AS Irish health authorities were yesterday tracking the swine flu outbreak worldwide, Irish tour operators were taking stock of the effect it might have on business.
The main focus remains Mexico, the origin of the outbreak and the only country where people have died of swine fever.
“We are dealing with customers who may be concerned about the outbreak, but it is largely a question of wait and see,” said Brian Sargent, general manager of Tropica Sky in Listowel, Co Kerry, which operates Mexico holidays, mostly during the summer season.
“This is the off peak season so we do not have many customers going to Mexico at the moment but there have been a few out there who wanted to come back early and we have been able to facilitate them to come home a day or two early.
“The airlines have also been facilitating to an extent, allowing passengers to change dates without penalty over the next week or so, but they, too, are waiting to see how the whole thing pans out.”
Mr Sargent, whose company offers Mexico as an exotic yet affordable alternative holiday destination, said there has been growing interest in the region among Irish holidaymakers in the past few years.
“It offers great value because you can do an all-in deal. It has become a hugely popular destination, offering five-star luxury for what you would pay for a two-star in Spain.”
Mr Sargent said Tropica Sky has been contacting people who have booked summer holidays to Mexico and was largely advising them to sit tight until the situation becomes clearer.
“Of course, if the situation worsens and we receive Government advice not to travel then we would make alternative arrangements.
“In the meantime, though, I would advise anyone who has booked a summer holiday to Mexico to sit tight for the next few days at least and assess the situation again next Monday. In any event, we will be contacting our customers again in a week’s time.”
In Britain, Thomas Cook and TUI Travel said that while they were monitoring the situation and advising holidaymakers to be aware of the risks and symptoms, they were operating as normal to Mexico, as the flu outbreak had not affected tourist areas.
TUI’s operations in Mexico account for around 2% to 3% of its holiday programme, while Thomas Cook said it represented 2% of its holidays.
Meanwhile, shares in airlines and travel companies were down on the London Stock Exchange by as much as 8% yesterday, as fears over the impact of the swine flu outbreak gripped the London market.
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