Canaries set to soar as holiday enquiries already up by 50pc
January travel sales
January is traditionally the peak month for travel bookings in Ireland, and this year's grim weather, improving economy and early booking offers mean 2016 is no exception.
"We saw enquiries take off at an unprecedented level last weekend," confirms Martin Skelly, President of the Irish Travel Agents' Association (ITAA) and Manager of Navan Travel.
Family enquiries are "multiples of what they were last year", Skelly adds, while sales of camping packages in France, Holland, Italy and Spain's Costa Brava signal "the fact that middle management Ireland is going back on holiday".
"Our bookings were up 50pc over the first four days of 2016," says Paul Hackett, CEO of Clickandgo.com. "We expect that trend to continue through January."
Sunway says its sales are up 20pc in comparison with 2015, a figure it expects to "grow considerably" in the coming weeks.
Don't expect the Canaries to be cheap and cheerful, however.
Recent terror attacks have pushed Egypt and Tunisia off the holiday brochures, Aer Lingus will stop flying direct to Morocco in March, and European holidaymakers searching for alternatives to North Africa have the archipelago firmly in their sights.
"There's been a rise on premium properties in all of the Canaries all over the winter period," says Martin Skelly. "Availability is still there, but we're definitely seeing customers going down a star level or stepping back from the beach to cope."
Operators such as Falcon Holidays and Clickandgo.com say competition should prevent summer prices being adversely affected, however.
"Some of the good, five-star properties are raising rates but that is down to demand from the German and Scandinavian markets," says Paul Hackett.
"The Scandinavians are winter travellers, so we don’t see any problems with value in our favourite Canary Island destinations over summer."
If holidaymakers are flexible, Hackett adds, this year's sweet spot for holiday bargains looks like April - following three weeks of Easter school holidays.
Beyond Spain, Irish tour operators are reporting strong early interest in the Algarve and cruise holidays. Long-haul specialist Travelmood says its hottest properties are all-inclusive resorts in Mexico.
"We've been inundated since we opened after Christmas," says Lisa Byrne of SHG Ireland, whose brands include Travelmood and American Holidays.
Orlando is its bestselling US destination so far this year, she says.
Airline sales are also in full swing this week, with Aer Lingus, CityJet, Emirates and Ryanair among those running special offers - although keen demand for direct transatlantic flights means they are not offering the same savings as short-haul flights, or indeed as this time last year.
And this year's bolter? With new properties coming onstream from Sunway and the collapse of its Russian market, Turkey is already looking like one of the savvy traveller's bargains of 2016.
Going to press, Sunway had weeklong packages from €374pp in May.