Looking back over the winners and runners-up of Irish Travel Trade Awards since January 1993, while a few companies are no longer with us – and some brands have changed hands or been subsumed into others – the vast majority continue to trade, thus demonstrating the resilience of suppliers to the Irish travel industry.
The number of award categories increased steadily from 10 for the 1992 Awards up to a peak of 26 in 2004, and have averaged 25 categories over the past eight years. While a few, such as Best Airline to Europe, Best Airline to North America, Best Long Haul Airline, Best Ferry Company, and Best Sun Holiday Tour Operator, have been present since the first 1992 Awards, others have been added to reflect developments in the industry or simply to ‘ring the changes’.
Airline Award Winners
Aer Lingus has won 16 of the Best Airline to Europe awards, with BMI winning this trophy from 2002 to 2007, the period during which the Aer Lingus relationship with travel agents went a bit ‘pear-shaped’.
Delta Air Lines won the inuagural Best Airline to North America award, but Aer Lingus held the title from 1994 to 2001. Virgin Atlantic then won the award for two years, Continental Airlines for two years, Delta Air Lines for two years, and since 2008 it has been Continental Airlines (as United in 2011).
The Best Long Haul Airline award has been dominated by three airlines – British Airways from 1992 to 1999, Singapore Airlines from 2000 to 2008, and Etihad Airways since 2009.
Best Business Class Airline was introduced in 1996 and was initially won by Aer Lingus, with British Airways taking over the award from 2000 to 2005. Singapore Airlines won this award in 2006, but Etihad Airways, which came online in Dublin five years ago, took this trophy in 2007, 2008 and again in 2011. (Replacement category Best Premium Economy Airline was won by Virgin Atlantic in 2009 and Best Airline Alliance by Star Alliance in 2010.)
Best Sun Holiday Tour Operator
Three companies have ruled the roost in the Best Sun Holiday Tour Operator category, with JWT Holidays the initial trophy holder from 1992 to 1994, Falcon Holidays from 1995 to 2002, and Sunworld from 2003 to 2011 (as Thomas Cook Holidays in 2011).
Best North America / Long Haul Tour Operators
The Best North America Tour Operator category featured from 1999 to 2009, with the initial award won by American Holidays, the following three by Tour America, and then by American Holidays until Sunway took the last award in 2009.
The Best Long Haul Tour Operator category was introduced in 1998 and has perhaps produced the most changes in title holder (and hence nervousness among those who make bets during awards events!) in recent years. Twohig Travel won this award from 1998 to 2002, but Tropical Places then took over the title.
Since 2006, however, six companies have won a Best Long Haul Tour Operator award: Destinations in 2006, Escape2 and Sunway joint winners in 2007, Tropical Places in 2008, Discover Travel and Travel Focus joint winners in 2009 (as Best Niche Tour Operator), and Sunway again in 2010 and 2011.
Best Ferry Company
Stena Sealink won the Best Ferry Company award in the first three years, but Irish Ferries has dominated this category since 1995, with Stena Line taking back the award in 1996, 2005 and 2006.
Best Car Rental Company
Initially this was one category, with Hertz winning Best Car Rental Company from 1992 until 1998 when Holiday Autos took the title. Since 1999 there have been two award categories, with Hertz winning Best Business Car Rental Company every year except 2004, when Skycars took the podium, and Holiday Autos winning Best Leisure Car Rental Company every year except 2005, when Skycars again caused an upset!
Best National Tourist Office
This category has not always been included, but the title of Best National Tourist Office was won by the British Tourist Authority / VisitBritain on every occasion that it was on the voting list from 1992 to 2005 – and since the category was re-introduced in 2009 the winner has been the Spanish Tourism Office.
2012 Award Winners
So who are this year’s winners of the Irish travel industry’s ‘Oscars’? Come to the Irish Travel Trade Awards Gala Dinner at the Burlington Hotel next Friday night and all 25 of them will be revealed. What is certain from a look back over the past 20 years of winners is that nothing is certain!
Irish Travel Trade News takes this opportunty to once again gratefully acknowledge the support of all the many companies and organisations that have sponsored the first 21 years of Irish Travel Trade Awards events – and we are looking forward to the next 21 years!