Sunseekers flee to warmer climes to take advantage of double holiday

HOLIDAYMAKERS are fleeing to the sun to take advantage of the earliest St Patrick’s and Easter holiday in living memory.

The timing of Easter Sunday on March 23 means two bank holidays are seven days apart, giving sunseekers more reason to flee rain-drenched Ireland.

And official figures released yesterday reveal holidaymakers are showing their appetite for foreign travel as trips abroad rose 11% to 584,400 in January.

Yesterday, travel agents said overseas holidays for the combined St Patrick’s and Easter fortnight had been sold out since November thanks to the unusual holiday dates in 2008.

“With the bank holidays and Good Friday as a closed day, people are going away for a fortnight but they’re only having to take six or seven days off work,” said Jack Sheill, of Cork-based Dawson Travel.

While St Patrick’s Day on March 17 and Easter Monday on March 24 are statutory holidays a number of employers also give their staff Good Friday as a day off, allowing workers to get two weeks off for the “price” of seven days’ annual leave.

“The St Patrick’s weekend and Easter are one after the other but the rest of the world knows nothing about it,” said Mr Sheill.

“The kids are off school too so people are using it to their advantage.”

Once families realised they were in for an Easter holiday bonanza they snapped up breaks to sun-kissed destinations like Spain’s Costa del Sol and the Canary Islands.

Budget Travel spokesman Clem Walshe said: “There’s very little left over the next few weeks as winter sales are very good at the moment.”

The last time Easter was so early was 95 years ago in 1913 and the next time the holy day will fall on March 23 will be in the year 2160.

The early Easter has also provided a holiday boom in April as schools trimmed their mid-term break in February and decided to use the days off in the last week of April to tie in with the May Day bank holiday.

Popular destinations for the late April and early May holiday include Portugal’s Algarve.

This year’s early holiday boom as well as changing trends in the holiday industry has seen travel agents as well as holidaymakers hold off booking summer breaks.

Among the hotly tipped destinations for summer is the Greek island of Santorini, which lies in the Aegean Sea and where temperatures hit the high 20s in August.

Budget Travel also said holidaymakers looking for sun this coming November were showing keen interest in winter holidays to the Dominican Republic and Cancun, in Mexico.

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