Sun holidays sacrosanct but punters forgo city breaks

THE recession gloom is still lingering, but we are slowly beginning to book summer holidays, with extra city breaks becoming a thing of the past, according to tour operators.

Sunway and Budget Travel say holiday bookings picked up after the budget as people then “knew what they were at”.

One operator said that the “two weeks in the sun seem to be sacrosanct for many Irish families” and, if they have to economise, they are cancelling shopping and golfing weekend trips. E-bookers say, in previous years, their research had shown that one in three Irish people went on four foreign breaks a year.

Value is the order of the day according to the industry with short-haul cheap holidays in Spain, Majorca, Mallorca, Turkey, North Africa and Portugal selling well. All warn that there is less capacity on planes this year as 400,000 less jet seats have been chartered by tour companies flying in and out of Ireland.

“The two weeks in the sun seems to be sacrosanct for many Irish families, but it’s the niche travel the city shopping breaks and golf trips that have been shelved. This market has collapsed,” said Clem Walsh, Budget Travel head of marketing.

Mr Walsh said that their website hits have risen by 9% on last year and there is a 4%-5% increase in enquiries at their shops this year. However, the research is not translating into bookings as quickly as before.

“The punter is more educated now. They are shopping around and value is the key. The upmarket packages are much harder to sell with the niche market cut in half. The low cost, short haul have become trendy all over again”.

Sunway’s marketing manager, Louise Jordan said that cheaper breaks to North Africa are “doing well” as four star accommodation there is high quality and good value.

“In general, sales are definitely down, but since Easter they have picked up. We’re selling much less five-star breaks and, if people are travelling long haul, it’s to cheaper places like Mexico and the Dominican Republic with all-inclusive packages where food and drink is included,” she said.

Ebookers Ireland manager Stephen Rice said that 2009 has seen a sharp new emphasis on value-for-money with city breaks harder to sell.

He expects a lot of last-minute summer holiday booking too.

“When people are looking to economise, they are cutting out the weekend breaks. For instance, Prague was a very popular city break from Ireland. This year, Czech Airlines have pulled out of Ireland. That’s really saying something.”


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