Regional hotel bookings bounce back 969% from lockdown while city rivals struggle

Low occupancy in city hotels means there is excellent value for staycationers

Greg Mulhall

Reporter:

Greg Mulhall

Regional hotel bookings bounce back 969% from lockdown while city rivals struggle

Country hotels are leading the recovery for the Irish hospitality industry as domestic tourists flock to the rural locations for holidays and staycations this summer.

Hotel booking revenue plummeted 90% across the board when Ireland was plunged into the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown at the end of March. Since that low point, regional and country ‘destination’ hotel booking revenue bounced back 969% to the middle of July, whereas city hotel bookings grew by 372% during the same period – almost two thirds less.

The data was captured by P3 Hotels, which provides booking engine software for more than 250 hotels and hotel groups in Ireland and the UK. It shows the strength of the recovery that domestic tourists have driven for regional and country hotels, where average weekly booking revenue is now greater than it was before Covid-19 hit.

For the four-week period from June 22 to July 19, average weekly booking revenue was up almost 120% on that recorded in January, which was a strong month for hotel bookings. In contrast, city centre locations were down by 51%.

The figures demonstrate how city centre locations are struggling to recover without the international tourists and business travellers.

Phelim Pekaar, CEO of P3, said: “The level of bookings hotels receive in January and July is normally very similar. This year, January was a strong month for bookings so for regional and country hotels to be beating those levels in June/July shows the impact that domestic tourists are having this summer.

“It’s also notable that a lot more people are booking direct through hotel websites, as opposed to through Online Travel Agents (OTA) such as booking.com. This suggests that the market is almost all Irish and they are familiar with the hotels where they are choosing to stay in. Direct bookings are more valuable for hotels – and they are always stronger among hotels which guests know and recognise.”

The data, which is based on all completed bookings, is a strong indicator of ongoing demand because it reflects elements of both current and future demand, as opposed to occupancy rate during the dates. Many hotels are also required to operate at reduced occupancy in order to facilitate Covid-19 social distancing regulations.

Patrice Lennon, Head of Sales and Marketing at Dalata Hotel Group, said that while regional hotels were driving the recovery for their Clayton and Maldron brands, lower occupancy rates in city hotels means there is terrific value to be had.

“In July 2019, the average occupancy rate across the entire Dalata Group was 90% to 95%, and 85% to 95% in the Dublin market alone. Since fully reopening our hotels at the end of June after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, our occupancy rates have been climbing back up – but the stronger performing hotels are all in regional or ‘destination’ locations, such as Sligo, Wexford and Galway,” Ms Lennon said.

“Our Dublin hotels are averaging around 30% occupancy due to the drop off in international business and tourist visitors. The good news for domestic tourists is that this means there are room rates from €99 per night for a double room with breakfast in Dublin – some of our lowest ever rates.”

The O’Callaghan Collection group of hotels will start to reopen their four Dublin hotels from 10th August. Group Commercial Director Tanya Hadwick said there has never been a better time for an affordable break in the city.

“The sheer volume of hotel rooms in Dublin means there are very attractive rates to be had. We have an occupancy rate of just 15% for September at this stage. Reduced occupancy means there are more lower-priced rooms available for guests booking now. When occupancy rates rise there will be fewer of these rooms available. With everything on offer in the city, it really is a terrific time to visit.”