Irish shun island after murder of Michaela
IRISH honeymooners are continuing to spurn the holiday island of Mauritius more than eight months after the tragic death of Michaela Harte.
Travel agents cautioned that the lull in popularity was partly due to the death of the former Ulster Rose and daughter of Tyrone GAA legend Mickey Harte, but also partly due to the lure of lower-cost, all-inclusive packages to cheaper sun locations.
Brian McCarthy, from We Travel To, a Topflight subsidiary, said the level of business it undertook with the luxury Legends Hotel in Mauritius had fallen substantially since newly-wed John McAreavey found his 27-year-old wife dead in their honeymoon suite in January.
"Up until recently, 1,000 couples (a year) travelled to the Legends resort -- in the last five-years, it was one of the big sellers out of Ireland," Mr McCarthy said.
However, he estimated now that around 100 couples would travel from Ireland to the resort in a 12-month period.
Joanne Coll, long-haul traffic manager with Twohigs Worldwide Holidays, said it had a couple currently staying at the resort who along with other customers had declined the option to change their original booking to another hotel.
"It will bounce back. The Irish market has been the worst affected by the tragedy," Ms Coll said.
However, the luxury resort remains busy with international guests from outside Ireland.
Brian Sargent, sales director with Tropical Sky Luxury Holidays, said hotels in the Mauritius region had responded to the worldwide recession by lowering their prices.
Awareness of the death remains strongest in Ireland, with two hotel workers alleged to have killed Ms Harte due to be tried before a jury in Mauritius.
Meanwhile, Mickey Harte supported Drumragh GAA Club as they kicked a ball from their grounds outside Omagh, Co Tyrone, overnight to the gates of Croke Park to raise money for the Michaela Foundation, set up in his late daughter's name to help disadvantaged children.
Ms Harte's brother Mark and Mr McAreavey also took part.
Event co-ordinator and Drumragh Club member Gerry McGurgan said it had been a major logistical operation to organise 150 people to kick a ball overnight 115 miles, with 36,000 on-the-ball solos along the way for the foundation.