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Autumn staycations: Take the low road to top value

Ireland’s wonderful welcome and scenery is matched with innovative deals and service

Staycationers who stayed at home and kept their money in their pockets during the summer will be able to avail of better value now that autumn is here. “Prices were quite high for the 90-10 day period during the months of June, July and August,” says Clifden Station House Hotel general manager James Sweeney. “That reflected the very high demand. You will get much better value later in the year, particularly if you travel mid-week or later in the year.”

Demand is holding up, however. “We enjoyed a very busy summer and that looks to be continuing into September,” Sweeney says. “There is something of a changing of the guard with the kids back in school. We are seeing people heading off for mid-week breaks. They want to travel around the west with more comfort and space when there are fewer people around.”

The Kilkenny Omonde Hotel is also seeing strong interest continuing into the autumn/winter season, according to marketing manager Ann Phelan. “We have had a super summer,” she says. “People tend not to book until nearer the time in the low season, but September filled very quickly, and October is filling up as well. Kilkenny is always very popular. This year we had no overseas tourists so there was more availability for Irish staycationers. But there are signs of overseas tourism picking up.”

There is value to be had in the low season for savvy travellers. “If you pick wisely, you can get very good value in Ireland at the right time,” she says. You will always pay top dollar for the top hotels no matter where you go in Ireland or abroad. My advice is to book early. It doesn’t get cheaper. Our model is like the airlines, the chance of getting it cheaper by waiting is very low. Also, third-party sites are great for research but it’s better to go direct to the hotel. They’ll be able to offer a better price. And you won’t see the special offer deals like our Fabulous Friday offer on the third-party sites either.”


‘Building up loyalty’

The Abbey Hotel in Donegal prides itself on offering good value all year round. “We held our prices during the summer and didn’t go crazy on yielding up,” says sales and marketing manager Elaine McInaw. “We are coming out of a very busy summer when we welcomed an awful lot of first-time visitors to Donegal and we want them to come back. We are very conscientious about offering good value to our guests. It’s all about building up loyalty and we will do room-only offers for guests if the normal dinner, bed and breakfast package doesn’t suit them.”

Families looking for good deals should take a look at the Cork International Hotel. Part of the Trigon Hotels group, the four-star property is located in the Airport Business Park 10 minutes from the city and 20 minutes from Kinsale. “We had a strong corporate and couples business until the pandemic,” says group brand and communications manager Sandra Murphy. “We have pivoted towards families and introduced a family concierge who gives advice on what to see and where to go around Cork, books tickets to events and attractions and so on. That’s been extremely successful. We have offers like a family date night for two adults and two children which are exceptional value.”

Guest book

In a highly innovative initiative earlier this year, the hotel published a book written by one of its younger guests. “We plan to release a book written by one of our young guests every quarter,” says Murphy.

Cork’s famed Metropole Hotel is also part of the group. “We have a range of offers geared towards friends and couples, like sparkling afternoon tea which comes with a glass of prosecco. Demand is very steady among families, couples and friends. People who have stayed with us before tend to come back and we are delighted to have good-value offers for the autumn.”

Of course, hotels don’t suit everyone, and self-catering is definitely worth considering in the low season. “Our members’ properties were closed for nine months in the last year and a half and business has been extremely good since they reopened,” says Peter Downey, chair of the Irish Self Catering Federation planning committee. “A lot of that has come from Irish people who tried self-catering in the previous year and found they liked it. From September on, there will be a lot of properties that will have vacancies because the foreign market is not there and the schools are back. We will shortly launch our Letsgoselfcatering.com website which will have a listing of self-catering accommodation around the country. The site will put them directly in touch with the owners and that will mean better value than the booking platforms can offer.”

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times