Cork hotel sees big decline in UK customers since Brexit vote

‘The change in currency since the vote has made Ireland 22% more expensive purely on the exchange rate’

West Cork. “Much of my UK market now comes through tour operators, and the key thing is we don’t want to lose our UK market.” Photograph: Getty Images

West Cork. “Much of my UK market now comes through tour operators, and the key thing is we don’t want to lose our UK market.” Photograph: Getty Images

 

Neil Grant, general manager of the thriving Celtic Ross Hotel in the west Cork village of Rosscarbery, has spent the last few years steadily gearing up for the challenges posed by Brexit.

“Our biggest customer after the domestic market is the UK. Until recently we didn’t have any other markets,” says Mr Grant, who is also chairman of the Cork branch of the Irish Hotel Federation.

During its peak season the Celtic Ross employs about 126 part-time and casual workers. Although this drops to between 80 and 100 during the off-peak season, the hotel still employs a significant number of casual staff at busy weekends during the down period.

Mr Grant’s UK clients traditionally came from two sectors – individual or family clients and tour operators. Yet since the vote for Brexit the numbers coming to him from first category have dropped significantly.

He says this is primarily due to changes in exchange rates, which means Ireland is more expensive for British visitors than before. “The change in currency since the vote has made Ireland 22 per cent more expensive purely on the exchange rate, not to mention the fact that costs are also rising here since the recession.

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“In terms of British clients we are becoming more expensive. Much of my UK market now comes through tour operators, and the key thing is we don’t want to lose our UK market.”

He says to protect the hotel against any negative impacts from Brexit it is diversifying in terms of individual and tour operator markets both internationally and nationally.

“For the first time last year I attended a trade show in Germany, which features the major European travellers and tour operators.

European clients

“We need more European clients. We are promoting ourselves as a destination for individuals, couples and families as well as for tour operators in countries like Holland, and increasing our market share in terms of the US tour operators.

“We think it’s very important to diversify. Our domestic trade accounts for between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of our trade. However, we realise that we are also competing in terms of Irish holiday-makers who want to travel abroad, so we have to attract new guests who have not been to us before.

“Therefore we are now promoting ourselves in parts of Ireland that we previously would not have identified as a key market.”

On top of increasing the hotel’s reach in terms of Irish and foreign markets, he says the Celtic Ross also now primarily only works with tour operators who fit the template of what he terms reliable, “high-performing operators”.

The hotel is also working to offer more value for money to those UK customers hit hard by the exchange rate.

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