'Staycations' are great, but we still prefer to travel overseas
DESPITE growing interest in recession-friendly 'staycations', statistics show that Irish people still spend four times as much on foreign travel as they do on domestic trips.
An impressive €5.34bn was spent on overseas trips by Irish residents last year, compared to the €1.34bn they spent on travel at home. This is the case even though the number of domestic trips taken actually exceeded those spent overseas.
Much of this can be attributed to the wanderlust of older Irish people. Foreign travel was almost three times more common amongst the over-50s in 2012 than within the under-19s demographic. Over-50s accounted for nearly half of all outbound trips taken during the year.
Both within and outside of national borders, travel spending more than doubles in the summer months. But even though airlines like Aer Lingus and Emirates are opening up new routes to the Middle East and North America, it appears that our travel preferences still lie within Europe.
The vast majority of Irish residents travelling abroad go to other EU countries, which accounted for about 85pc of all overseas trips last year. North America was the second most popular destination, followed by non-EU European countries.
Stays in the US and other faraway places like Asia and the Middle East lasted on average between 14 and 16 nights, while European trips averaged just eight nights.
Within Europe, the UK was by far the favourite destination, accounting for about a third of all outbound trips taken. Spain and Portugal rounded out the top three.
While airlines might be working hard to attract more business travellers, the majority of Irish people venturing abroad are still holidaymakers.
Holidays accounted for more than half of all foreign trips taken in 2012. Visiting family and friends was the second most common reason, followed by business travel, which accounted for just a tenth of volumes. These figures are also reflected in airline passenger analysis; just 15pc of Aer Lingus passengers last year were business travellers.
Foreign business trips also tend to be much shorter. The average length of stay last year was four nights compared to 9.5 nights for holidaymakers.
Despite the hotel and airline industries' efforts to get us to book directly, the majority of Irish travellers still put their faith in travel agents. Half of all travellers booked their foreign trip through an online agent in the first months of this year, while just over a quarter booked in person with an agent. Direct internet bookings made up just 16pc of trips.
When it comes to domestic travel, our preference is for the south and east, where we mostly prefer to stay with family and friends, followed by hotels and conference centres. Counties in the south and east enjoy more than double the cash injection from Irish tourists than counties in the border, midlands and west.