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Holiday hunters hit exhibition to beat the recession blues

AS the recession and wage cuts continue to bite, Irish people are cutting down to one holiday a year -- but are spending more time planning to ensure the perfect break.

New statistics show that package holidays out of Ireland are down enormously -- from a peak of one million seats in 2006 to 400,000 last year, with a growing majority of people taking scheduled flights and arranging their own holidays online.

However, this means that there will be plenty of package bargains -- with value for money being the top priority for visitors to the Holiday World Show, which was opened yesterday at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin by Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin.

Ms Hanafin said the show was a great "showcase for the world" and an even better one for Ireland.

Organisers said this year's show is about "deals, deals, deals" along with expert advice for those seeking a well-earned break from reality.

Turkey is expected to be one of the hottest destinations in 2011 for Irish holidaymakers, with a new charter route from Dublin. New and exciting destinations like Ethiopia, Syria and Aruba have also come onto their radar.

The most show-stopping event yesterday was a special appearance by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary fielding questions from the general public.

He quipped that he had "absolutely no idea" why he was there at all since it was a show featuring travel agents and tour operators.

"Don't waste your time with tour operators -- the only way you'll get the lowest fares is if you book on the Ryanair website," he told the laughing crowd.

Pat Dawson, president of the Irish Travel Agents Association, said the Irish holiday market is on a very sound footing. "We see the recession as an opportunity. Prices right now are cheaper than ever," he said.

The Holiday World Show will run until tomorrow.

Irish Independent