Sunday 16 December 2018

Irish holidaymakers choose Spain, Portugal, and Florida for summer as Turkey, Egypt, Greece and France suffer

Summer holidays

The Algarve
The Algarve

Eugene Masterson

IRISH holidaymakers are flocking to Spain and Portugal in Europe and Florida in America in increasing numbers this summer due to mitigating security and economic factors.

But travel agents are warning that bargains will be few and far between on the Iberian peninsula and the Canaries as tourists from all over Europe flock there more than they’ve ever had before.

Industry experts note that countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Greece and even France are seeing much less demand because of the fears of terrorism and the refugee crisis.

And cruising has shot up dramatically this year, with nearly 40,000 Irish people set to set sail around the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

Some American cruise companies are even throwing in incentives for packages which feature daily passes for as much alcohol as you want to drink, which would normally cost €35 a day.

“People are very nervous about certain countries such as Turkey and Egypt has been affected quite a lot and anywhere troubled,” explains Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association.

“Paris has been hit as well, Disneyland is down, even for the Six Nations, and charters were down. Anywhere where people are nervous and uncomfortable the capacity has been reduced.”

He points out that the public are more informed about these regions social media and are monitoring what the Department of Foreign Affairs is saying about what countries to be careful of.

“The big winners are Spain and also Portugal in particular,” he notes. “United States traffic is also way up and that has a little bit to do with capacity, because when you put on extra capacity there’s always growth. The euro is also beginning to pick up.

“Since there is an improvement people are not chasing down cheap stuff, they’re buying up and they’re saying ‘if I’m going, I’m going for a minimum three, four, five star hotel and that end of the market is certainly good.

“We will have 38,000/39,000 people who will cruise as well. There is a comfortable safety thing about being on a cruise ship and there’s big growth there and competition there as well. “

He criticises some airlines for keeping fares up even though oil prices have decreased.

As for the Iberian peninsula:  “With the likes of Spain, they have put on capacity to Valencia, Bilbao, Santiago, so it’s not Malaga and the usual places. 1.5m trips from Ireland will be to Spain alone and there’s a big growth to Portugal, more so than anywhere else, probably because of their marketing.

“They are focusing away from the Algarve and Lisbon and focusing on country places that are not overpopulated or overcrowded as many people don’t want to be on a beach with 10,000 people, they want small places and meet the locals.

“The days of everyone going out for sunshine and lying out for hours and hours, apart form 18-year-old Leaving Certs, the rest want to see and experience the country.”

The Canaries is also more in demand and he points out that with the likes of more Russians going there it is increasing prices by up to 18%

The downside is that Russians have switched to the Canaries and prices there are up by 15% or 18%. CEO of ITAA.

Charlotte Brenner of Falcon/Thompson Holidays stresses that people “will have to shop around” it they want to get good deals for the Summer and she points out many people started booking from last June.

“Spain has always been our top market, especially Majorca,” she explains. “Lanzarote usually comes in second but this year we’re finding the Coast Dorado and Salou are vying with it and there’s big demand for there.

“We are also starting packages to Mexico and Jamaica and there’s a lot of enquiries for them”.

Among their offers is a seven night stay in Majorca on June 1 for €669.

Clem Walsh of Low Cost Holidays concurs that demand for Turkey has dramatically decreased this year, while there is little demand for Egypt and almost zero for Tunisia.

“There has been big increases in core destinations such as Spain, the Canaries and Portugal, especially the Algarve. The difficulty is Ireland probably isn’t unique in the European holiday market in that regard. You will probably see a similar pattern occurring in the UK market, the Germans, the Scandinavian and that’s going to push up demand and going to put pressure on volume and availability in these areas and ultimately you will probably see prices to go up.  If people don’t get in early the last minute deal might prove very expensive,” he notes.

“We haven’t seen a huge spike in prices yet but that’s going to happen as demand increases over the next few weeks. We haven’t seen a huge spike in prices yet but that’s going to happen as demand increases over the next few weeks. The majority of Irish holidaymakers, they don’t book, it’s the 8 to 10 week time you will find the majority of bookings will come in, so you will see demand kicking in in a big way for June and July, which is when the secondary school and primary schools are closed.

“You could see certain hotel groups up the prices and it will be quite normal and we would have to pass on the prices to the consumer.

“We are seeing a big increase in the likes of Orlando as the euro gets stronger against the dollar and there’s loads of capacity. It’s got a lot to offer even though it might be a little bit more expensive to get there from aviation from an aviation perspective.”

Clodagh Oxley of Visit USA highlights there was a 14pc increase in Irish visitors to America last year and she expects an even bigger increase in 2016.

Veronica Aherne, Tour America agrees that Orlando is big in demand this year.

“Orlando is always key for us for Summer and it has grown again this year, especially for June,” she says. “The second big trend we have seen is people doing the twin centre or Orlando and cruising out of Port Canaveral, so they are kind of the two biggest trends for Summer for us.

“We are doing a week in Orlando in June, prices were starting at €569 per person and that is flying out through London. Direct would be about €150 a head more expensive each, but it depends on availability and the season.

“Cruising out of Florida is absolutely huge this year.  People are diving in at the all-inclusive packages, which is brilliant. We are seeing a 35% increase in cruises out of Florida. People are going for the all-inclusive packages and many companies are offering 25% discounts on the third and fourth passenger, some occasions there was on board credit for $100 which could be used towards something else and most importantly there was free drinks packages, which are $40 (€35) per person per day for the basic package, so when you go on board your meals are already included and so too is the entertainment, so for that second week of your holiday it’s very reasonably priced.”

Lisa Fitzgerald, American Holidays, concurs that cruises are en vogue this year.

“Cruise and stay would be pretty big for us because May in particular is quite a good priced month for travel. A lot of last minute May and June good prices for Florida, so Orlando is up,” she notes.

“American has a price for 14 nights Orlando for €739pp departing June 26 staying at the International Palms Resort, for two adults and two children sharing.

“Also multi stays, like combining say New York and Vegas, or New York and Orlando, or Las Vegas and Mexico would also be very big. The Mexico package we offer is an all-inclusive so it’s extremely good value for money, the hotel rates in Vegas are cheaper than in other city destinations, so a very desired destination.

“Mexico has trended for us for numerous years, and our sister company Travel Mood has a four night stay in Vegas, and six nights in a five star all inclusive in Mexico would be about €2300 per person for the summer.

“The West Coast of America is also a popular choice, with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas."

Marie Claire Porter of Sunway say they no longer have packages to Agadir in Morocco as Ryanair and Aer Lingus have discontinued flights there, but Marrakesh is still an option, with packages for Club Med and flying with Ryanair from Dublin.

“Spain and the Canaries are always our busiest,” she says. “Orlando is also selling massively.”

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