Holiday show eyes footloose over-55s


THE DRIVING rain greeting visitors to the Holiday World Show at the RDS Simmonscourt yesterday was soon forgotten when they stepped through the doors.

They were greeted by more than 1,000 travel specialists offering possibilities such as snorkelling in Egypt, trekking through India or watching colonies of penguins in Antarctica.

There was even an attempt to break a world record for the largest conga line of over-55 year olds on Saturday but in the end it didn't trouble statisticians at the Guinness Book of Records.

The show, which ended yesterday, included a new focus on the over-55 year olds who have people to see and places to go. A survey of 1,000 over-55s carried out before the show found that one in four planned on taking three holidays this year while 40 per cent would be taking two.

Many are planning to visit their children who have emigrated, judging by the questions asked at the Emirates stand. "If I had a euro for every time someone asked about flights to Australia, I could retire," said Chantre Engledow of the Emirates cabin crew staff. "A lot of them are visiting their kids."

And just then a middle-aged couple walked up and asked about flight prices, explaining that their son was Down Under.

It was also an older age profile at the stand promoting holidays to China. David Ho of Sino-Irish Travel said most inquiries were from professionals and retired people. Escorted tours were attractive for people making a first visit to the country but backpackers could run into problems by travelling alone. "China is a good place to visit," he said. "Hotels are of international standard now and people speak English."

Large crowds gathered around the stands hosted by the US companies. Visit USA Ireland's Brigid Kennedy said Irish people were becoming more adventurous, wandering off the tourist routes and asking about places such as Ohio and Utah. "We've an awful lot of people looking to tour around the deep south. And as always we are getting a lot of people asking about ranch holidays."

Despite the Costa Concordia disaster, cruise companies reported that business was brisk. Lorraine Quinn of Royal Caribbean Cruises said people understood the disaster was "a very unique tragedy".

John Galligan Travel, which specialises in cruises, hasn't received any cancellations yet. John Galligan said fears about the budget late last year had dampened business but "since Christmas there's been a lot more positivity".

He took several bookings at the show and expects to follow up on many more. "Corporate business is doing really well for the past six months. When corporate business picks up, it is usually followed by the rest of the economy about a year later."

He works with Silversea Voyages, known for its luxurious cruises on intimate ships. Regional sales manager Jonathan Knight said business was good and he had just dealt with a "very interested" query for the 115-day world cruise. That could cost anything from €40,000 to more than €100,000, depending on the accommodation.

A giant football lured many men to the Polish stands where they could learn about Poznan and Gdansk, cities expecting a swell in Irish visitor numbers during the Euro 2012 matches.

Marta Stawinksa of Poznan City Hall was fielding queries "mainly from men, of course, but some families, too". Many queries were about camper van facilities.

There will be three campsites in the city including "a special Irish fan camp", she said. And hungry visitors will be encouraged to try Poznan's specialities such as czernina - a soup made of duck blood and poultry broth.