Holidaying at home is an increasingly popular trend and one which Mayo hoteliers and tourist attractions have being benefiting from this summer. However there is scope to improve on what was a lucrative 2012 summer. As Mayo’s reputation of a family-friendly destination continues to grow at home, more work needs to be done to attract European and British visitors landing at Ireland West Airport Knock into Mayo.
The smart people are not relying solely on attractions on their doorsteps to lure visitors to their properties, but instead are compiling packages of what Is on offer in Mayo and selling the county as a destination rather than just one town or village.
New European routes to Ireland West Airport Knock have led to a massive surge of visitors to the western region with Mayo taking its share of the pie. However more could be done to bring them directly to the county, according to one local hotel manager.
Wilson Bird, general manager of Breaffy House Resort, has accredited much of the hotel’s increase in business this summer to new flights being offered at the airport. New visitors to the region from Italy, France, and Germany have been enjoying stays at the Breaffy Resort but more could be doing so if buses were laid on offering tourists the option to travel to Mayo towns.
At the moment Bus Éireann departs from the airport and travels to Galway and Sligo every two hours, according to Mr Bird, and this is a serious problem for the tourism industry in the county. “The question is could we have gotten a lot more tourists into Mayo this summer had there been a bus going to Castlebar and Westport,” he asked.
Despite this the staff of Breaffy House Resort are reeling after an excellent summer season which saw their leisure market soar 20 per cent on last year and sets them up nicely as they prepare to market their Christmas schedule.
In Claremorris, the McWilliam Park Hotel marketing team partnered with a range of tourist attractions including the Museum of Country Life in Turlough, Westport House, Lough Corrib Cruises, and others to ensure their guests had a full itinerary every day of their stay this summer. Many guests used the McWilliam as a base to travel to Achill for a day, cycle the Greenway, visit Kylemore Abbey, and enjoy some pottery painting at the local Clay Café.
And this was hugely successful with the hotel being booked out during peak season. This translated into 250 guests per night, every night since July 20 and is down in no small part to their marketing efforts and the work they put in with guests when they arrive.
What David Glynn, marketing and sales manager at the McWilliam, has noticed is that people are holidaying at home and the majority of the hotel’s guests this summer have been from Ireland, including Northern Ireland. They came from Donegal to Dingle and even as far away as Wexford in the sunny southeast. He told the Mayo Advertiser that the Dubs were especially surprised at all there is on offer in Mayo.“People are especially looking for value for money when it comes to food,” Mr Glynn continued.
Leisure holidays on the rise
Hotels that boast leisure facilities and family clubs are definitely reaping the benefits of that investment, and both Breaffy House Resort and the McWilliam Park Hotel are firmly established as two of the top family destinations in the west.
And while the summer has been busy, hotel managers agree that the success has required a lot more imagination and hard work to attract guests. Building marketing plans around local attractions and events so people have a reason to visit the county is what’s working.
Ballina, the salmon capital of Ireland, was equally busy with international tours featuring prominently. The Downhill House Hotel in particular have hosted a lot of American, German, and Northern Irish tours this season but 2012 has been very much about the home market, according to Kay Devine, sales and marketing manager at the hotel. And building on the town’s reputation for salmon fishing, the hotel is offering customers the fishing experience where it have partnered with local providers to take families and groups out to experience what it is to catch a salmon.
Despite the bad weather, families visiting Ballina have enjoyed surfing and body boarding at Enniscrone, walking trips, the Ceide Fields, Foxford Woollen Mills, the Museum of Country Life, shopping locally in Ballina or up the road in Castlebar. There is so much on offer.
Golfing packages are another draw with a host of world-class courses dotted around the county.
“People are re-discovering their own country,” said Ms Devine, proving we don’t have to fly away to have a good time. And that is a good thing for the tourism industry because in general there has been a decline in overseas visits to Ireland this year, according to the Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport Leo Varadkar. While visitors from Europe continue to grow, more work is needed on the British and American markets, according to the Minister.