A warm welcome is always guaranteed at the Londonderry Arms, a hotel steeped in history and was once owned by Sir Winston Churchill.
Situated midway between Belfast and the famous Giant’s Causeway, this family run hotel which is now owned by Denise O’Neill, is renowned for exploring this beautiful part of Northern Ireland and its breath-taking scenery. Over this past five years, the hotel has been working to provide competitive structured prices to all visitors and tourists visiting the Causeway Coastal Route. The management took the decision to consult with Avvio, the hotel’s booking engine for their expertise and advice and since doing so, bookings have gone from strength to strength.
Built in 1848 as a Coaching Inn, the hotel is situated in the picturesque village of Carnlough with it’s scenic harbour and beautiful Bay and is only a couple of miles from the 17th-century Glenarm Castle. Accredited with Tourism NI ‘Welcome Schemes’, a member of Taste of Ulster and working closely with many destination management companies (DMC), the Londonderry Arms makes full use of its enviable location with locally sourced food, traditional live Irish music, painting workshops, and launched the Arkle Whisky Bar earlier this year.
With increased tourism to the Causeway Coast the hotel, as is the case with the hospitality industry across the board, has struggled to recruit additional staff. With the staffing issues exacerbated by the remote location, Avvio has provided much appreciated support and expertise to the hotel front of house team during this very busy time. Carol Glanville, Assistant Manager at the Londonderry Arms has been focusing on both price structuring and rate management, and particularly challenging was the need for increased room rates to meet rising costs in the post-recession years. Carol explained “We’ve really created demand for our hotel through working with Avvio, structuring rooms and rates has been a big achievement for this so that guests can find the right room for them when booking online. We couldn’t have done what we’ve done if it hadn’t been for the support of Avvio.”
“We’ve really created demand for our hotel through working with Avvio, structuring rooms and rates has been a big achievement for this so that guests can find the right room for them when booking online. We couldn’t have done what we’ve done if it hadn’t been for the support of Avvio.” Carol Glanville, Assistant Manager at the Londonderry Arms
Avvio works collaboratively with Right Revenue across Northern Ireland, Adrienne Hanna founder and CEO says “It’s our goal to ensure that the team at Londonderry Arms maximise every opportunity online and ensure that they are selling the right rate, at the right time, to the right person and most importantly at the right cost of sale. With sales through brand.com being the most cost effective method to achieve bookings, we support the team at Londonderry Arms in driving direct reservations.” Carol explains that the support doesn’t end there, “Adrienne and Kirsty from Avvio are helping to manage availability – they’ve been fantastic, and Kirsty is even providing support on changing the room names based on local landmarks such as Heritage and Glencloy.”
The Londonderry Arms has a new website going live soon and this will work seamlessly with Avvio’s booking engine, especially on mobile devices where the hotel is seeing a lot more bookings coming from. “I expect a definite increase in business with the new site going live as the booking engine will help to keep visitors on the site and make the booking” says Carol. Adrienne explains the partnership that has been created; “we also support the hotel with ‘concept’ and help them ensure that they are delivering the best guest experience – from browsing online, through the booking process, during and after stay.”
The hotel has seen a welcome boom recently through inbound Chinese tourism. “Our challenge is that we need more rooms as increased visitors reduce availability”, Carol explains, “the Chinese DMC’s tend to book just a couple of months ahead, compared to European tour operators who work up-to a year in advance. Our season now starts end of March and ends end of October – compared to the end May to beginning of September just a few years ago. Midweek rooms are limited and weekends are full until end of October, so we’re really hoping the new website will help to fill the remaining availability directly rather than relying on third parties such as the OTA’s. The aim going forward is to focus on continuing to extend our season even further.”
Being part of Tourism NI has also helped grow their direct bookings. And when all 35 rooms are booked, Carol and the team will refer guests to other accommodation providers in the area, who reciprocate when they are full. As members of Tourism NI, Denise O’Neill (the proprietor) and Carol were part of the ‘Glens’ cluster which started in 2015 and incorporates Ballygally, Carnlough, Ballycastle, Cushendall and the surrounding area. The aim is to bring businesses together and create packages for each cluster through Tourism NI, which are then promoted by the larger international campaigns with Tourism Ireland including TripAdvisor, Easy Voyage and Lonely Planet. Glenarm Castle with the walled gardens package May-Sept. along the Causeway coastal route, encouraging extra tourism to the region.
“Not only have we seen an increase in tourism from these campaigns, but we’re also lucky to be in Game of Thrones territory” says Carol. “Carnlough harbour is just a few metres from our hotel and is one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones which featured in the famous scene where Arya Stark was stabbed. Those steps she crawled up were at Carnlough harbour and are visited by many tourists and visitors all year round – although we do not have one of the Game of Thrones doors, we have Steensons jewellers in Glenarm who made all the jewellery for Game of Thrones – which is definitely worth a visit!”
Carol finishes by saying “I wonder what Sir Winston would have made of it all, and dare we imagine if he had decided to be an hotelier! We look forward to the next stage of the journey for the Londonderry Arms, and continuing to work with Avvio to continue growing our direct bookings.”