CIE Tours warns high hotel rates threaten growth

CIE Tours International saw a record year in 2017 for sales from North America to the UK – and bookings so far in 2018 point to further growth this year.

The Irish company is one of the largest coach tour operators from North America to the UK, and said its 2017 sales were 10% up on 2016 – with 2018 looking set to be 10% up too.

Scotland accounted for much of the increase in sales, while growth in England was slower, perhaps due to security concerns, said CIE.

CIE Tours attributed the growth to the strength of the US economy, combined with the fall in the value of the pound – but warned that high hotel rates could dampen bookings.

Overall last year, CIE Tours brought 15,000 visitors to the UK. Its clients visited 100 attractions and stayed in 60 hotels, generating £11 million for its UK suppliers.

Elizabeth Crabill, CIE Tours International chief executive, said: “The growth we are experiencing in the UK is fantastic and the level of customer satisfaction achieved by our suppliers plays a vital role in our success.”

However, the company has identified high accommodation prices as a threat to competitiveness and future growth, particularly in the key tourism centres of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Crabill commented: “When our visitors come to historic cities, they expect to stay close to the central attractions but increasingly, we are encountering difficulty finding hotels in some destinations, which meet our customers’ high expectations of quality, at a price which is not prohibitive.

“The Highlands and Islands can also present a problem in relation to finding the right standard of accommodation, with the seasonality of the hospitality trade reflected in a lack of investment in some cases.”

CIE Tours International has brought more than three million visitors from North America to tour Ireland over the course of its 86-year history.

In recent years, it has expanded to offer the rest of the UK, and new holidays for 2018 feature the Outer Hebrides and Gaelic West, a UK family tour and a luxury Scotland tour.

Its annual awards ceremony took place on April 10 – on the eve of VisitScotland Expo – with 50 awards given to business partners, based entirely on feedback from 15,000 customers.