollar spend in January 2004 illustrates that the difficult tourism market environment continues to present challenges to the hotel and tourism sector in Ireland. However, Gulliver’s strong performance in the hotel sector indicates that sustainable business growth is achievable even with decreasing visitor spend. The Irish tourism industry needs to redouble its efforts in providing tourists with a more cost-effective and efficient service across the board so that it remains competitive,” said Dr Stephens.
By John Kennedy