The cost of foreign holidays looks set to skyrocket next year with pent-up demand and a dramatic decline in the number of flights to and from Ireland.
Prices are not, however, likely to increase ahead of next spring with only a tentative recovery in bookings expected in the coming weeks, according to the leisure travel industry, which is beginning to recover from the worst crisis in its history.
The Travel Department group-holiday company has been organising long- and short-haul guided trips out of Ireland for more than 25 years, and it hosted its first overseas holiday since the start of the pandemic in the middle of last month, bringing a group to Lake Garda in Italy.
According to its commercial director, Yvonne Boyle, while there has been an uptick in bookings, "there are some customers who are still nervous".
She said trends suggest short-haul holidays will recover faster than long haul . "Right now Europe is where it is at for bookings," she said. "We also have people booking at the last minute, which wouldn't be normal for our business, and looking to travel to bucket-list destinations closer to home, such as Iceland."
She said the Christmas markets in Germany as well as Lake Garda, Tuscany and the Algarve have proved to be the most popular destinations since travel restrictions eased and she also said there is "big demand" for 2022.
Irish Travel Agents Association president and founder of online travel agency Click & Go Paul Hackett said there had been an upturn in bookings since last month with some 80 per cent of those departing within weeks.
“It is all about the last-minute bookings now,” he said. “And we are seeing the start of a recovery but it won’t be a case of flicking a switch.”
Mr Hackett anticipates that “supply issues are going to be a problem next year”. “The routes won’t be there and the prices will be significantly higher because the airlines will want to make their money back. Demand is going to be exceptional in 2022, particularly across all the European markets” he predicted.
The chief operations officer with Tour America, Deirdre Maher, was upbeat following the decision of the Biden administration in the US to lift its travel ban covering the EU from November.
“When the announcement was made on Monday the phones just lit up, as did all our social media accounts and our email. We have hardly been able to keep up with the calls and there have been a mix of people rebooking holidays that had to be cancelled in 2020 and 2021 to next year.”
She said there was a lot of interest in shopping holidays to New York ahead of Christmas with families holding off on booking trips to once popular destinations such as Orlando until next year. "Flight capacity is a bit down but I think we will see the routes coming back online," she said. "I think it will take a couple of years to get back to any kind of pre-Covid levels."
Eoghan O'Meara Walsh of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation also highlights the fall in the number of routes to and from Ireland and the frequency. Mr O'Meara Walsh called on the Government to "incentivise airlines to add capacity to allow more tourists to come to Ireland".
Travel and aviation writer Eoghan Corry said airlines would "take a very circumspect look right up until February or March of next year and see what the forward bookings are like".
He added that while the price of flights are likely to climb modestly in 2022, the costs on the ground in popular holiday destinations could climb by as much as 20 per cent next year, something which would see the price of many hotel and self-catering holiday options increase significantly.