A record 700,000 package holidays were sold last year and there is every indication even more will be booked this year, according to Mr Brendan Moran, chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents` Association. The figures confirm the trend towards taking multiple holidays.
“The past year beat 1999, which was also a record year, when 640,000 packages were sold. We would expect further growth this year,” he predicted.
This month is traditionally the month when people book their holidays. Mr Moran said this was advisable as there were still choice and availability. He does not recommend waiting for last-minute bargains which may not materialise.
“More and more people are going to exotic destinations such as Kenya and South Africa but the short-haul routes - 21/2hour flights - are still extremely popular. Destinations such as Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Tunisia and Crete still rank highly, with the western Mediterranean more popular than the east.”
He said the trend was for the consumer to take multiple holidays, usually lasting one or two weeks, rather than taking three or four weeks together.
Budget Travel`s marketing manager, Ms Niamh Hayes, said: “2000 was a hugely successful year, with all holidays sold out. It was very evident during the summer that there were few bargains in terms of last-minute availability.”
One factor boosting sales was the number of people living in Northern Ireland taking advantage of strong sterling and buying holidays in the Republic.
She said the most popular destinations were Majorca, Gran Canaria and Ibiza. Florida topped the long-haul list, despite the strength of the dollar.
There was a slight rise in prices on last year, she said, but prices were not rising in line with inflation. There were still bargains with a week in Salou, Spain, at the beginning of May at £99.
Falcon/JWT also reports an extremely good year. Marketing director Mr Damien Mooney said, with the market now at 750,000 people, he expected at least a 10 per cent increase this year.
Air Tours entered the Irish market last June and its managing director, Mr Jimmy Donnelly, said many of summer 2001 holidays were already booked. He expected business to be particularly busy this month and in February when people were depressed by “the terrible rain and want something to look forward to”.