Few clouds on the horizon as travel agents expect record holiday sales


With more disposable income available, travel agents are expecting a big rush of business today when they reopen with their holiday sales. January is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the travel sector. It is predicting that this will be yet another bumper year.

"Spain is still the most popular destination, with Portugal second, for Irish travellers and they are more inclined to go for only a week nowadays," said the chairman of the Irish Travel Agents' Association (ITAA), Mr Brendan Moran.

However, according to the ITAA, budget prices are not necessarily the draw they once were.

"The demand for quality holidays is prevalent in people's minds. People have more disposable income nowadays and have a greater confidence in the economy," said Mr Moran.

"Consumers are more demanding than ever before. They want quality service in providing accurate information, making sure accommodation is of a high standard and everything is all right."

The trend towards more exclusive holidays is increasing for similar reasons, said the marketing manager at Budget Travel, Ms Niamh Hayes.

To cater for the more expensive tastes of the Irish consumer, Budget Travel has boosted its selection of holidays in its new brochure, due out early this month. Following the introduction of luxury cruises last year, the company has extended its cruise options.

In terms of new destinations, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands has been added and there are more holidays available in Egypt and Mexico.

Most operators believe 2000 will be a bumper year. Budget Travel is expecting a 15 per cent increase in the customers it accommodates. This will take it to a record 340,000 passengers.

"This is probably going to be our biggest year ever," said Ms Hayes. "Demand seems to be exceptional."

The abolition of the Government £5 departure tax from January 1st is likely to make it cheaper for families to book a foreign holiday.

"We're not sure whether this will have a big effect on volume although it is certainly welcome," said the marketing director of Falcon/JWT, Mr Damien Mooney. "But certainly the market for family holidays is still growing. We find that families are more inclined to take a second or third holiday nowadays. Florida is popular with children who are a little older, over, say, eight or 10 years.

"But, realistically, it's still Majorca and Spain which are the biggest destinations for Irish holidaymakers for families and for the younger generation heading off after completing their Leaving Certificate, for example."

Panorama Holidays brings out its brochure today and is expecting huge demand this month. "We expect it to be a bumper year, and January will be our biggest month yet," said the marketing manager, Ms Katie Condon.

"We're concentrating on the short-haul destinations and have introduced the Spanish destination Costa Dorada this year."