Today, after months of preparation, thousands of votes and hours of agonising at the judges' table, our Reader Travel Awards finalists are revealed.
We asked; you delivered.
This year's shortlistees (below) are a snapshot of the destinations, businesses and attractions leading the way in Irish and overseas tourism - not as the industry sees it, but as you see it. It's grassroots feedback; that's why I love it and can't wait to reveal the winners at our awards ceremony in Dublin's Mansion House on January 17 (see below).
Your nominations also yield a treasure trove of trends.
It's clear, for example, that great local food is central to your trips, not just overseas but also here at home - from "spankingly fresh fish" to "weird and wacky" market fare. You love spectacular landscapes and urban buzz, but tend to distil holidays down to authentic experiences, lasting memories, great craic and the way people and places make you feel. Some are "a second home" or "a place to clear the head"; others are cited for personal service that "goes beyond the call of duty".
Think of the pilot welcoming a plane-mad six-year-old into the cockpit, the surprise brownie at check-in, thoughtful touches for guests with different needs, or the travel agent that "doesn't push you towards the most expensive option".
We live in an increasingly impersonal world. It's reassuring to see that, amidst all of this, the human touch remains at the heart of your holidays. We want our Reader Travel Awards, sponsored by Iarnród Éireann and supported by Ireland's Blue Book and the Italian National Tourist Board, to reflect that, rewarding the people, destinations and tourism businesses that keep things real and relatable.
Think of it as a ceád míle fáilte for the 2020s... right now, we're booking the first holidays of a new decade. These are the heroes you trust to take you there.
NB: Finalists are in alphabetical order.
What do you think of our finalists? Join the conversation using the hashtag #indotravelawards on social, tagging @indo_travel_ on Twitter or following @IndoTravel.ie on Facebook and @indo.ie_travel on Instagram.
This will be our most exciting awards reveal to date. For the first time, we’re announcing our winners at a premium luncheon ceremony — in Dublin’s Mansion House on Friday, January 17.
Anyone who follows our Reader Travel Awards knows this won’t be a typical corporate do. Hosted by Pól Ó Conghaile, Sinéad Ryan and featuring Francis Brennan, the lunchtime event promises a fun-filled afternoon celebrating Ireland’s travel heroes — chosen from the finalists on these pages. We’ll have tasty samples of great Irish food and drink, raffle prizes, luxury goodie bags with a difference, and an after-party.
Mixing pleasure and business? Our photo and video teams will be roving, and the awards are a unique chance to network with tourism-industry leaders and colleagues. You’ll also mingle with some of the Irish Independent’s top writers, editors and several surprise celebrity guests.
Bookings are now available for individual seats or tables of 10. Contact Judy Maguire at email@example.com or +353 (0)87 247 6769.
Reader competition winners
This year, we had eight super holidays to give away to those of you who voted in our Reader Travel Awards. And the winners are...
A week for two at the Golden Day Wings in Kusadasi, Turkey.
Winner: Seán Kelleher
ClickAndGo City Break
Choose between Rome, Prague or Berlin on this lovely short break.
Winner: Maeve Conroy
A two-night break for two at Ireland's leading destination spa in Enniscorthy.
Winner: Sarah Clarke
Heaven with Neven
Dinner for two with a stay at Neven Maguire's MacNean House in Co Cavan.
Winner: Mary Lonergan
Fly to London and stay with Jurys Inn and Leonardo Hotels.
Winner: Donal Lowry
Beautiful Boyne Valley
Two nights at the Decoy Country Cottages, with a spa treatment.
Winner: Keith Alexander
Ireland's Blue Book
A two-night stay with dinner at Donegal's Rathmullan House.
Winner: Catherine Burke
Derry Girls (and guys)
B&B, dinner and a Derry Girls tour for two in the Maiden City, thanks to Visit Derry.
Winner: Anne Marie Clarke
NB: The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards are proudly sponsored by Iarnród Éireann and supported by Ireland's Blue Book and the Italian National Tourist Board.