The management of the GoIreland.com website, which serves Irish tourism businesses as well as consumers seeking information and reservation, estimates that overall bookings on the site will increase by over 50pc in 2004. The company revealed that online bookings over the Christmas period rose by 61pc compared with the same period last year.
The company reported that in 2003, online bookings were worth €8.4m, up 68pc on the year 2002.
The GoIreland.com website is the web frontend for Kerry-headquartered Gulliver, the major tourism engine for tourism information and reservations. The original Gulliver system was developed by Bord Failte and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. However, in 1997 financial services firm Fexco acquired a majority shareholding in Gulliver and significant investment has since been made in transforming the Gulliver database into the main destination management system for Ireland and one of the first of its kind in Europe.
The database contains all approved accommodation providers in Ireland and processes bookings for almost 9,000 member properties from the internet, tourist offices and an international call centre.
The managing director of Gulliver Ireland, Dr Stewart Stephens, said that the GoIreland.com website received over 4.5m visitors in 2003 and predicted that this will rise to 5.5m in 2004.
Some 34pc of bookings received by Gulliver Ireland were received online, compared with 21pc in 2002 and 9pc in 2001. There were more than 1.9m accommodation searches on the online booking system last year.
Dr Stephens said: “We are very pleased with the increase in volume of bookings made through GoIreland.com over the Christmas period and anticipate that the proportion of online bookings will continue to increase significantly over the next number of years. Our online capability is an area in which we have invested significantly and we have big plans for the future.
“As can be seen from our own figures issued today, as well as from feedback we are receiving from the global tourism market, tourists are increasingly using the internet to book their travel reservations. This trend is clearly set to continue and GoIreland.com will continue to offer consumers the most cost-effective, efficient and user-friendly online tourism product on the market,” Dr Stephens said.
By John Kennedy