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Sunshine Saturday: We're all going on a summer holiday

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Holidays are on the up in 2015

Holidays are on the up in 2015

Holidays are on the up in 2015

After a long, hard week's work in the ice-strewn capital, Bronwyn O'Brien from Ashbourne can't wait to relax with a cup of tea and pile of holiday brochures this weekend.

Like so many others across the country, the busy mum was forced to tighten her belt when her eldest child went off to college four years ago, and hasn't been away since.

With daughter Megan about to graduate though, now she's hoping to finally treat herself to a sun-drenched escape with pals this summer.

"When my daughter went to college, that took up all the money," says Bronwyn, who's general manager of Printcom in Malahide Road Industrial Estate. "There wasn't any extra money.

"Ever since Jack, my son, was four and Megan was seven, we've gone away every year for two weeks to Minorca, Nerja or Florida. But 2010 was the last big family holiday.

"As the manager of a printing company, I work quite long hours," she adds. "So I can't wait to recharge my batteries and get some guaranteed sunshine this summer.

"Unfortunately, the days of the big American holiday are over - but I've already been in to The Travel Broker in Clontarf looking at a week in Gran Canaria!"

But the mum-of-two isn't the only one planning to evoke Cliff Richard by going on a long-awaited summer holiday later this year.

Up to 60,000 sun-seekers are expected to descend on the RDS in Dublin for The Holiday World Show 2015 next weekend.

And it's more than just wishful thinking, with many travel agents reporting a January sales spike.

"Today is known as 'Sunshine Saturday' in the industry," says John Spollen of Cassidy Travel, one of Ireland's leading travel agents. "It's the most popular Saturday of the year for booking summer sun holidays, so we're expecting to be really, really busy.

"Irish people tend to work very hard for the whole year. We like our week or two weeks' holiday, or whatever it is, and we're back into the trend of planning ahead.

"I would say sales in our high street travel shops are up between 20 and 30pc since 2013."

Despite only being 17 days into the new year, in a recent survey by Hotels.com, 80pc of people admitted they were already thinking about how to use their annual leave.

"You can ring every travel agent in the country and they'll say, 'I'm up 10 or 15pc'," says Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association [ITAA], "but one of the real signs of recovery to me was the fact that charters to Lapland, which were [previously] cancelled because the money wasn't there, were completely sold out this Christmas.

"Everyone is saying this is improving and that is improving, but you have to see it before you believe it. At the moment, there's certainly an upswing in holiday [bookings].

"It's early days, but I'd be far more optimistic this year than I was last year anyway."

Bagging a bargain on an exotic escape to sun-kissed Kusadasi or the Maldives is certainly one way to beat the January blues, reckons Tanya Airey of Sunway Holidays: "This time of year is always our busiest. It's when people are really starting to think about their holidays.

"Really, really popular last year, but even more so this year is Florida," she says. "From a European point of view, Turkey is probably our busiest destination because it's so reasonable - a four-star hotel starts at €359 per person for a week, including flights.

"With Ethiopian Airlines' new route from Dublin to Addis Ababa this summer, a lot of people are also looking at going somewhere new like Zanzibar - a real paradise with beautiful white, sandy beaches and clear water."

"I think the dollar is going to be very influential this year," adds Pat Dawson of the ITAA. "People who want to go more than six hours will almost certainly go [to the States].

"For a lot of people with families, a three-hour flight is long enough, so the vast majority - about 1.2 million people - will go to Spain. Ultimately, the deciding factor is airfare - people will go where the airfare is cheapest."

Having 'staycationed' with her sister in Kinnity, Co Offaly for the past four years, and with a budget of around €350, Bronwyn O'Brien says she'd just be happy to see the inside of a plane.

"Although I didn't mind holidaying at home, there's nothing like getting on an airplane and feeling the heat hit your face the minute you arrive," she tells. "When you book a holiday, part of the excitement is looking forward to it. It really does keep you going.

"I would hope to get away for €300-€350," adds Bronwyn. "It's been so long since I was away, even a week in the sun would be enough. You come back rejuvenated and ready to tackle anything."

With Sunway offering all-inclusive sun holidays from just €329 until midnight tomorrow, it remains to be seen exactly how many others will follow in her jet stream by leaving "stunningly scenic" Ireland - voted one of the top 10 countries to visit in 2015 by Lonely Planet earlier this month - behind this summer.

"I suppose for us 2013 was our quietest year," says Tanya Airey. "Two factors there [were] the recession and the fact that the weather was so amazing in Ireland.

"During the summer, if it's raining for a few days, it's really busy. But also, if the sun comes out, it actually spurs people on to book a holiday because they go, 'God, I would love this every day'."

So does the early bird really catch the rays this Sunshine Saturday?

"There are definitely savings to be made if you take a package holiday," says John Spollen of Cassidy Travel, which has sun holidays from €109 per person, "and the earlier you book, the better it is for most destinations, especially if you're travelling in high season.

"In terms of sun holidays, the top growth destinations are still the Balearic Islands - Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza - and Florida. The key word in helping people save money on their holidays is 'flexibility'. For example, if you travel on Tuesday or Wednesday, the fare is invariably less expensive than it is at the weekend.

"If I could offer just one tip to holiday-hunters this January, it's to go check your passport, and check your children's passports," he adds. "If they're out of date, update them now!"

The Holiday World Show in Dublin takes place at the RDS Simmonscourt from January 23-25. See www.holidayworldshow.com

Indo Review