Irish Tourism in 2011 By Philip Suter
Two reports appeared at the end of 2010 regarding the state of Irish Tourism. The country needs revenue from tourists, however getting to Ireland and moving about in Ireland if you rent a car can be very expensive.
Firstly Fáilte Ireland's report (an organization formed in 2003 to promote tourism in Ireland) showed the impact of the downturn in business.
The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) said that overseas visitor numbers declined by a further 16% in 2010 to 5.5 million. According to their report are 2.2 million fewer visitors than came to Ireland in the peak year of 2007 and a level last seen in 1998. The report also says "Ireland's largest source market Britain accounted for 1.3 million of those lost visitors."
Ireland needs to attract visitors in 2011 as so many businesses depend on tourists now that the general economy is not as healthy as it has been in recent years. What is most important is people feel they are made very welcome and have value for their money.
Because of the downturn in economies of a lot of countries, many visitors have less money to spend and probably won't be able to take those additional short break holidays this year.
Companies like Ryan Air and Aer Lingus are spending a great deal of money promoting Ireland in the media and attracting visitors to spend a long weekend in the country, highlighting events and places of interest.
What is now so important is that organizations like Fáilte Ireland, The ITIC and Discover Ireland actually tell business in Ireland how important tourism is and not to let the tourist feel they have been "ripped off" by extra charges. We have got used to "hidden charges" for credit cards, taxes on the airlines etc, however car hire companies is one area that has been adding on additional charges.
The Irish car rental business is usually the first place that a visitor arriving at an airport comes across "Irish hospitality" or lack of it! On three occasions In 2010, my wife rented a car when visiting Dublin from England and on the last two visits hired a car from a car rental company that also holds the franchise for a major European operator.
She was charged for taking the car across the M50 toll at a highly inflated price and had to contact eflow (the company that manages the toll) who confirmed the vehicle never crossed during the period of hire. Initially the car hire company said that she would have to cross the M50 toll when travelling from Dublin Airport to Drumcondra. We told them that the car never went near the toll only staying around the Drumcondra, Malahide and Howth areas. The car hire company then said it would have been later in the day after it was returned to their depot, however eflow confirmed that this did not occur.
Researching the issue on the web I have found that this is frequently occurring and presumably the car rental company does not think that anyone will question a small charge added to a credit card a few weeks after the customer has returned home.
On the second visit she was charged for car hire excess insurance. Although she declined it saying she had an annual policy the company still told her to sign in a couple of places and had to pay this unwanted €54 insurance that appeared on her credit card after returning home. She has an annual policy bought via http://www.insurance4carrental.com that actually costs less than it did for five days. The car rental company refused to refund it saying that she had signed for it, despite telling the receptionist she did not require the product.
Several Irish car rental companies also charge a fee for allowing the car to cross the border and collect a car from the airport. These unwelcoming "hidden additions" to the car hire process are not good for the tourist business at a time when the country needs tourism revenue.
The ITIC report says Ireland's largest market source is Britain. Coming to and from Ireland by car ferry has become very expensive.
The average time of a crossing is three and a half hours and there is not too much competition on the Irish Sea routes. The ferry companies charge per passenger, so for a family of four the cost mounts up. The only passengers who get a free crossing are dogs who remain in the car.
I have just booked a crossing for mid January with three passengers going to Dublin and two returning We are using the "club class" facility and the return fare is £317. I then decided to check out the price of a competitor on the same route, this was £382.The ferry commpany has notices up at the Holyhead check in "The Low Fares Ferry Company"! This is in the off peak time of the year so what is going to be like in the middle of the summer when the country wants the tourists to visit?
Due to personal family circumstances we then had to postpone our return from Dublin by 24 hours and as I do not trust these car ferry companies 100%, I priced up a brand new booking and it had gone up quite lot, both ways.
I tried to change my booking on line and the system said it would cost another £40. I telephoned the ferry company and they told me the change would be £40. I said I had tried to do this on line, but the automated system was also increasing the price of the outgoing sailing that we were not changing. I was put on hold and a couple of minutes later was told it would be £15. Had I not questioned the company's representative I would have had to pay another £25.00. This is even worse than be charged for using the M50 toll bridge on a phantom journey by the Irish car rental company.
On Sunday 16th January, the ferry was not excactly full. There were probably 50 people in the "premium" area and 100 in the other oublic areas. How they can justify increasing the price that day?
These companies are not doing the Irish travel business any favours. On the 14th January 2011 DFDS the Dutch ferry operator who took over Norfolk Line last year announced they were closing closing its routes from Dublin to Birkenhead, Wirral, and Heysham, Lancashire, as there was "considerable overcapacity" in the market. According to an Irish Times report "The move may help DFDS’s competitors P+O, SeaTruck, Stena and Irish Ferries recover volumes and yields as they pick up its freight custom. DFDS’s move follows the closure by Stena of its Larne-Fleetwood route, which was serviced by three ships. Meanwhile, the Competition Authority has decided to carry out a full investigation in relation to the proposed sale by DFDS to Stena of ferries servicing its routes between Belfast and Liverpool and Belfast and Heysham"
By contrast I have received an email this week from one of the car ferry companies operating on the cross channel service out of Dover. They have an early booking offer of £29 each way for a car and up to five passengers. Testing their system for a booking for the same period as I would be using on the Irish route the price came out at £87. The crossing takes up to 1 hour 45 minutes.
There is a lot of competition about on and under the English Channel so it is no wonder so many people holiday in that direction every year.
The Irish Tourist authorities need to lobby the car ferry companies to cut their fares. Many of the car ferries on the Irish routes are half empty. They do carry a lot of freight traffic, however as the general economy has been declining then these levels will probably drop. If the companies cut the cost of travel, had more people on them spending money in the shops and on food and drink surely they would have a more successful business and there would be more tourists being able to afford to visit Ireland?
The Irish Edition of the Sunday Times ran a report on the "sad state of Irish Tourism" on the 16th January. So many British people are no longer visiting. Apparently with so many UK retailers being in the country people do not feel they have gone abroad. Costs of food and accommodation can be high and as stated above ferry travel is far too expensive for the average family and they would probably have much more value for money by crossing the English channel.
For those involved in Irish Tourism in 2011, they need to look at what they are charging their visitors and not try hidden charges like some of the Irish car rental companies do and make the tourist feel they have had a "good value" holiday so they will return and tell their friends to go to Ireland for their holidays.
N.B. This information should not be relied on for accuracy and is presented here without the responsibility of jml Property Service and the website it is being displayed at. jml property Services 01-11
Following on from the iCahireinsurance article "Dubious Dublin airport car rental staff - November 2011" we have added a summary and extracts and comments on the "Car Hire Excess Blog" and invited readers to comment and add their experiences of problems renting a car in Ireland - Visit the blog article "Focus on Dublin Car Hire Rental Staff - November 2011" Here
This article was located at the euro-rentals.com website until August 2017
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives