"We're busy booking 2015 holidays" as last-minute availability dwindles
In further signs of recovery, a leading Irish travel agent has said his company is busy handling bookings... for 2015.
“Normally this time of year we’re just sending people on summer holidays," says John Spollen of Cassidy Travel.
"This year, demand is outstripping supply and last-minute deals are not as plentiful. It's very unusual, but we've been busy with people booking holidays for 2015," the Dublin-based agent said.
Spollen offered a variety of reasons for the surge, including holidaymakers' concerns that they may miss out on their first choices if they hold off too long, and families simply catching up on holidays they missed during the downturn.
"Travel is back. Booking patterns are returning to what they used to be many years ago when people planned travel a year and more in advance."
Tour operator lowcostholidays.ie has also announced a surge in late bookings.
Here at home, sentiment was further buoyed by CSO figures that showed a 10% increase in overseas visitors to Ireland over the first half of 2014.
However, others are playing down talk of a rebound, citing a historically low supply of holidays.
Package holiday sales have fallen from a peak over over 1.2 million in 2007 to a forecast of fewer than 200,000 this year, according to the Irish Travel Agents' Association (ITAA).
Any spike in demand, in other words, was always likely to squeeze supply.
Last-minute availability has further been impacted by Thomas Cook's withdrawal from the Irish market earlier this year. The move took some 60,000 charter seats out of the market.
"People are definitely booking ahead for 2015," said Pat Dawson, CEO of the ITAA. "But it's not a significant phenomenon, and it's not in large numbers."
"Families might be booking for next year, for example. They might chase a particular accommodation they've been to before. But most ordinary holidaymakers won't start looking until October or November."
Overall, Dawson describes the recovery as "a slow burn".
"This year will be up, but in single digits. I don't think it will be any more."