Get a great deal on a smart hotel – staycations are here to stay
‘People will find they have forgotten just how lovely Ireland is for a holiday’
Sligo Park Hotel: ‘We have all the benefits of the great outdoors on our doorstep’
As the lockdown ends and internal travel restrictions finally lift, Irish people are focused on home holidays like never before. They’re in for a treat, reckons Shane Leahy of Ireland Chauffeur Travel (irelandchauffeurtravel.com), based in Tipperary.
The company has a fleet of luxury four-wheel drives and mini-buses that are snapped up by US visitors each year for guided touring. This year almost all its inquiries are from the home market.
“We are seeing demand from all age groups but in particular from older people who have been cocooning during lockdown and want to get out and treat themselves by travelling in a safe way which is almost a cocooned environment,” says Leahy. Many of these will opt for five-star hotel stays.
Since it was set up in 2007 the company has seen strong demand for multi-generational trips by US visitors, where mums, dads, kids and grandparents travel together. It’s a style of holiday he reckons will appeal to Irish holidaymakers this year too.
“We are getting a lot of interest from people who are booking standalone private residences and want to invite friends and family to come visit them because an awful lot of people have missed out on so many big family occasions in the last few months,” he explains.
Wherever they opt to stay, the company can draw up an interesting and entertaining itinerary to suit.
“We focus very much on providing experiential trips so, for example, right now I’m looking out my window at the Rock of Cashel. For our guests we’d combine a visit to it with a chance to visit the makers of Cashel Blue Cheese nearby, and after that take them to a well-known local pub for a Cashel Blue Cheese salad,” says Leahy.
Its driver guides ensure guests get the maximum from each trip, providing what is best described as a concierge service. “It gives people an opportunity to stay in Ireland and have the most amazing trip ever, often seeing amazing places they’ve never even have heard of,” he says.
Dublin’s historic Shelbourne Hotel (theshelbourne.com) is also a firm favourite among US visitors but Ireland has always been its second biggest market, points out Yvonne Donohue, its director of sales and marketing.
As with all home holiday offerings this summer, the emphasis on safety cannot be overstated. Staff training has been thorough and procedures put in place to ensure, for example, hands are washed every 20 minutes as a matter of course.
Staff place their left palm across their chest and bow in thanks but be assured, behind their masks they are smiling, the emphasis is still very much on five-star Irish hospitality, she says.
B&B costs from €299 and the Shelbourne is keen to support local businesses, promoting them on social media and encouraging guests to visit stores, and go on book tours and guided walks. “None of us has been through this before but we really are all in it together, so let’s help and support each other,” she says.
Dublin’s Ashling Hotel (AshlingHotel.ie) is another firm favourite with the domestic market. The staff here too are looking forward to welcoming guests keen to enjoy a great break in the capital, with doubles from €139 B&B per room.
“We’ve always had a very close relationship with the domestic market because of our proximity to Heuston Station and all the attractions around us, such as Dublin Zoo and Phoenix Park for families, and the golden triangle of whiskey tours to Powers, Jameson and Liberties,” explains resident manager Jamie Skehan.
“Our location means you’re close to all the action of Grafton Street and O’Connell Street, but just far enough away, at 2km, to ensure peace and quiet.”
Rigorous Covid practices have been put in place. “All our staff will come in and go out through the same doors and go through the same rituals as guests. Hospitality staff are so often entirely unseen but we want all our staff out front and centre so guests can see that everyone’s safety is important to us,” he says.
The hotel has introduced new innovations in its food and beverage service to suit the new environment, such as a “B&B and a bite” option which offers a main course, without starter or dessert, for those who want to fuel up before heading out.
The Sligo Park Hotel (SligoParkHotel.com), a short walk from the town centre, is an easy drive to the sea and a perfect option for families.
It has top-notch safety systems in place as well as all sorts of treats to welcome guests and help them relax after the stress of the past few months. Its special family packages include extra touches such as free ice cream, fairy trails for kids, and pre-dinner Prosecco for grown-ups.
A three-night summer family escape costs from €610, for two adults and two children aged under 12, staying B&B and including one evening meal.
“We’ve done so much work putting our stay-safe programmes and policies in place and training everybody up, but also remembering that we are in the hospitality business and that people are coming to us because they want a break,” explains the Sligo Park Hotel’s general manager Gerry Moore.
“For people from large urban areas such as Dublin, Cork and Limerick, we have all the benefits of the great outdoors on our doorstep, including the Wild Atlantic Way, Rosses Point, Enniscrone and Strandhill,” he says.
“People will find they have forgotten just how lovely Ireland is for a holiday, and what a fabulous country we have.”
Dublin Bay Cruises
One way to get a whole new perspective on Dublin this summer is with a trip on board Dublin Bay Cruises (DublinBayCruises.com). It runs pleasure trips throughout the day from Dún Laoghaire, the city centre and Howth, going one way or on a round-trip.
It’s a great experience for all the family and fully compliant with social distancing guidelines. And even better, you can spend all your time outdoors on deck if you like – combining fresh air with fabulous views.
The Dublin Bay Cruise experience has long been known as way too good to leave to overseas visitors. “Last year 87 per cent of our passengers for Dublin were Irish,” says owner Eugene Garrihy, who also runs boats out of Doolin to the Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher. “Since we reopened in Dublin we have seen a huge response because a lot of Irish people were already aware of us, and because of pent-up demand too.”