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Bargain holidays to be had...if you shop around

BRITISH holidaymakers are being offered discounts of up to 60pc on last-minute packages -- and prices are also being cut from brochure rates here.

UK firms have launched a price war as thousands of holidays remain unsold.

And with millions waiting until the last minute to book their summer holidays, many made savings of between 10 and 30pc.

"There is a significant level of foreign holidays still unsold, so some have been discounted by up to 60pc," said Bob Atkinson of price comparison site travelsupermarket.com.

Discounts in Ireland aren't always so keen, but Pat Dawson, interim general manager of the Irish Travel Agents Association, says that holidaymakers are getting discounts of around 15pc on brochure prices.

"It's all down to supply and demand but there have been great offers in the last couple of weeks as agents try to keep a competitive edge," said Mr Dawson. He said there are 435,000 seats up for grabs on the market, which is down 10pc on last year, but value is still there as families now wait only four weeks before setting off to book.

Thomas Cook here says one of its subsidiaries, Direct Holidays, is offering cuts on a par with the UK, with prices slashed by up to 40pc.

A week in Kusadasi's Oya Apartments for July 23 is down 40pc, €662 to €397; Corfu (July 22) is down 30pc at the Irini Studios, from €599 to €415 per person; while all inclusive in Egypt (St George's Three Corners Resort) has been cut from €859 to €579 on July 27.

One of the biggest operators, Falcon Holidays, is offering 10-15pc off brochure prices, but Ireland chief Christine Donnelly said that August will be tighter.

"We've seen a good run in the last four weeks, but high season in the UK and Europe doesn't start till August," she cautioned.

But Falcon has noticed a lot of shopping around, but warns that Spain is becomingly increasingly popular again.

Kevin Nolan, of the Irish Tour Operators Federation, which represents household names like Topflight, Sunway, Falcon/JWT and Panorama, warned that some holidaymakers holding out for a last-minute deal have been left disappointed with places thin on the ground during peak weeks.

Industry insiders said that families looking for a bargain should check out Turkey, with prices for a week at €100 or less than Spain or the Canaries.