Belfast Telegraph

Mediterranean heat brings hotels boost from staycationers

By Gerald Lennon

Tourism in Northern Ireland is getting a boost from so-called “staycationers” as the heatwave persuades people to holiday at home, hoteliers said yesterday.

Soaring temperatures which have rivalled the Mediterranean are making holidaymakers think twice before booking those last-minute getaway deals. 

Colum McLornan, co-owner of the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle, said it was having a bumper summer and had experienced its busiest weekend ever.

And he said that between demand for food and drink at its Costa Coffee shop and restaurant, as well as higher bedroom rates, takings were up by £5,000 or £6,000 a week.

He said room rates were up because of high demand — and people from Northern Ireland were flocking to stay at the hotel, which Mr McLornan and his friend Claire Hunter bought over four years ago.

“We assume people are thinking that they would rather sit on the north coast and look out to sea than stay in the city centre.  It is nicer to be by the sea.

“May was really busy, but June has been even busier.

“Last weekend was our busiest weekend ever in the four years since we reopened the hotel.”

He said local bookings at the hotel were so strong, he was having to turn away overseas tourists.

“At weekends, we’re at 100% capacity. Some days, if we had another 10 or 20 rooms, we could fill them easily.

“Usually, we have quite a few self-drives coming off the boat in Larne or Belfast — usually Italian or French people who have taken the ferry over.

“But we’re now having to turn away walk-ins. We try and ring around other bed and breakfasts for them, but everywhere we ring is full.”

Colum also owns travel agency Friendship Travel, which specialises in holidays for single travellers.

“Things are slightly worse there, especially our late bookings. They are down by about 8% compared to this time last year.

“When you talk to people, they are thinking to themselves, ‘will I go away for some sunshine or just stay local and have the same experience, without the hassle of going on a flight and going through airport security?’”

Steve McCartney, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Holiday and Leisure Parks manager, said that they have experienced their busiest June in years.

Steve, who has been looking after caravan parks for seven years, added: “We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people visiting these parks for day trips, and people are taking advantage of the heated outdoor pools, golf and tennis courts.

“Certainly, if local people are about, they might not say they are going to book a last-minute holiday, but what they tend to do is take a short break to take advantage of what the borough has to offer.”

Steve said that so far, this has been one of their busiest summers and many of their guests are locals.

Meanwhile, new figures show that the number of visitors from the Republic to Northern Ireland rose by nearly a third in the first three months of 2018. 

The figures, which were provided by the Republic’s Central Statistics Office, also showed that visitors from the south were staying longer and spending more.

They made a total of 34,000 holiday trips over the border between January to March — their spending was also up 11% to £21.5m.

Belfast Telegraph

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