In ‘Destinations 2015’, the latest special publication by Irish Travel Trade News, Sarah Slattery, who has been selling travel from Ireland for the past 24 years, looks at why Irish people travel for leisure, where they go, and where they could be enticed to visit in 2015.
With the rise in the Irish economy and disposable incomes, we can expect this to translate into more people travelling abroad in 2015. Hopefully we will see the return of multiple holidays and an increase in spend by the travelling public.
We all need holidays, as they are good for the body and the mind. The traditional week away to recharge the batteries will always be popular, but other types of holidays are becoming highly sought after.
Skiing in the Alps was the original ‘adventure holiday’, but now we regularly see people climbing mountains, trekking into faraway jungles and backpacking around the world. Leaving Cert students are no longer satisfied with a week in Ayia Napa – it seems that full moon parties in Thailand or volunteering in Africa are becoming the norm.
Stag weekends in Manchester are becoming weekends in Las Vegas and, of course, the hen needs to get a pre-wedding tan – and not in the local salon! Weddings are big business, with stag and hen trips pre-wedding, the honeymoon after, and let’s not forget the thousands of Irish people who travel abroad, with their guests, to get married, whether that be in Spain, Thailand, or on a romantic island in the Caribbean or Indian Ocean.
Girls and Lads Trips
Irish people love an excuse to get away but, with the recession still hovering around us, no-one wants to appear too extravagant. The traditional family holiday is still very strong, but individuals like their own trips abroad too. Women like to have a ‘girls’ weekend away, with Mother’s Day becoming a popular time, as well as Christmas shopping trips, be they to London, Christmas markets in Europe, or transatlantic to New York.
Similarly, men like ‘lads’ trips, usually linked to a sport, golf being the most popular, followed by soccer or rugby matches. Many are travelling to see Conor McGregor’s UFC title fight in Las Vegas and, no doubt, the Irish will ‘invade’ London for the Rugby World Cup in October, having roll out their excuse: “We have to go because it’s in London, just across the pond!”
There is also a huge rise in people looking for more ‘authentic’ experiences, with house swapping or staying in private houses being the main reason that companies such as Airbnb have been so successful. Home stays with local families are also becoming popular.
Large families are also travelling together more, looking for lasting memories. Grandparents are becoming a target ‘silver’ market, with once-off trips to Florida or Lapland, while large-family cruise holidays are becoming more and more popular, with cruise ships now catering for all generations.
Cruises have never been such good value or in such large supply. Direct flights meet numerous Mediterranean cruises, and many companies offer free onboard credit and free drinks packages. Celebrity Cruises, for example, offers a one-week cruise around the Greek Islands in August for €839 – incredible value for such a luxury cruise ship.
More and more cruises are also calling into or departing from Irish ports, so there are now plenty to choose from for those who prefer not to fly.
Meanwhile, river cruising is growing rapidly and has become very popular with Irish travel agents. Cruises have high percentages of repeat clients, who are always looking for the ‘next destination’, so once they have cruised the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, a river cruise can be a natural progression, be it in Europe or far away China.
City breaks are back in vogue, with low-cost flights to European cities in large supply. It is an inexpensive way to get a quick trip away and, with prices cheaper than a weekend in Ireland, this market could be one to watch. Turkish Airlines, for example, now flies double daily from Dublin to Istanbul so one could expect city breaks there to be advertised in travel agency windows.
Christmas markets and Lapland winter breaks were extremely popular last year and this trend will continue. The introduction next June by Wow Air of year-round direct flights from Dublin to Reykjavik in Iceland, from €76 each way, means a weekend break to see the Northern Lights is no longer a bucket list item, but very attainable (albeit with local prices still high).
The Disney movie Frozen has captured the imagination of every child and a trip to see fjords and ice castles is now on children’s wish lists as well as a regular trip to the beach!
For typical summer sun holidays, the firm favourites of mainland Spain, Majorca in the Balearic Islands, and the Algarve in Portugal will remain to the fore.
With 1.3 million visitors last year it seems the love affair that the Irish have with Spain is as strong as ever. Holiday villages and Splashworld resorts are a big hit with families looking for all-inclusive holidays with plenty of onsite activities. The return of direct Menorca flights will be welcomed by Irish families, with many of the old favourites featured as well as some properties with free access to the island’s waterpark.
With a new direct flight to Kos as well as Rhodes, Corfu and Crete, Greece is now well served from Ireland and will continue to attract couples and families, as well as the young and lively market.
The ability to clear all US Customs and Immigration checks prior to departure is helping Dublin Airport achieve the status as a European transfer hub. The airport’s transfer traffic increased by 37% in 2014 and, with direct services to 14 North American destinations, including San Francisco and St John’s introduced last year, the transatlantic boom should continue in 2015 from Ireland and the rest of Europe. US Customs and Immigration clearance at Shannon Airport will also help to boost traffic to Boston, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia.
These cities will remain popular and the introduction of direct flights to Washington DC is a welcome alternative. Aer Lingus will fly to Washington-Dulles four times weekly from 1st May, so this will attract new visitors looking for a city break, as well as offering connections to other US cities. The increase in flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco will ensure that the US West Coast is extremely well served and may see some reductions in airfares.
Florida, particularly Orlando, is still a firm favourite for Irish holidaymakers and prices are extremely competitive this year, with flights and hotel packages available for under €600 per person. This may encourage many families to choose the Sunshine State over a family holiday in Europe.
Europe Airpost will operate a new weekly flight from Dublin to Halifax in Nova Scotia, adding to the number of scheduled flights between Ireland and Canada, including WestJet’s daily direct summer service to St John’s, Newfoundland, and Air Transat’s flights to Montreal. Aer Lingus, Air Canada and Air Transat also offer flights to Toronto, so we should see reduced airfares to Canada this summer!
Middle East and Africa
Between them, Emirates and Etihad Airways offer 28 flights each week to the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai welcomed over 51,000 Irish visitors in 2014, an 8.1% increase year-on-year, and overall welcomed 11.6 million guests, which indicates that Dubai is maintaining growth at a sustainable level, while also expanding its portfolio of hotels and hotel apartments.
The well-publicised arrival of Ethiopian Airways (with a B787 Dreamliner!) will increase interest in African holidays. Indeed, Dublin gains two new thrice-weekly year-round non-stop routes from 1st June 2015, because Ethiopian will sell Dublin – Los Angles and Dublin – Addis Ababa flights separately. Ethiopian flies from Addis Ababa to many African destinations, including Johannesburg, Khartoum, Lagos, Nairobi, and Zanzibar and the Dublin flight will be timed to offer the best possible onward connections.
Asia / Pacific
Thailand’s new Discover Thainess campaign aims to increase international visitor numbers by presenting Thailand’s unique character through seven key characteristics: food, arts, way of life, wellness, festivals, wisdom and fun, plus a calendar of special events and festivals throughout 2015. Over 63,000 Irish visitors visited the kingdom last year and bookings are already looking good this year, so an increase is forecast.
Finally, the introduction to the Irish market this year of Wendy Wu tours to China at such inexpensive rates, with Business Class upgrades, will surely entice many to the Far East.