Package holidays return as 400,000 sign up
MORE than 400,000 Irish holidaymakers are expected to travel on traditional package holidays this year.
The industry reported very strong bookings, with some tour operators reporting their best January since the economic collapse.
Although new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has threatened to limit all-inclusive holiday packages, saying they are of little value to the local economy, these all-in deals are very popular with consumers seeking greater certainty on cost.
Flan Clune of the Irish Tour Operators Federation said there were around 400,000 package holidays on offer this year, up from 340,000 in 2014.
A higher number had been anticipated last year, but the withdrawal of Thomas Cook from the Irish market reduced the availability of such holidays, even though demand was up, he said.
Charlotte Brenner of Falcon Thomson said that bookings for 2015 had been strong even before Christmas.
All-inclusive holidays are increasingly popular option with Irish holidaymakers, who like being able to pay off their full holiday costs in phased payments prior to departure.
Book the best value package holiday deals on Independent Travel here.
"It used to be that 80pc of holidays on offer were self-catering and the other 20pc were all other types - including B&B, half-board and all-inclusive - whereas now you're looking at 50/60pc self-catering and 40pc other types.
"Families really like the option of knowing that all their costs are paid for already, and they don't have to factor in loads of extras like drinks and ice creams, which can really add up," she said.
Some all-in packages worked out at €20 per person per extra day for all food, drinks and sometimes snacks and entertainment, she said.
Sample all-in packages include €789 per person for a week at a five-star hotel in Crete in June, or €1,829 for two adults and a child at a three-star hotel in Lanzarote in July.
The Greek threat to limit all-in packages appears to have been pre-Budget sabre-rattling. The new deputy tourism minister has already rowed back on it, she said.
Tanya Airey of Sunway Holidays also said its bookings had been very strong in January.
"I'd say 2013 was the worst year ever, as the good weather meant we could not sell last-minute holidays.
But last summer, even though the weather was also good, there was pent-up demand for a holiday from people who hadn't gone away in 2013," she said.
Spain was always number one with Irish people, particularly families, but Turkey was up and coming because you got "more bang for your buck" with four-star hotels from €379 for a week.
She said it was unlikely Greece could do much to stop all-in packages, though Turkey has stipulated that 90pc of staff must be local people to ensure the economy benefits.
John Devereux of American Holidays and Crystal Holidays said that bookings for its tailor-made packages had risen this January, with the American market boosted by very good value on airfares - despite the recent weakening of the euro currency.
"It's very strong compared to last year, we've had the busiest January in six years," he said.
Official statistics show that Britain is the most popular destination with Irish people racking up 2.4 million visits a year, though a large portion of this would be business trips and visits to family.
Of the primarily holiday destinations, Spain is by far the most popular choice, attracting 1.4 million visitors.
More than half a million people a year visit France, 330,000 travel to Italy and over 400,000 people journey to the US or Canada each year.