According to the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), recent terror attacks in places such as Egypt and Tunisia have resulted in Irish people rushing to book alternatives such as the Canary Islands and the Iberian Peninsula, which have seen a large increase in bookings during the winter period.
The ITAA said 75% of its members expect Spain to be their most popular destination this year, while Portugal has also seen a large portion of family holiday bookings.
With advance bookings at some of the highest levels in years, some travel agents have warned it could lead to higher holiday prices for those who don’t book early.
Earlier this month, British travel company TUI, which owns operators Thomson and First Choice, said summer holiday bookings to Turkey had fallen by 40% after recent terrorist attacks.
TUI also said holiday bookings to Tunisia and Egypt had also been hit by terrorism fears, and that even Paris had been affected due to the IS attacks carried out there last November.
The threat of IS has influenced Irish tourists and they are heeding the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which advised tourists to “exercise caution” if visiting Turkey, as the threat from terrorism there “remains high”. It has advised against “all non-essential travel” to Tunisia and Egypt. It also warned of “a heightened threat of terrorist incidents, including targeted attacks against foreigners, and a continuing threat of civil unrest” in Egypt.
Two attacks in March and June in Tunisia last year left almost 60 people dead, including three Irish people.
Thousands of tourists left the region in the aftermath of the attacks which were claimed by IS. In October, a Russian plane which had taken off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh crashed killing 224 people in what was a suspected terrorist attack. The resort has been described as a “ghost town” in the months since. In the last two months there have been explosions in the Turkish capital Ankara and Istanbul.
ITAA CEO Pat Dawson said it was clear that Irish holidaymakers were “uneasy” about travelling to regions that have been affected by terrorist attacks in recent months.
“All our members are saying Turkey is slow to move at present,” said Mr Dawson. “The Sunway Cork to Turkey charter is gone for example. There is nothing to Tunisia — that’s not going to happen. However, that part of the world and, in particular Turkey, is often a late-seller also, which can lead to good prices. However, there’s no doubt that people are uneasy. As a result, people are flocking to Spain. We expect 1.5m Irish people to go there this year, that’s up from 1.3m last year.”
Editor of Travel Extra, Eoghan Corry, said if German tourists abandon their traditional summer destination of Turkey and head for Spain, it could put pressure on prices Irish customers pay.
“The key is not what we do but what could happen if 25m Germans decide they don’t want to go to Turkey as they usually do and go and throw their beach towels over the whole of Spain,” he said.
“Suddenly, you have a big displacement problem and the pressure on places for Irish holidaymakers. Aer Lingus and Ryanair have both told me that advance bookings to Spain are the highest they’ve seen.”