Happy New Year to all our readers from your Irish Travel Trade News team – and may it be a peaceful and prosperous one for everyone. News & Features Editor Neil Steedman looks back over the news stories from 2016 and highlights what’s in store for the coming year.
July 2016 brought the closure of Lowcostholidays and Lowcostbeds – the latter costing Irish travel agents up to €500,000. On 7th December the Commission for Aviation Regulation reported that 4,174 claims had been received in relation to Lowcostholidays and that up to three more weeks would be needed to complete the processing of claims. By 5th January 2017 the CAR had not announced the total amount paid out or if that exceeded the company’s bond.
Although 14 travel agencies chose not to renew their licence (six in the spring round, eight in the autumn) seven of these businesses were transferred to other licences. The CAR issued 15 new travel agent licences during the year: to Independent Travel, Caribtours, Travel Bookers, Ryanair School Travel, Lastminute.ie, Great Rail Journeys, Premier Irish Golf Tours, Truly Travel (Ireland), Avios Group (AGL), M Delmar Travel, Falcon Leisure Group (Overseas), Marathon Coach Travel, We Love Holidays, Cultural Connections, and Island Marketing.
The Commission also issued three new tour operator licences: to Hurtigruten, O’Callaghan Coach Holidays, and MAP Travel. Classic Collection Holidays and SuperBreak also started operating with Irish brochures and licences issued earlier in 2015.
G Adventures appointed John Grehan as its first full-time representation in Ireland. The portfolio comprises 700 tours in 100 countries, including Classic, Yolo, Active, Marine, Local Living and Family tours, as well as National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures.
In December, having previously launched Ryanair Car Hire, Ryanair Rooms and Ryanair Schools Travel, the airline introduced Ryanair Holidays in conjunction with Spain-based tour operator Logitravel and accommodation provider World2Meet. Under current package travel legislation, as a carrier Ryanair does not need a travel agent or tour operator licence to offer ex-Ireland holiday packages.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, work on the revised EU Package Travel Directive continues. The new Directive (2015/2302/EU) entered into force on 31st December 2015, Member States must transpose it by 1st January 2018, and it will be applicable from 1st July 2018.
According to the Central Statistics Office, more than 6.8 million Irish residents travelled overseas between January and November 2016, a 4.6% increase on the 6.5m in Jan-Nov 2015. Travel agents are also reporting healthy booking and enquiry levels post-Christmas.
Spain, undoubtedly, will again be the most popular destination for Irish holidaymakers this year and, with Sunway featuring Salou for the first time and FerrariLand opening within PortAventura World in April, the Costa Daurada could well see a significant increase in Irish arrivals in 2017.
Falcon Holidays’ portfolio of all-inclusive Club Magic Life properties across the Mediterranean should also prove popular. The USA, Canada and cruising are frequently mentioned by agents as popular destinations.
In long-haul, Thailand, Australia and South Africa continue to be the favourite destinations, with Mexico and the Seychelles attracting increasing interest.
The choice of airlines and routes from Irish airports continues to grow at a fast pace, including extra capacity to Iceland with Wow Air operating not only from Dublin but also, from 9th June, from Cork four times weekly, and easyJet from Belfast, with the Wow Air flights connecting to eight cities in North America.
Norwegian Air International’s three-year-long wait for US Transportation Department approval finally came in December. Here’s hoping that the new Trump-led administration does not bow to pressures to rescind the approval, so that we see low-cost transatlantic flights commencing from Cork and Shannon – and possibly Dublin – this summer to Boston and New York (the precise US airports have yet to be specified).
The new Aer Lingus destination of Hartford, Connecticut, is mid-way between New York and Boston, so there should be some lively fares competition to those two cities – and in summer Miami will become the 10th US destination for Aer Lingus.
Looking eastwards, on 1st December Ethiopian Airlines increased its Addis Ababa to Cape Town service from six to 10 flights a week, with some stopping over at Johannesburg. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways announced that it will offer daily non-stop Dublin-Doha flights from 12th June 2017 operating a B787 Dreamliner and connecting onwards to more than 150 business and leisure destinations worldwide.
Royal Caribbean International’s newly revitalised Empress of the Seas will make history for the cruise line with its first visit to Cuba during a five-night sailing departing Miami on 19th April 2017. The ship will then reposition to Tampa offering two itineraries with calls to Havana on 30th April (seven-night sailing) and 20th May (five-night sailing).
Silversea’s ninth ship, the 596-guest Silver Muse, will commence sailings in April 2017, offering eight dining options. The cruise line is the only one to partner with Relais & Chateaux and in-suite dining will be available on a 24-hour basis. Meanwhile, Silver Cloud’s inaugural voyage as an ice-class expedition ship, following its refurbishment and conversion, is due in November 2017.
Thomson Cruises invited top Irish travel agents to the launch party onboard TUI Discovery in Palma de Mallorca on Thursday 9th June, followed by an overnight sailing to Barcelona. The ship is the largest and most modern ship in the Thomson fleet and will be all-inclusive as standard from summer 2017.
In November Celebrity Cruises announced that it would become the first major cruise line to use Dublin Port as a homeport. The Solstice-class Celebrity Eclipse will be based in Dublin in April – June 2018, offering five Northern Europe departures on three itineraries.
In December, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection launched a new brand, U By Uniworld, which will target active travellers between the ages of 18 and 40. Bookings will commence in March for the river cruise sailings, which will begin in early 2018.
In ferry services, Irish Continental Group announced an agreement to build a new €144 million cruise ferry scheduled for delivery in May 2018. The ferry will accommodate 1,885 passengers and crew, with a dedicated car deck with capacity for 300 passenger cars, plus 435 cabins and capacity for 165 freight vehicles.
Finally, 2016 brought several notable anniversaries, with SAS – Scandinavian Airlines celebrating 50 years flying into Dublin Airport on 1st April; Sunway celebrating 50 years in business on 28th April; Delta Air Lines, celebrating 30 years since its inaugural Shannon-New York (JFK) service on 8th May 1986; Tour America celebrating its 21st birthday in October; and the Irish Travel Trade Awards celebrating its 25th Silver Jubilee on 25th November.
Will your company be celebrating a significant anniversary in 2017? If so, do let us know!