By Pádraig Hoare
Perennial favourite destinations such as Turkey and Tunisia are beginning to become popular with Irish holidaymakers once more as the threat of terrorism has receded.
That is according to the chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association who said prices for Turkish holidays were attracting holidaymakers in July and August as availability in Spain and Portugal reduced.
Pat Dawson said there is also a strong take-up of US holidays as the economy and disposable income has strengthened.
However, he warned that Norwegian Air’s survival was integral for consumers, as it had forced other airlines with US routes to be competitive in pricing.
“We have seen Turkey make a comeback in the past 12 months, with competitive prices being one of the main reasons.
"The likes of Spain and Portugal are still countries with the highest demand, but in the high season, availability can be scarce. Tunisia is also recovering but to a lesser extent,” Mr Dawson said.
Tourism accounts for 8% of Tunisia’s GDP, provides thousands of jobs, and is a key source of foreign currency, but it has struggled since two major attacks in 2015.
The first, at the Bardo National Museum, in Tunis, left 21 tourists dead, while 39 holidaymakers were killed in the second attack, including Irish tourists, on a beach in the resort city of Sousse.
Mr Dawson said US connectivity from Cork and Shannon was vital for tourism inbound and outbound.
“Dominant airlines need competition and if Norwegian was to go from the market, it would be bad for all holidaymakers.”
He said there was hope that there would soon be be more routes out of Cork and Shannon, including a long-coveted Cork to New York flight.
Norwegian has failed to confirm it will retain its summer schedule from Cork to Providence, Rhode Island, on the US east coast in the summer of 2019, having scrapped the winter route from this November.
The airline said it was “working to maintain” the summer schedule in 2019.
Mr Dawson said: “We need Norwegian back next year, or another transatlantic carrier from Cork to enter the market, if Dublin’s dominance is to be challenged.”