Last Tuesday, the longest day of the year, Michael Coyne stood at his gastropub in Cil Chiaren, the coastal village of Connemara Geltacht, watching six Galway hookers at Kilkieran Wharf. At this time of year, Galway businessmen would usually explain the game of throwing foreign tourists to traditional pubs with their tiled floors and old tobacco ads.
French, American, English, Italian and German tourists at Coin’s Gastropub are conspicuous by their absence, especially during mid-week.
Coyne blames stratospheric price increases for rental cars for the lack of foreign visitors to this part of the Wild Atlantic Way, where there is only one bus from the village to the city of Galway every day – a 66 km drive away. Unable to rent a cheap car so that they can get to Cil Chiarain, foreign tourists are canceling group bookings at Coin’s gastropub and choosing to either stay in Dublin, where they can take public transport to get around Can go, or go somewhere else. Coyne believes the issue will “destroy” regional tourism.
“Before Covid, we were full during the week in the summer,” says Coyne, whose great-grandparents opened a pub and grocery on the site in the 19th century. “I had really high hopes for tourism this year but we are close to the height of the season and we are not as busy as we should be.
“We had probably 120, 130 people coming here in July, and they were asking us about local events and places to stay. They are now saying they are not coming to Ireland this year because it is too expensive. This is our recurring tour, people who come here on an annual basis and email me when they are coming to visit.
“People want their freedom to get around in the car and the Wild Atlantic Way was erected as a place to drive. They want to stop at palaces and monasteries along the way. But if prices are going to get so steep. people will not see Ireland as an attractive place to visit and businesses like mine will be closed.
“On a weekly basis, I am getting emails from my main suppliers informing them of price hikes and that is all you can absorb. This is the first time in my life that I am concerned about my business.
“This country is great for a tourism product, as it tends to go down the tubes because of exorbitant prices for things like car rentals. A tourist I met from Boston said they could go to Cancun and said they would go to Ireland. Didn’t come to ‘bite’ the car. I understand the car rental industry faced the pandemic for two years, but there is a limit to what people can take.”
The peak of the summer tourist season is approaching, but tourism-focused businesses in rural parts of the Wild Atlantic Way – the 2,500-km-long touring route that runs from Kinsale, Cork to Donegal – are reporting lower footfalls than their urban ones. Rising fuel prices, housing shortages, the erosion of disposable income from rapid inflation, congestion at Dublin airport, and fears of slow economic growth as tourists are restrained by the high cost of renting a car to counterparts .
According to tourism body Fáilte Ireland, the lack of international visitors during the pandemic has caused car rental stocks to drop in half, causing car rental firms to reduce their fleet sizes and significantly reduce the number of times they are under global car production restrictions. slowed down.
Earlier this month, Fáilte’s chief executive, Paul Kelly, told an Oieachtas tourism committee that the lack of car rentals was the issue he was “most concerned about” and said that unless action is taken, it will “Will harm tourism in Ireland on an ongoing basis”.
Meanwhile, the travel guide lonely PlanetAn article warning readers about Dublin prices pointed out “the cost of renting a car will likely put a significant dent in your budget”.
Some tourists are feeling the pinch. Last week, the Irish Independent reported that former Leitrim councilor John McCartin said his brother-in-law had been quoted more than €50,000 for a nine-day vehicle rental.
In a typical year, 40pc of foreign vacationers rent a car to explore the countryside, says Ioghan O’Mara Walsh, chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC), which includes the Car Rentals of Ireland trade organization Council is a member. But rural tourism is being adversely affected due to lack of affordable car rentals.
“It is affecting regional Ireland harder than anywhere else,” he says.
“The pandemic has resulted in about 50 per cent reduction in rental cars and very little availability. The last available cars are priced at exorbitant rates and are not helpful for Irish tourism.
“Unsurprisingly, parts of the Wild Atlantic Way are doing well, mostly from Galway City to Kerry, but there are still gaps that need to be filled north of Galway.”
Donegal has enjoyed a relative mini-boom the past two summers, when domestic consumers – forced to vacation at home due to Covid-19 restrictions on air travel – flocked to the Wild Atlantic Way. But Gary and Myred Anderson, who own the seasonal seafood shack on Kyliebegs’ Old Wharf and the Boathouse restaurant overlooking Kliebegs Harbor, say the southwest city of Donegal is too quiet this summer for a myriad of reasons.
“Some customers canceled last Sunday because they overestimated the cost of renting a car at Dublin Airport, canceled the Irish leg of the trip and went straight to Belfast airport instead,” says Gary Anderson.
“But a combination of things are happening here. We used to get really strong business from daytrippers from places like Strauben and Omagh in the north, but the price of diesel has meant the cost of filling the average family car since the start of the pandemic. Have doubled. You can talk about €70 or €80 for the trip. This is affecting Seafood Shack, where sales are back 25 percent because people are spending less money.
“At restaurants, we had to increase our prices from €3 to €4 in some cases, because all our costs are going up, so people are skipping over and going straight to Maine. We will not be able to hire 33 people for the summer like last year – it will be 20 people in limited hours.
“All support from the pandemic is now gone and there are more difficulties coming for you and our customers during the pandemic.
“Hundreds of beds have also gone out of housing. 120 Ukrainian refugees are living in hotel accommodation in Kilibegs and they are also staying in hotels and B&Bs in Glantys, Bundoran and Glencolmsil, so there is very little housing left in our catchment area. Plus, the Irish people are in a big race to get back to the sun because they’ve missed going away in the last two or three years.”
To the south along the Wild Atlantic Way, bus tours taking foreign tourists to the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s second largest tourist attraction, pass by Mohair Cottages, a Co Claire gift shop and cafe, which includes Liscanner Bay and Lahinch. There is a back terrace overlooking the beach. But Mohar Cottage, 1.5 km from the cliffs in one direction and 1.5 km from Liscanner in the other, is dependent on independent travellers. Owner Caitríona Considine noticed that very few of them reached his car park.
“We’ve definitely seen a difference in the business,” she says. “Our clients are a lot more young couples who rent a car and drive the Wild Atlantic Way and walk on the cliff but their numbers drop significantly and we definitely miss them.
“Maybe if you are in the part of the hospitality industry that relies on bus tours, you will be quite happy. But young American and European couples and young families will generally not be people on bus tours and their numbers as of 2019 The people who come here in rental cars seem to be older with more disposable income.
“The cost of living means that even young people can question their spending. The cost of rental cars and Dublin hotels is a big challenge. Claire’s is also challenged because we don’t have many big hotels and stays. There isn’t a huge stock of places to visit, so every place will be booked in July and August.
“A lot of Irish people have gone abroad and they’ve got us over the last two years, which we’ll be forever grateful for. So there are fewer Irish people and fewer American independent travelers. It’s just another challenging year with a different set of challenges.” Is.
“And the weather isn’t far enough in June. We need that beach season to get people to the coast, which helps all the businesses out here.
“Hopefully, the issues around car rentals will get fixed on their own next year. I look at it as a recovery year and we were hoping it would be normal.
To the south in West Clare, Tony Cogan, who runs Cogan’s Bar and Restaurant in Miltown Malbe, Main Street, says business from foreign visitors has been slower than he expected.
“I found the month of June to be quiet, although it is hard to judge because I changed my business model,” he says. “I now only open five days a week, starting at 5 p.m., and I used to be open 14 hours a day, seven days a week. This is due to the staff shortage and the lifestyle changes I have made during the pandemic.
“The one thing I put it down to is the cost of renting a car. If people can’t rent a car, they can’t move to a more rural enclave like Miltown Malbe. Few people need to get to a destination like Miltown. There is no problem in using public transport for the people, but they want their own transport when they are here to visit.
“I think there has been a substantial drop in international visitors. Some nights, pre-pandemic, it was like the United Nations here. But that’s gone and it’s mainly Irish people now. I’m afraid last summer The boom of stay was a one-off gem that we will never see again.”