Connecting with customers helps Arranmore grow tourism numbers
With spectacular scenery and untamed Atlantic coastline, Arranmore Island has lots to offer visitors, with a selection of places to stay and a lively programme of festivals and activities
Owner of Arranmore Hostel and Early’s Bar, Jerry Early: “Because of our location in the north west, on Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way, we rely a lot on social media to tell the world about what we offer."
Until recently, the Arranmore Island’s remote location and topography meant that reliable internet connectivity wasn’t always available. As a result, business owners on the island faced challenges to promote it as a tourism destination, but that’s all changed. Local fisherman, and owner of Arranmore Hostel and Early’s Bar, Jerry Early explains why.
“It’s the standard question every hotelier or guest house owner has to answer with almost every email and call; “do you have wifi?” Having it, or not, can be the difference between giving visitors a satisfactory experience or a truly memorable one,” says Early.
It really is that simple: connectivity is now an essential part of the tourism experience. A survey by Hotels.com found that most travellers consider free wifi as the most important factor when choosing a place to stay. “Customers at the hostel repeatedly told me over the years that if it had wifi, they would have stayed longer on Arranmore,” explains Early.
“Because of our location in the north west, on Donegal’s Wild Atlantic Way, we rely a lot on social media to tell the world about what we offer. Until recently, we weren’t able to do that in any sustained way because we didn’t have reliable broadband on the island. Now, we can promote ourselves more actively. We’re also in the process of setting up new websites to promote the whole island, using the domains DiscoverArranmore.ie and Arranmorehostel.ie. We can also promote places like the holiday self-catering village along with the B&Bs, guest houses, cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as the many nearby amenities.”
Sparking a business opportunity
“The island’s tourism business is very seasonal, and one of our challenges has been to use the quieter months between September and March to get the word out about all the activities and places to stay. Three years ago, for example, I took over the hostel as we knew there was a business opportunity. I believe our new connectivity, and all of the possibilities it brings, will be the spark to make this opportunity real,” says Early.
“Many of the visitors to the island come from Dublin and other urban areas, so they naturally expect good quality wifi at the hostel. Now we can offer it to them, thanks to the Business Broadband+ connectivity recently introduced to the site. Together with all of the other initiatives on the island, it’s led to a noticeable difference in our business. In the short term, we expect bookings at the hostel will be up by at least 10 per cent this year, and I expect our business to keep growing to at least double its turnover over the next four or five years.
“The connectivity isn’t just helping one entity in isolation: it’s allowing all of the business owners on the island to join together. Now, we have the opportunity to sell not just one place to stay but a whole package: an 'Arranmore experience' that takes in food and beverages on the island’s bars and restaurants, as well as activities like kayaking, sea angling, or bubble football.”
Endless possibilities for connecting to new customers
“We believe the arrival of high-speed connectivity, and all of the technologies it enables, is a huge turning point for the island. Before, many of our bookings came from party groups, traditional music enthusiasts, or students visiting the Gaeltacht with their teachers,” says Early.
“Now, we’re getting connected to a new demographic and we’ve noticed increased bookings from families who are looking for a different type of holiday. Already this summer, Saturday nights are fully booked for July and August. That has never happened before. Some of this is down to our own increased work rate on the island, because everyone’s got a fresh impetus to promote what we have. We genuinely believe Arranmore will become a destination on the back of the increased awareness and all of the facilities we have to offer,” he says.
“We’ve also been able to do more to promote some of the seasonal activities on the island. Festivals are some of our main attractions during the summer months, and in May we held our first Féile Róise Rua, where we had singers performing at venues around the island. This brought 250 visitors to the island. In July, Arranmore will host the Mór Music & Arts Trail as part of the Earagail Arts Festival. Thanks to our high-speed connectivity, we plan to stream events live in the future – something we never could have done before. It will add an extra dimension to the festival and we’re sure this will help to drive business for us all.”
“All of the tourism businesses on the island are tapping into social media much more than before, through campaigns on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. For people who want to extend their stay on the island during the summer months, Arranmore’s MODAM digital workspace gives them the option of a dedicated place to work remotely while staying fully connected.”
“We can now start exploring the possibilities of technology like using the Internet of Things to help our fishing fleet to locate lobster pots or to connect our ferries with real-time location information, so there’s plenty more innovation to come.”
“These are exciting times. We can now start truly selling what we believe is a unique experience, in the comfort of knowing that what we have is totally authentic and accurate. We held back from that side of things in the past, but now we have the freedom to say: “If you haven’t been to Arranmore, you haven’t lived.”
Discover how one of Ireland’s most remote islands got up to speed with a technology rollout that’s opening up new possibilities for its businesses and families. Listen to An Eye on Irish Industry - the Podcast Connecting Arranmore.
If you are interested in learning more about how Three Business are transforming the island of Arranmore, visit our dedicated website.