Eoghan Corry has the latest travel news at home and abroad including Ryanair’s peace treaties with OTA’s, number crunching at Dublin airport, news from Holiday World and lots more.
January is the busiest month in the travel trade calendar and we had quite a few surprises – Ryanair’s u-turn with their former enemies being one of biggest! Eoghan Corry tells us all about it and has updates on Holiday World, hotel beds at home, and how we may soon know the real transfer figures at Dublin airport.
How short of hotel beds is the home holiday market?
Things can improve, with some luck and co-operation from the planning authorities. Three recent reports suggests 2,600 beds were delivered in 2023.
There are 7,281 rooms in the planning process and 3,000 rooms expected to be delivered by 2025, notably already-opened Nyx (175 rooms), citizenM (245 rooms), Hoxton (128 rooms), McKenzies Circuit (153 rooms), Zanzibar Locke (160 apartments) as well as The Dean (113 rooms) and Moxy (200 rooms) in Cork.
That should start catch up for a sector that has lost about 8,000 rooms to government contracts, although we still face great uncertainty ahead.
One step forward, four steps back.
The oft-forgotten self-catering sector may be facing a crunch of its own. An estimated 40,000 beds are available for short term rental, of which 6,000 are in the formal traditional cottage rentals and the rest on platforms such as AirBnB and Vrbo.
The Department of Housing, which apparently is not on consulting terms with the Department of Housing, has taken the initiative on this and asked for changes on planning permission for short term rentals and a register for those who want to offer a bed to holiday makers.
Scotland did something similar last autumn, and unexpectedly shut down 85pc of the beds available for rental to tourists overnight, with hosts opting out because of the expense and hassle of registering and applying for planning permission. Now we are on course to do the same.
Expect to read more about high prices this summer if we decide to shut down three quarters (or more) of our holiday rentals under the illusion that we are doing something to solve a housing shortage. Unless someone answers the 65,000 bed question in the meantime.
Ryanair’s peace treaties with OTA’s
If you see a glum lawyer in on Ryanair with one of those white boarding passes on their iphone, it is because an end is in sight to the gravy-plane that was the battle between Ryanair and the OTAs (Online Travel Agent, or Trap-Outwit-Abstract to their enemies).
A series of baffling peace treaties have been signed between former enemies including Love Holidays and Kiwi.com, to the dismay of the lawyers in every country where Ryanair fly, and even in a few they do not.
One of the liveliest and most entertaining courtroom dramas is in Delaware in the USA between Ryanair and Booking, a previous one with Expedia was fought in Seattle. Either Ebeneezer O’Leary may have had a change of heart over Christmas, or the decision is based on something more pragmatic.
When war was declared, it was clear Ryanair had no idea how many of their bookings were coming
from travel agents. They said 2pc, the OTAs said 10pc or more. Ryanair struck first. The verification process they dreamed up was a nightmare for customers who did not realise they would have to endure it until it was too late.
The OTAs hit back before Christmas, multi-laterally decided to take Ryanair off their inventories. Ryanair’s load factors (rather than bookings) fell off, if not quite a cliff, a sea stack. When you are flying 2,000 flights a day (3,500 in summer) losing a one or two per cent load factor can hurt.
“Close-in loads and fares were impacted by the removal of Ryanair flights from certain OTA pirate websites,” goes a grumpy comment in the Ryanair Q3 financial report, a sprawling document that occasionally contradicts itself in its high-minded defence of not having quite delivered what it anticipated.
The pirates, it appeared, had invaded Lough Owel. Someone decided it was time to drop the cutlass and make peace between those flying the Jolly Roger and the Jolly Michael-oller.
What next for the traditional travel agent?
So where does the Ryanair peace process leave the traditional travel agent? The fourth generation family businesses that started selling one way tickets on White Star Line over a century ago?
They are watching with dismay while Loveholidays, Kiwi and other disrupters, who care for neither a license nor a bond, declare their new found love for Ryanair.
Things have improved for travel agents since Ryanair rejoined the General Distribution Systems, first of
Travelport and then Amadeus, who are bigger in Ireland. But travel agency booking still have to
verify, a process where the stress increases roughly in line with the demographic. Can the Spaniards sort this out?
More cruise ships are moving out of the Red Sea and the eastern Med, causing disruption to
prices and bookings to the benefit of the consumer. Valencia is emerging as homeport of choice.
It looks like a good year to try that cruise. Booking in Ireland are now running 20pc ahead of pre
pandemic, which shows how short memories can be.
Holiday World Show
Holiday World in Dublin is a good place to weigh up the travel business and where it is flying to.
It was a show of three halves, best day for excitement, buzz and ambassadors was Friday. Best
day for bookings was Saturday. Best day for families was Sunday.
Three things are clear: Spain still dominates the Irish market, despite the new routes to Greece and Italy. People are willing to spend more on holidays. And the camper van business sis getting back to where it was before it was almost wiped out by a VRT change ten years ago.
The biggest trend of all has been the growth of dental and medical trips abroad, despite sings that this could turn out to be a bit of a headache (and toothache) for all involved.
What is happening at Dublin airport?
Until now, transfer passengers have been counted twice, something which distorts figures, but at least it does so consistently in airports round the world. The real passenger figures for the blockbuster airports like Atlanta, O’Hare, Dubai, Charles de Gaulle and Heathrow are 35pc-40pc lower than the ones you will find on Wikipedia, because each passenger is counted as they land and counted again as they take off. Some of those double counted do not even leave the aircraft. In this year’s annual passenger figures, Dublin decided not to declare them at all.
This is fine when your figures have to finish below an ill-conceived passenger cap of 32m passengers. But how can they be sure? Dublin’s largest resident airline, by a margin, does not allow transfers on a single booking reference. Anecdotal evidence suggest people fly from all over Europe on Ryanair to connect with Aer Lingus as self connectors.
The official figure for the airport should be 33.1m, the reported figure is conveniently just under 32m, but the real figure could be 30m. Confused? Not as much as Bórd Pleanála will be when the tons of documentation land on their desk.
Of course, we may soon know how many passengers used Ryanair to self-transfer. A line in the
written statement announcing Ryanair’s OTA cease-fire says: “this deal also allows customers to
enjoy OTA virtual interline service which allows customers to book connecting flights, but if they miss
their connection flight, the OTA will reaccommodate passengers free of charge on the next available
One wonderful, unintended, consequence of technology is that Dublin airport will soon have more data to reduce their reported passenger numbers even further.