Forget staycations, we're off to the sun
Consumers ditch austerity breaks for 5-star holidays abroad
The era of austerity staycations appears to be over as Irish consumers splash their cash again in favour of foreign holidays.
Travel operators are reporting a significant increase in demand this year and predict foreign holidays will rise by 8pc in 2015.
And there is clear evidence that consumers are prepared to spend more on 4-star and 5-star holidays in a clear sign of increased consumer confidence.
Campaigning in the British general election, former Prime Minister Sir John Major suggested that more foreign holidays taken by UK residents is a sign of a "brighter future".
Now the latest confident predictions of more money spent on more foreign trips by Irish consumers will encourage Enda Kenny and his Government that there's an improved mood among the electorate ahead of Tuesday's spring statement.
Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) Chief Executive Pat Dawson told the Sunday Independent: "After Easter our members reported a surge of bookings. Ironically the good weather at home has actually encouraged people to travel abroad for guaranteed sunshine for their main holiday."
June, July and August are already heavily booked by the family market. Families generally book earlier to guarantee flights and accommodation during the busy school holiday period for their preferred destination. "But there is also heavy demand through to September and October," Mr Dawson said.
Demand is so strong that the travel trade is encouraging operators to move more flights to Shannon and Cork to take some of the pressure off Dublin Airport at peak times.
"What we have noticed is that, yes, people are looking for value but they are also prepared to spend more on better accommodation. They are not looking for "cheap as chips" holidays and will pay an extra €400, €500 or €600 on a good holiday this year," Mr Dawson said.
He said that the number of foreign holidays will increase by 8pc in 2015.
"That's based on a survey of our members," he said.
Mr Dawson also said that high-end holidays were becoming increasingly popular. "That was a difficult market for a few years but river cruises, ocean cruises and 4-star and 5-star hotel holidays are on the up. People are increasingly turning to all-inclusive deals where you pay up front for everything," he added.
Spain, Portugal and Italy are the most popular holiday destinations for Irish holidaymakers to visit in summer 2015, according to the latest ITAA quarterly survey. Italy has climbed two places since the same period in 2014 to claim the third spot, knocking the US down into fourth place. That may be linked to the strong dollar.
Dublin Airport is facing its busiest summer since 2008, when foreign travel by Irish citizens reached its peak.
But this year another 21 new routes will deliver almost two million extra seats. Among the new short-haul routes are Ryanair services to Copenhagen and Dublin, Aer Lingus direct flights to Agadir and Nantes, Wow Air flights to Reykjavik, a new SAS route to Gothenburg and Finnair flights to Helsinki.
Turkish Airlines began flying twice a day to Istanbul from Dublin from March 31.
As a result of increased demand, Dublin Airport Authority is spending €14m doubling the size of the Terminal 2 (T2) short-term car park.
Work has already begun on an extra four floors, which will provide an additional 1,400 car parking spaces.
Consumer sentiment improved sharply in Dublin in the first three months of this year as optimism about the economy increased and confidence about the outlook for jobs improved.
The KBC/ESRI Dublin Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 148.9 in the first quarter from 132.1 in the final quarter of last year.
And earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave an upbeat assessment, forecasting that the Irish economy will grow faster this year and next year than had been predicted in March. The IMF forecasts that gross domestic product (GDP) here will rise 3.9pc this year, better than the 3.5pc predicted in its most recent March report. The IMF is also expecting growth of 3.3pc in 2016, up from last month's forecast of 3pc.
The IMF said unemployment rates will also decline at a quicker pace than previously thought, to 9.8pc this year, and falling to 8.8pc in 2016.