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30 Sept 2022

Are staycationers being ripped off?

'People are using the current circumstances to rip people off' - Séamus Ó Cinnéide

Séamus Ó Cinnéide

Séamus Ó Cinnéide of Abbey B and B

An accommodation provider in the city has said Derry is a lovely place to visit and should not be involved in “ripping people off”. 

A forthright Séamus Ó Cinnéide, owner of the Abbey Bed and Breakfast in the Bogside, was speaking in the wake of re-ignited heated local and national media debate regarding the “outrageous” cost of staycationing  in Ireland this summer.

Speaking to Derry Now, in the house where The Dubliners stayed during the 1969 Freedom Fleadh in the Bogside, Séamus said he felt Ireland's accommodation sector was full of “gimmicks and rip offs”.

Séamus said: “I think Airbnb is a gimmick. It is self-catering with a fancy name. You don't get the hospitality.

“You don't get the hearty breakfast supplied. The accommodation provider might leave you provisions but that is not the holiday experience. People are easily fooled. It is a fully fledged booking engine. It has been floated on the stock market. 

“At one time we had a local booking system here in the North but, unfortunately, it didn't work out. So, now people are forced to go on to all of these booking sites. 

“However, when people book through these sites, they are paying at least 15 percent over the accommodation odds. I scarcely use them, maybe during quiet periods.

“But, if guests book in here using booking sites, we lose a hefty percentage of the cost of a room. It goes straight to the booking site's overseas head office. This is money leaking out of our local economy.

“Right away I would say, If we had a decent local booking system, where people could book accommodation through a tourism body, we would not be paying these leakage fees and the money would be staying in the local economy.

“I just think, Derry, as a city, is a lovely place, a great place to visit and we should not be involved in ripping people off.”
Séamus observed that nowadays people booking accommodation are less immediately tuned in to the price they are paying.

He explained: “For example, people have cards and they book online. In the past, if a person was paying cash, they knew what they were paying for accommodation and they might have thought, 'God, it's dear here'.

“Now, with cards, people don't notice as much at the time because they are away enjoying themselves and having a good time. It is only afterwards, when they get the horrendous bill, they might realise the cost.

“For years the whole thing was customer care. There is no customer care any more. It appears all they care about is getting your money out of your pocket, simple as that,” said  Séamus, who himself was recently quoted £340 for a one night booking for two people.”

He added: “I was disgusted. I highlighted it on social media and said it was a joke. Everyone is using the cost of energy as an excuse now. Okay. If you have a restaurant and you are using gas, of course a meal is going to be dearer but, I don't think the same should be true of accommodation. 

“Personally speaking, we use a lot of gas in the winter but we use very little in the summer.

“That is why I made the recent comment about 'Rip Off Ireland'. If anything, our prices should nearly be dearer in the winter, and more level in the summer. 

“But the rip off culture likes to rip people off when they know summer is the only time people can go on holiday. Most people have a small, two-week holiday window and they want to go somewhere. 

“I do not agree with it. I heard a man interview recently who was charging €1,500 for a house in Donegal for a week. I know if I had taken a house in Donegal before lockdown, it would have been €500 per week. So, how come there is €1,000. For me that is just a rip off, pure and simple. I think people are using the current circumstances, right across the board, everywhere to rip people off. They are saying, 'Sure there is a war'. They are using every excuse,” said Séamus.

Séamus said he was confident speaking about the accommodation because of his years of experience working in the sector. 

“All I know is, if you are supplying accommodation in the summer, you are not putting on the gas because, even in Donegal, it is warm outside. People on their holidays tend to be out and about. They are hardly using energy, so don't use that as an excuse. Come up with something truthful. 

“I can definitely understand houses and accommodation being dearer in the winter but not during the summer. Even if it is raining, the temperatures are up. You are not burning your gas or your heating. 

“I am aware of people feeling ripped off because a lot of people are starting to complain to me. People being charged £200  plus for any night of the weekend seems to be a regular occurrence now. 

“I might be biased but I think bed and breakfasts are more homely. Visitors can enjoy a lovely breakfast and it is properly cooked, but there are very few bed and breakfasts left in the city. We work hard here but we don't bog the arm in.”
Séamus said he thought customer care was sadly lacking.

He added: “No-one answers the phone any more. It's queues. It's music down the phone. Customer care is gone. When I was studying tourism 20 years ago, the whole buzzword was customer care, the customer was always right. Not any more.

“Our price is capped including breakfast. I do not think providers should use the excuse of events to put prices up. Even during Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 2013, we kept prices the same. To me when someone books a room, we are booked out and that is it.”

In terms of its tourism offering, Séamus feels Derry has not capitalised on its stories.

“We have not told our stories. There is no literature story here, no music story here, no shirt factory story here, no Amelia Earhart story. We have not told one decent story. The only story that is getting told continuously is troubles, which deserves to be told and highlighted but Derry was a big city before the troubles came. It was a city when Belfast was a swamp.”

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