Conor Pope: Holiday bookings ‘through the roof’ but prices not at ‘silly level’

‘Phenomenal’ demand since restrictions eased and prices will peak in summer

A combination of new airline routes serving Ireland and a slow start to the traditional peak booking season of early January have kept prices for spring and summer holidays in check.

However, the lifting of almost all coronavirus restrictions last Friday will push prices higher, particularly for the peak travel months of July and August, it has been warned.

"I feel like we can breath as an industry again and there is a buzz about the place," said Paul Hackett, the chief executive of online travel operator Click & Go and the president of the Irish Travel Agents' Association (ITAA).

He said bookings last weekend were “through the roof” and more than double the previous weekend.


However he stressed that while there had been renewed interest in overseas travel in recent days, bookings were still 50 per cent down on a January in pre-pandemic times.

“Right now there is tons of availability out there and I would hate people to think prices were about to get to a silly level, they are not,” he insisted.

“In a normal year, bookings in January would be double what they are in February and March but this year patterns will be different and I think February will surpass January as will March while I would anticipate that bookings will be strong in April too.”

He said he had been assured by the announcement from Ryanair that they were increasing the number of flights from Ireland to popular destinations this year.

The airline plans to fly 900 times a week to 120 destinations from Dublin this summer and is adding 22 new routes over its pre-pandemic summer 2019 schedule. It will fly to popular holiday destinations in Spain, Portugal, Italy, including Sardinia and Sicily, Greece, Croatia and France.

Mr Hackett said there had not been the same level of advance bookings for flights in recent months due to ongoing uncertainty over the trajectory of Covid-19.

"Neither Ryanair or Aer Lingus have all the advance capacity sold that they would normally have so they are not going to be greedy and right now the value is incredible," he suggested.

He accepted that prices would likely be high in July and August. “That is peak time and let’s face it there are only two ways to fly off the island – in a blue plane or in a green plane and they both know when our school holidays are.”

Huge increase

Michael Doorley of Shandon Travel in Co Cork said there had been a huge increase in inquiries since the Government's announcement about the easing of restrictions on Friday and he expressed the hope the calls would convert into bookings.

“We are not back to 2019 levels yet... the EU is a big destination. We have had a lot of inquiries about mobile home holiday parks. Italy would be the most popular destination for this type of holiday, but Croatia is becoming almost as popular for this type of family camping activity holiday,” he said.

There are also bookings for America coming in, as well as some couples celebrating their honeymoons belatedly, Mr Doorley added.

Bladhana Richardson from American Holidays told The Irish Times that while there had been “some price pressure” as demand increased, the “airlines remain competitive as they want to close up booking as soon as possible so there is still good value there.”

She said bookings had started picking up earlier this month but “since Friday it felt like it was a normal and people are ready to jump on the deals”.

The chief executive the ITAA, Pat Dawson, described the turnaround in bookings as “phenomenal” and he said it was “the first time I’ve been positive in two years” and he suggested that there there would be “pent-up demand. There are some people who have money they haven’t spent, a big chunk of that will be spent on foreign holidays”.