Holiday demand catches travel agents by surprise

TRAVEL agents around the country are taking on extra staff to deal with the large volume of holiday queries.

Chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), Pat Dawson, said the level of enquiries by eager Irish holiday- makers was an unexpected but welcome development.

“The level of demand since the New Year has actually caught our members by surprise. It’s been so busy that travel agents across the country in places like Cork, Galway and Dublin are reporting that they have had to take on seasonal staff to deal with the demand,” he said.

The numbers of enquiries seem to point to a revival in the package holiday.

Whereas in the boom years people would have simply booked their holiday themselves, low prices, convenience and the hassle free nature of the all-inclusive package is once again luring Irish holidaymakers.

Travel operators have trimmed overseas holiday packages back to 1987 levels.

Package providers have reduced charter capacity by a further 10% in 2012 amid fears of a further depression in the sun holiday market.

The move follows a similar cut in winter charter seats from a peak of 270,000 down to 40,000 for this season.

Latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show in the period from September to November 2011, the total number of overseas trips made by Irish people decreased by 3.7% to 1,522,200 when compared to the same period in 2010.

He said families and couples planning their honeymoon were primarily the type of people looking to book holidays in the New Year.

“People are really looking for value. It’s mainly families coming in and honeymoon couples. Things like cruises and all inclusive packages are really in demand at the moment,” he said.

Mr Dawson said that after a number of years of austerity, Irish people may be seeing 2012 as the year to take a trip abroad:

“I think because of the austerity of the past few years, people just haven’t gone away.

“As well as that, the last few summers have been poor in terms of weather so people might be saying that this is the year they will finally get away for a few days,” he said.

Cloudy skies

The number of summer package holidays sold over the years:

* 1995: 363,000

* 2000: 1,087,000

* 2005: 969,000

* 2009: 420,000

* 2011: 243,000

Bargain hols

* Algarve

From January 30 to February 6 for €235 per person sharing, you can stay in a three-star self-catering apartment for seven nights (three adults sharing).

* Costa del Sol

From January 25 to February 1 for €299 per person sharing, you can star in a two-star self-catering apartment in Torremolinos for seven nights (three adults sharing).

* Tour America

Summer Mediterranean cruise offers from €659 per person on selected dates. This includes return flights to Rome including taxes and charges, return transfers to Rome Airport and to Civitavecchia Cruise Port, seven nights onboard MSC Sinfonia (based on two adults sharing), all meals and entertainment.

Ports of Call: Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy — Salerno, Italy — La Goulette, Tunisia — Ibiza, Spain (overnight) — Palma de Mallorca, Spain — Marseille, France — Genoa, Italy — Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy.

* Trailfinders

Elegant Hotels, a collection of luxury resorts on the Caribbean island of Barbados, are offering Trailfinders clients discounts of up to 40% in 2012.

The 4+ star Colony Club by Elegant Hotels, seven nights from €1,299, includes flights from Dublin or Cork with British Airways, all taxes and charges, return transfers, daily breakfast and a 40% room discount, saving €465 per person. Valid for selected departures June 1 to September 24, 2012. Book by January 24.

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