Irish holidaymakers are bucking the recession and spending millions to ensure a place in the sun, with demand for overseas flights the heaviest in years.
It seems the downturn has finally bottomed out for the travel industry, with thousands of families already booked to take their summer holidays, with Spain and Portugal particularly popular.
Just 30% of Irish people travelling abroad last cited business reasons.
For the first time since the recession began, the number of people booking holidays abroad is rising steadily, says the chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association, Pat Dawson.
“There is a general air of lift and people just want to get away, given the miserable weather we have had here in the past couple of years,” Mr Dawson said.
“They may not be boasting about it, and the days of taking a summer break and three winter weekends are gone, but things are getting back to normal.
“We had 10,000 at the match in Rome and all weekend flights over the Easter weekend are nearly full, so things are definitely looking up.
“There are many people who have just retired and are on good pensions, and there has certainly been growth in the number of older people booking holidays abroad, but they squeeze every ounce out of you.
“Corporate travel is also looking good with business people going abroad to show their wares.”
Mr Dawson said many travellers were returning to travel agents to book their holidays.
“I think there has been a bit of an overload on the internet and most people don’t have the time to go through all that information,” he said. “Slowly but surely they are coming back to the travel agent.”
However, the days of cheap flights are over, with air fares up 15%-20%. The prospects of a last-minute bargain are becoming more remote due to the massive reduction in package holidays, down from 1.2m in 2007 to just 225,000 this year.
Last week, the AGM of the ITAA in Dublin confirmed Mr Dawson’s assessment when it heard that overseas travel was up 4% last year and is expected to rise by 3% this year.
Despite the recession, 71% of people travelling are still doing so for holidays. Business travel still holds a steady percentage of the market with 16% travelling for work, while the effect of the economic downturn on emigration comes through with 13% travelling to visit friends and family abroad.
The ITAA also noted an increase in holiday-makers looking for a more ‘authentic’ break, including adventure experiences.
ITAA presidetnt Clare Dunne said that, despite the domestic economy, people still want to travel. She also highlighted the number of people employed in the travel industry and the importance of maintaining these jobs.
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