Pól Ó Conghaile: Tourists are returning to Turkey, so what about a summer holiday?
Would you go on a summer holiday to Turkey? Take note of your gut reaction to that question, and read on.
Safety is one of the first things that springs to mind with this destination. That's understandable. Tourism dropped off a cliff in recent years, following a series of terrorist attacks and an attempted coup.
There are signs of a comeback, however. TUI says bookings are up from the UK and Germany, and last month, the Turkish Statistical Institution revealed a 19pc jump in tourism revenue for 2017. Granted, that was off a low base, but packages and independent travel do seem to be staging a recovery.
"Turkey is becoming much more popular again," says Tanya Airey of Sunway, which has seen bookings for Turkish sun holidays rise a whopping 97pc so far this year.
"The difference in prices is so huge, compared to Spain and Portugal. Turkey offers great value, and it has everything from culture in Ephesus to nightlife, weather and eating out."
As an example, she cites a 4-star package to Kusadasi in May costing €539pp. A 3-star Lanzarote package costs from €799pp at the same time. With growing numbers of holidaymakers flocking to the Canaries, Majorca and southern Spain, competitive prices hold up in peak season too. "It's a substantial difference," Airey says.
"It's not just a price-driven thing, or one place versus another," adds Cormac Meehan, President of the Irish Travel Agents' Association and owner of Meehan's Travel Agency in Bundoran. "It's more about variety. Antalya, particularly, offers good value all-inclusive packages, and its golf is shining. It could do even better in 2019."
Let's not forget Istanbul, where what's claimed to be the world's busiest airport opens in October. "Recent events did massive damage," says Onur Gul of Turkish Airlines, which flies double-daily from Dublin. "But Istanbul is definitely coming back, and more travel agencies are doing it as a city break."
Irish holidaymakers are quite a resilient bunch, Airey and Meehan agree, and small numbers have travelled to Turkey year-in, year-out, despite the security scares.
Morocco has also been making steady gains, thanks in part to Ryanair's resumption of flights to Marrakech and a new Air Arabia service to Agadir.
The same can't be said for Tunisia, however - wiped off the package holiday brochures after a terror attack left 38 dead in 2015. TUI and Thomas Cook have resumed packages from the UK, but Airey says it will be 2019 before Sunway considers a return. Meehan is of similar mindset. "You have to bring people back in a gradual, limited way," he muses.
So, how's that gut doing? Value and variety are the buzzwords for Turkey, but your comfort levels are crucial too.
Peace of mind always comes first with a package.