Luxury holidays surge to return to boom-time high
Luxury holidays are back, as tens of thousands jet out for their first five-star vacation since the economic crash, travel experts say.
From deluxe, all-inclusive, river and sea cruises, to lavish stays in some of Europe's leading hotels, the boom-time Irish clientele have returned.
And it's not just well-heeled tourists that are willing to splash the cash for an idyllic getaway.
Over the next two weeks, more than 15,000 Leaving Cert students will arrive in the club land heavens of Magaluf, Ibiza, Santa Ponsa and the Greek islands to shake off post-exam stress.
The majority booked their trips up to 10 months in advance. Although parents are mostly left to foot the bill, the holiday has become an incentive to encourage their children to study hard and achieve high marks.
Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA), says the Leaving Cert holiday surge suggests that fears around spending have finally been assuaged.
"The surge this year is certainly an indication that certain sections of the public have extra money to spend. Leaving Cert holidays, ski holidays and trips to Lapland in particular took a big knock during the recession. Now, luxury holidays are back to where they were pre-bust," he said.
He says almost 40,000 Irish will be cruising the Mediterranean with their families this summer, with stops-offs in Rome, Malaga and Greece.
"Up until recent years, it was always the senior generation that went on cruises but now an awful lot are going with their families because it's all-inclusive. You buy a package including all your food and board, so they are a hugely attractive option," he said.
Five-star deluxe river cruises, worth up to €3,000, are also on the rise.
"People are prepared to pay big money for a good product, but it must be top notch. For the first time in years they are willing to pay out for an extra star to get the quality," Mr Dawson told the Sunday Independent.
According to the ITAA, the days of staying in cheap apartments or standard hotels is over. However, people are being sensible about budgeting by going back to the old-fashioned way of booking very early with a travel agent.
Despite the deadly terror attacks in France and Belgium and the ongoing threat of Isil, the Irish have not been deterred. But Mr Dawson says the Irish are avoiding the most at-risk destinations.
"There is at least a 40pc cutback in flights to Turkey. There is no demand for flights to Tunisia and no demand for Egypt. It's the same all around Europe. The Germans, Norwegians, are shying away from those areas too and they are competing with us for accommodation in Spain, Portugal and France. Four million Germans would have usually summered in Turkey," he said.
But high demand for these countries is affecting price. Tourism experts believe the negative spin-offs will hit in the coming winter months.
"It will have a knock on affect, particularly when people start chasing winter sun in the Canary Islands. We expect prices to be up 10-15pc," he said.
According to the latest CSO figures, the number of trips made by Irish residents overseas increased by 13pc between the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of this year - almost 800,000 booked holidays between January and March.
Sarah Slattery, travel expert, says it's been the biggest year recorded by travel agents since 2007. However, she offers a word of advice to all exam students jetting off.
"No matter what time you get in, even if it's 6am, just send a quick text to mammy to say 'I'm home safe'. That way, no one will be worrying," she said.