The Holiday World Show is up and running at Dublin's RDS. Pól Ó Conghaile has the latest news, tips and insights.
Holiday World has well and truly taken off.
The pavilions are up, the costumes are on, the Ethiopian coffee is brewing and of course, the serious business of holiday planning is underway.
Here's the lowdown!
The 2017 Visit USA Pavilion is the largest ever with 46 exhibitors offering Irish holidaymakers the chance to meet travel professionals from right across the US and take advantage of oodles of show-only deals.
What's new? Lots. But did you know New York City's only outlet destination - Empire Outlets (empireoutletsnyc.com) - opens this winter?
Ashley Toft, Managing Director with UK-based adventure travel company Explore (explore.co.uk), says 62pc of his customers are solo travellers.
Like G Adventures, Explore is redoubling its presence in Ireland this year, aiming to tap into a burgeoning demand for new destinations and ways of travel (his company offers 550 itineraries in 120 countries).
Its top destinations for Irish customers? Italy, Vietnam and South Africa - book at Holiday World, and you get €60 off any trip.
'There's a lot of money out there,' says Andre Migliarina (pictured).
'Some Irish People are spending €100,000 on holidays. It's not irregular. They are definitely out there.'
After I caught my breath, Andre talked me through his new company - from the stable of GoHop.ie. The Safari Expert (thesafariexpert.com), set up 18 months ago, offers a tantalising selection of carefully crafted bespoke trips.
Some destinations you might expect (Kenya is popular, for example). Some you might not... like Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
'There's more leopards in Sri Lanka than any other country,' Andre says.
He also tips South Africa for 2017. 'Just book early. It's zika-free, and it's totally booking up early with the weak rand. October to March is best.'
Fáilte Ireland will be joining the Home Holiday Pavilion at Holiday World to showcase their Virtual Reality (VR) headset and allow visitors to experience 360° views of the Wild Atlantic Way live from the show. Tourism Minister Shane Ross even stopped by for a go of the goggles (above)... Just don't fall over!
Eoghan Corry is Ireland's most experienced travel journalist, and his free travel summits always attract a crowd. Pop by early to nab a seat!
Royal Caribbean, voted Ireland's Favourite Cruise Line in our Reader Travel Awards, is aiming to double its business here over the next five years.
Irish customers tend to be younger than their UK counterparts (an average age of 45, versus 49), Ben Bouldin, the company's Managing Director for UK & Ireland, told me - adding that the company loves welcoming them on board.
Just one thing. 'I'm trying to get Irish customers to book a bit earlier,' Ben said. 'The Irish can book late, but Royal Caribbean generally books up early, and the global recovery means there is less choice for late bookers.'
His tip for 23017? Try Barcelona in summer. Freedom of the Seas is based in the city, and good air access means fares are low.
Ernest Shackleton may have got a frosty reception on his most famous expeditions, but you'll find nothing of the sort in Kildare.
In 2017, the county will add the actual Antarctic cabin in which he died to the Athy Heritage Centre Museum - quote a coup for this small town.
A mushrooming Kildare Village continues to attract shoppers, too.
Special offers at Holiday World include a 'Kildare Shopping Getaway Special' bundling two nights' B&B at the Clanard Court Hotel with one dinner, afternoon tea, a VIP Day Card for Kildare Village and more from just €175 for two people.
The Outing (theouting.ie) LGBT Music & Matchmaking Festival takes place from October 6-8 in Lisdoonvarna. Now in its fifth year, it's going from strength to strength with its pop-up clubs, comedy, live music and craic-free events. It's the only openly gay company at Holiday World, Eddie McGuinnes (above, left) tells me!
As if we needed another reason to visit Cornwall, direct flights from Cork Airport kick off this May. Amy Smith of Cornwall Airport Newquay was delighted with the news, and shared her tips on the best times to visit.
If you're flexible, May and September/October offer sweet weather without the traffic and crowds, Amy advised, while Irish families can skip any overlap with UK school holidays by visiting during the first week in June or early to mid-July.
The favourable exchange rate, the re-opening of the Tate St Ives (end of March) and several new hotels (including one at the Eden Project in 2018) ensure this traditional holiday destination is keeping up the modern momentum.
With Aer Lingus also offering seven flights a week from Dublin in peak season, could it be an alternative to the increasingly crowded Spain?
Celebrity Cruises recently announced its intention to home-port Celebrity Eclipse in Dublin for a mini-season in 2018.
Dublin Port has described the decision as a 'game-changer', and no doubt other cruise lines are watching closely. By the time the Alexandra Basin redevelopment is complete in 2020, two 360m-long behemoths will be able to berth next to each other within full view of the city centre... a tantalising prospect.
'Our approach speaks volumes for confidence in Irish market,' said Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity's MD for UK & Ireland, sharing a stand with Tour America.
And the deals? Swing by, and you could get €600 off your cruise, or a show-only special offering €200 on-board credit.
County Waterford's 46km, multi-million euro walking and cycling path will connect Waterford City to Dungarvan once it fully opens this spring.
Understandably, it's the main talking point at the Waterford stand. 'Some people who have done it say it's even more spectacular than the one in Mayo,' says Mary Wall of Hanora's Cottage (pictured above, left).
2017 staycation, anyone?
Holiday World is full of show-only deals and discounts, with TDactive, for example, offering €50pp off every trip over seven days in length.
"Because we take small groups, we get good access to unusual sites," its MD, Sara Zimmerman, told me. "You can end up doing anything from seeing a Bollywood movie on India to improving your photography in Morocco."
Our readers voted Spain their favourite overseas destination in the 2017 Reader Travel Awards, and that doesn't look like changing this year. 65pc of Irish travel agents say it was their most popular destination in 2017.
Keep an eye on PortAventura World, due to open its €100m Ferrari Land this April... it could be the perfect excuse for a trip to Salou.
A 500m racetrack, 55m tall bounce-back towers, F1 simulators for adults and children and the chance to experience a super-fast pit-stop tyre-change are among the adrenaline-fuelled features with the prancing horse brand.
95 - that's the percentage of Irish travel agents that saw an increase in their turnover last year, according to an ITAA survey.
The Irish Travel Agents' Association timed the release of its latest quarterly report to coincide with Holiday World, and it also revealed that the average projected increase for the same agents was some 13pc in 2017.
Sentiment is most definitely up in the travel biz.
NB: For more, see holidayworldshow.com. Entry costs €7/4.