Travel operators have reported a spike in the number of bookings to England and Wales as rugby fans plan their travel to the World Cup, starting next month.
Online travel company Opodo, which looked at all return flight bookings for travel to eight UK airports close to the match venues in the four weeks from September 12th (when the tournament starts), said bookings from Ireland were up 80 per cent on the same period last year.
Ryanair said it was recording large volumes of World Cup traffic across most of its Ireland-UK routes.
"We've also scheduled 52 special World Cup flights between Dublin and Cardiff, as well as 12 between Shannon and Cardiff, to accommodate Irish fans travelling for the World Cup, which have almost sold out," head of communications Robin Kiely said.
Irish Ferries reported a surge in the number of people travelling at a time when bookings usually slow down after the summer rush.
"There is clearly a spike in traffic which can almost solely be attributed to people travelling to the Rugby World Cup, " the company's head of passenger sales Dermot Merrigan said. "Ireland fans are very optimistic and are booking dates for the quarter and semi finals too."
Packages for the Rugby World Cup are available from about €300 for a day-return flight plus ticket for Ireland vs Romania on September 27th to more than €2,500 for a two-night package with a ticket for the final on October 30th.
Brendan Guilfoyle, operations manager with Limerick-based Trevor Brennan Rugby Tours, reported demand for games at all levels from the pool games, quarter finals and semi finals right up to the final.
“A frenzy of new customers have emerged who want to attend a World Cup game that is so close to home,” he said.
“We have actually sold out of some of our packages for Ireland vs France which is the most popular pool game.”
Francis Roche, managing director of sports travel with Marathon Travel, said demand had picked up strongly in recent weeks as people have secured tickets for the matches.
“Demand is strong but I think there’s still going to see a lot of people looking to go on trips last minute because of the fact that the tournament is being held so close to us for the first time since France in 2007.”