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Staycations and solo travel on the rise as 40,000 to visit Dublin's Holiday World

Even politicians broke from the campaign trail to attend the launch of the 30th annual Holiday World Show...

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Michelle Whelan, from Lough Rynn Castle with Phyl Foley, from Leitrim Tourism, trying the new VR experience at Holiday World. Photo: Colm Mahady / Fennell Photography

Michelle Whelan, from Lough Rynn Castle with Phyl Foley, from Leitrim Tourism, trying the new VR experience at Holiday World. Photo: Colm Mahady / Fennell Photography

Colm Mahady / Fennells

Everlyn Monasterio, Venezuela, at the opening of the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron.

Everlyn Monasterio, Venezuela, at the opening of the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron.

Eddie McGuinness of The Outing Festival with Minister Shane Ross at the opening of the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron

Eddie McGuinness of The Outing Festival with Minister Shane Ross at the opening of the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron

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Michelle Whelan, from Lough Rynn Castle with Phyl Foley, from Leitrim Tourism, trying the new VR experience at Holiday World. Photo: Colm Mahady / Fennell Photography

Solo travel and staycations, VR and camper vans, safaris and cruise ships. This weekend, it feels like the world is under one roof in Dublin.

Over 2,000 travel industry professionals have taken their stands at the annual consumer show, which runs at the RDS Simmonscourt until Sunday.

As well as stalwarts like Spain, France and Portugal, the first of 40,000 expected punters were taking tote bags and travel queries between new exhibitors including Argentina, Colombia and Peru, as well as Jordan, Korea and Jamaica.

"Bookings seem to be up about 12pc on last year," said Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents' Association, who has this week been taking straw polls of January holiday sales among members throughout the country.

"Saturday and Sunday are the big days at Holiday World and we always get a boost for the week. So far so good... we feel positive about it."

"There is a great sense of excitement running through the Holiday World Show as new and exotic locations are unveiled," pitched in Minister for Tourism, Shane Ross, who broke from his General Election campaign to open proceedings.

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Eddie McGuinness of The Outing Festival with Minister Shane Ross at the opening of the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron

Eddie McGuinness of The Outing Festival with Minister Shane Ross at the opening of the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron

The show isn't just about overseas trips, of course - several aisles in the main hall have been transformed into mini-Main Streets celebrating staycations.

Minister Ross highlighted the "great importance" of tourism to Ireland's economy, though he'll also be aware of a hot doorstep issue for many hospitality businesses - continued frustration at his government's 50pc VAT hike.

Behind the colourful Home Holiday stands, of course, lies an industry of small businesses that could also tell you a thing or two about insurance hikes.

With consumers, however, the exhibitors radiate holiday energy.

Holiday World is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and attendees can expect lots of show-only competitions, attractions and special offers.

Irish Independent Reader Travel Award winners are well-represented on the floor, from Cassidy Travel (named Ireland's Favourite Travel Agent) to Galway (Ireland's Favourite Home Holiday) and Royal Caribbean (Ireland's No.1 cruise line).

"We're really excited about the Irish market," said Martin MacKinnon, Royal Caribbean's UK & Ireland Sales Director, who revealed that one third of Irish customers booking with his line are taking a floating holiday for the first time.

Solo travel is a growing trend for 2020, with one tour operator, Travel Department, seeing a growth of 150pc in bookings for its solo holidays.

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Everlyn Monasterio, Venezuela, at the opening of the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron.

Everlyn Monasterio, Venezuela, at the opening of the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt in Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron.

"Group travel is ideal for solo travellers, as it gives them the opportunity to travel with like-minded people," said its Managing Director Sara Zimmerman, who added that the company is mounting extra tours for 2020 with no single supplements.

Rail travel is also on the up, Zimmerman said, while other companies like G Adventures have been busy flagging a boom in adventure holidays.

G's new range of 'Family Journeys' with National Geographic has multi-day itineraries to places as diverse as Morocco, Japan and the Galapagos. Prices start from around €1,999pp for nine days excluding flights.

Of course, you don't have to spend a fortune to escape.

"The range of options for holidays in Ireland has increased drastically in recent years," noted Deputy Dublin Lord Mayor, Councillor Tom Brabazon.

And Leitrim has come up with an innovative way to browse them.

New to the show is a Leitrim Tourism and Waterways Ireland "Slow Adventure" Virtual Reality initiative (pictured top) - immersing visitors in walking, cycling, canoeing and river cruising experiences along the county's Shannon Blueway.

It comes as Fáilte Ireland prepares to launch its biggest ever domestic marketing campaign, a €6m push to "Keep Discovering" this spring.

Holiday World continues until Sunday. holidayworldshow.com

Online Editors