Enquiry levels for summer holidays have been strong in January all over the 32 counties of Ireland and bookings are on a par or slightly up on last year – but most consumers have to be cautious about how they will pay for their holiday. Consequently, all-inclusive pricing, exceptionally good value, low deposit levels, and the ability to pay in instalments are proving to be important, reports Neil Steedman, News and Features Editor of Irish Travel Trade News.
“The faltering economy and tight discretionary spending budgets are tending to make some Irish consumers decide to travel less or not so far – for example, by not taking so many short breaks this year or by choosing European destinations rather than those further afield. On the other hand, many of those who have gone without any holiday for the past year or two seem determined to have one this year, even if it’s a one-week short-haul holiday, and there is still a good demand for long-haul holidays to the Middle-East, Africa, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas.
“The travel industry is responding well to these trends, with tour operators offering keener pricing, new destinations and low deposits. Travel agents are able not only to beat Internet prices but also to provide better overall value, a personal service, expert knowledge, someone to call in the event of any problem abroad, and the security of being licensed and bonded. Travel agents countrywide have also been successfully offering dynamic packages, whereby they combine flights, transfers and accommodation – as well as car hire, excursions and events tickets etc if required.
“Spain, the winner of the 2011 Irish Travel Trade ‘Best Europe Destination’ Award and always the most popular overseas destination for Irish holidaymakers, looks set to be a big winner from this year’s trend toward shorter-haul holidays.
“Also, the attraction of all-inclusive holidays is that consumers know well in advance how much their holiday is really going to cost – including drinks and tips in some cases! – and therefore sectors such as cruising and escorted tours are doing particularly well. For example, One Stop Touring Shop, which entered the Irish market one year ago and is the winner of the 2011 Irish Travel Trade ‘Best Niche Tour Operator’ Award, reported a 35% increase in bookings earlier this month.
“Those who like to cruise but don’t like to fly should note that MSC Cruises has added Cork and Dublin to four new MSC Lirica itineraries for August and September. Customers will be able to embark and disembark in Cork and to visit Dublin for excursions. Also, Thomson Cruises, the winner of the 2011 Irish Travel Trade ‘Best Cruise Company 3/4-Star’ Award, is offering 15 different ex-UK itineraries of 3- to 14-night cruises on the Thomson Spirit based in Newcastle from May-July and in Harwich from August-September 2012 – and one itinerary calls into Dublin. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International has launched its first-ever dedicated brochure for the Irish market, with connections ex Dublin and Belfast.”