CAR hire prices at Shannon Airport are six times more expensive than tourists arriving at Madrid will face, and more than twice as pricey as in London.
On Wednesday afternoon, going through the Shannon website, the cheapest car rental for the sample period June 10-17 was €1106.87. For an SUV for the same period the cost was €1,991.97.
In contrast, someone travelling to Madrid and hiring a vehicle for the same period would face equivalent prices of €158.02 for a small car or €258 for an SUV. At Heathrow the prices quoted were €512 and €767.82.
Obviously the huge disparity in prices puts Ireland at a serious competitive disadvantage, and Lahinch hotelier Michael Vaughan said that it is damaging the country’s reputation as a place to visit.
“People are feeling really badly about it and we’re getting a very bad image.”
He said he recently spoke to one person from North America who was struggling to arrange transport for a visit here.
“The upshot was that it was going to cost €400 a day for a six seater vehicle. He was looking then at a minibus but they wanted €3,000 for that. He said he’d be better buying one and selling it on. It’s just ridiculous.”
He said that Brexit appears to have affected the import of cars, and as Irish drivers use right hand drive vehicles, the only market Ireland can share with in Europe is the UK.
Mr Vaughan also said car rental companies didn’t have high levels of stock because of a lack of confidence in the market.
“A lot of the car rental companies, because they weren’t sure of the season, didn’t take that many extra cars into stock, so it’s much depleted.”
In some cases he said that people can’t get any vehicle at all.
“There’s a man who comes over regularly, he has a house in Liscannor and lives in Chicago. He has been unable to get a car for his next trip to Ireland, which is in July and August.
“People who are ringing car hire companies are getting people laughing down the line saying ‘you have some hope’. There’s no chance of getting anything. It’s a huge reputational issue at the moment and it does need the intervention of the Minister for Transport.”
While there have been criticisms of the prices charged by hotels, he said the increase in car rental prices is even more stark.
“I know people are talking about the price of hotel rooms, particularly in Dublin, but the price of car rental seems to have almost tripled over the last year.”
He said that the Government needs to intervene, and to do so promptly.
“The Government might have to look at a special import derogation to increase the fleet of these cars, but it’s questionable whether it’ll have any impact on this year’s market.
“We need to get this right for next season and it’d want to be right before the end of this season so people get the impression the Government is actually tackling the issue. I’d safely say it is causing us reputational damage abroad with tour operators and travel agents.”