Donegal hoteliers are reporting a healthy summer of business despite the bad weather and the ongoing financial problems in the Eurozone.
A report from Tourism Ireland has depicted a challenging time for tourism in the first half of this year, with a 2 per cent decline in visitors to Ireland between January and May compared to the same period in 2011.
Failte Ireland North West says visitor numbers have remained the same as last year. Free attractions are doing well but those that charge admission have seen a decline. Visitor attractions have received a boost from the large number of German tourists that are visiting the county with the White Hotel Group.
“It is on a par with last year,” Client Services Manager with Failte Ireland North West Maire Aine Gardiner said. “We are heading in the right direction because we have not fallen back but we have still not returned to the growth we had before the downturn.”
But hoteliers in Donegal have seen a healthy summer, according to Donegal branch of the Irish Hotel Federation.
Chair of the Donegal branch of the federation and owner of the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny, Terry McEniff, said hotels here have been enjoying a good summer so far, with some reporting an increase in business of up to 10 per cent on last summer.
He said a television advertising campaign in June and July has helped but the major factor has been the strength of sterling against the euro. “We are up on last year and some of the hotels are up as much as 10 per cent. There is great value for money and sterling is a huge factor. Compared to what the rate was this time last year, it is a big difference. Donegal was never in the Celtic Tiger, we have always had the Sterling Tiger. We have had a big growth from Northern Ireland. We are different up here compared to the rest of the country. It is different tourists that we get up here. They are from the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In the south east and south west they are more reliant on European visitors.”
He said visitors are increasingly booking much later than they used to. “Ten years ago we had bookings three to four months in advance. Now people are booking three to four days in advance.”
Paul Diver, owner of the Sandhouse Hotel in Rossnowlagh, said tourism in the county has enjoyed a good summer, mainly due to the impact of the television advertising campaign which has been running in recent years. “It is a lot of things, rather than just one thing but if I was to say one thing I would say it has been the TV marketing campaign. That has been concentrating a lot on the Dublin market and that market has come through. We have been trying to get the message out that Donegal is closer than you think. There is a feeling out there that Donegal is six hours from Dublin but people are realising it is only three.”
He said the marketing of Slieve League has also helped bring visitors, along with the attraction of surfing.
Mr Diver bought the hotel earlier this year for just €650,000 and has received national publicity for the purchase. He said businesses is up 30 per cent on last year but he puts much of this down to the publicity the hotel has received and good will from the public.
Frank Casey of the Rosapenna Hotel in Downings said the summer has been much the same as last year, with June in particular being very good. A lot of advanced bookings have also been secured for September. The hotel relies heavily on repeat bookings with many of those coming from the North.
But he was critical of the national tourism strategy which he says still directs tourists to the south of the country. “If you draw a line from Dublin to Galway - below that is where the tourists are,” he said. “When they come out of Shannon, they turn right and when they come out of Dublin airport they turn left. We have had to fight our own corner in Donegal and thankfully we have always had our Northern Ireland business which is our bread and butter.”