The Heritage is a splendid product. You walk into the lobby and you think more of Vegas that the back road from Portarlington to Monasterevan.
The sumptuous chandeliers, the wings spreading out to the left where the conference room is waiting, and to the right to one of the restaurants, are like a medieval cathedral.
The staircase is like something from one of the great Palladian mansions that dotted the eighteenth century landscape.
Ireland has lots of these amazing hotels. They were commissioned in the good times and now they are on sale for amazing rates.
While the number of holidays being taken by Irish people at home and abroad decreased in 2011, the number of hotel stays soared.
The reason is that we are getting better value for money than ever before.
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Ireland has 891 hotels with 59,403 rooms, which means we have lost just 26 hotels and 1,545 rooms from our peak in 2009.
The hoteliers say there are too many hotels and too many beds, some of them are in the wrong place and some of them are being run for the wrong reasons, just to keep cash flowing at any price. The consumer’s answer has been: sell at the right price and we will stay.
Flash sales were the story of 2011 with travel sites springing up to sell discount vouchers for hotels and tour packages by email alert. There are more than 20 by now, becoming so numerous that they have spawned a new site, which groups them all together.
Hoteliers complain that they are not able to generate anything but cash flow from sales. The theory is a big flash sale can generate tens of thousands of euro in revenue but with hotels asked to discount by 60-70pc and then give a commission of up to 40pc to the flash sale site, there is precious little profit in it.
Consumers have reacted by doing their own deals with hotels. Hotels have tried their own flash sale. If you sign up for email or text alerts with a favourite property, they will send alerts when the rooms are unsold. Both the consumer and the hotelier can get a better deal out of dealing direct.
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Interestingly we now have 35 five star hotels (three more and rooms more than we had at peak) with three more in the north.
The four star story is more interesting, up from 246 to 273, 27 more hotels and 2,201 more four star rooms than we had in 2009. It is in the three star category that we see 18 hotels and 2,223 rooms lost, some have moved up and a few have closed, with similar declines in the two lowest categories, 14 two star and 19 one star hotels lost.
The message is clear. In recession hotels are moving up a star class when they can. They have worked on their cost base and put the bargains on the table.
People who were scared off by the sky high prices of the Tiger era have responded.
There used to be a shortage of Irish hotels who catered for the family business, as they all chased wealthy Americans with spas and golf.
At many of our topscale hotels like the Heritage you can have the pa and golf, and bring the children as well.
Long may it last.
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