Stay at home for a great hol­i­day

‘Peo­ple will find they have for­got­ten just how lovely Ire­land is for a hol­i­day’

The Irish Times - - Staycation­s - SAN­DRA O’CON­NELL

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, lim­ou­sines and mini-buses that are snapped up by US vis­i­tors each year for guided tour­ing. This year al­most all its en­quiries 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 heard of,” he says.

Cap­i­tal ideas

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 may have to wear masks and so­cial dis­tance but be as­sured 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 the Lib­er­ties,” ex­plains res­i­dent man­ager Jamie Ske­han.

In­no­va­tions

“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 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. fuel up be­fore

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

One way to get a whole new per­spec­tive on Dublin this sum­mer is with a trip on board Dublin Bay Cruises. 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.”

Clock­wise from main: Sligo’s Wild At­lantic Way; Shel­bourne Ho­tel near St Stephen’s Green in Dublin; flamin­gos at Dublin Zoo; and the Rock of Cashel, Tip­per­ary

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