Irish to splash €750,000 on holidays during weekend travel show
With January bookings on the rise, this is an 'exciting time' to be a travel agent, reports Pól Ó Conghaile
One says sales are up 17pc. Another is already taking bookings for Lapland in December. And more than 1,000 travel professionals are headed for Holiday World today.
Could the death of the travel agent have been exaggerated?
"This is a very exciting time in the industry," says John Spollen of Cassidy Travel, reporting a 5pc rise in bookings compared to January of last year.
"Sentiment is very high, along with customer confidence," he adds, with Spain and Portugal the most popular bookings for families this month, and Florida, the Caribbean and Canada seeing the benefit of a boom in transatlantic air routes.
"Overall bookings are up 17pc," reports Paul Hackett of ClickAndGo.com.
The rise is driven by the company's €1 holiday deposit offer, he says, along with a "buoyant market" and extra air capacity, among other factors.
January is traditionally a busy month for holiday bookings, as consumers look past the post-Christmas gloom and travel agents kick-start sales for the year.
But even so, 2019 appears to be off to a flying start.
Half of all travel agents expect turnover to increase by up to 20pc this year, according to a new quarterly survey by the Irish Travel Agents' Association (ITAA).
And this weekend's Holiday World Show - a bellwether for the state of Ireland's travel industry - brings a record number of US exhibitors and its biggest ever Home Holiday Pavilion to Dublin's RDS Simmonscourt.
Some 55 countries are represented at the show's 29th edition, with organisers expecting over €750,000 worth of holidays to sell in just three days.
Ireland's bookings boom
Ireland's bookings boom comes despite broader concerns about Brexit, a global economic slowdown and rising VAT rates in the hospitality industry.
So how are Irish travel agents proving so resilient?
"There is great value to be had from travel agents," says Paula Coughlan of Dawson Travel, one of the exhibitors at the Cork International Travel Fair - another travel show taking place at the Cork International Hotel from February 2-3.
"We have excellent buying power and work with airlines, tour operators and hotels to get the best deals on all travel products."
Sunway's sales are up 12pc this January, it says, driven by early booking discounts and a low deposit offer of €50, among other factors.
Other travel agents reporting a rise in bookings include Killarney Travel (+8-10pc), GoHop.ie (+8pc) and SunSearch (+5pc), with others reporting sales "on a par" with January of 2018, according to the ITAA.
"The indications are that we will see a further splurge when people get paid after Christmas," adds Martin Skelly of Navan Travel.
From Cuba to the Canary Islands...
"The Canaries, Balearics, Algarve and Costa del Sol are getting a large share of our European bookings," says Peter Brazil of Limerick Travel, reporting increased sales of up to 6pc this month.
Disneyland Paris and Las Vegas top his short break sales for January, while Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico are popular with long-haul travellers.
"Bookings are already coming in for Lapland next December," Brazil adds.
Despite the January tailwinds, travel agents will not be breaking out the bubbly just yet. For many, resilience has been forged over years of boom-and-bust cycles - and the effect of 2018's heatwave on last-minute bookings is fresh in the mind.
Fab 5: January travel offers
€1: ClickAndGo.com is offering the chance to book with a €1 deposit. A second deposit of €150 is due within four weeks, with the balance payable 10 weeks before departure.
€499pp: Tour America has a seven-night package to Orlando from €499pp as part of its Holiday World offers. The trip departs April 30, and is based on 2+2 sharing. touramerica.ie
20pc: Ryanair has a seat sale with 20pc off select fares from April to June. Check availabilty on its website at ryanair.com.
€499pp: Cassidy Travel has a four-night break to Rome to see Ireland take on Italy in the Six Nations. It includes flights to Rome, match tickets and accommodation at the 3-star Milani Hotel. cassidytravel.ie
10pc: Camino Ways is offering 10pc off bookings during the show, as well as a prize of a week for two on the Camino. caminoways.com
Holiday World (holidayworldshow.com; €7/€4/€3) is from Jan 25-27; the Cork International Travel Fair (corkinternationaltravelfair; free) runs from Feb 2-3.
NB: All prices subject to availability/change.
Read more:The 2019 Wander List: 20 hottest places to travel this year