Travel agents are benefiting from the upturn in the economy, with almost three-quarters saying bookings for April to June are up on last year.
The latest Irish Travel Agents Association quarterly survey found that a quarter of agents reported an increase of more than 10-15pc in bookings. “We’re looking at a year-on-year increase of about 15 to 20pc,” ITAA President Cormac Meehan told Travel Extra. “The sectors that are up are principally the package holiday market, while the cruise market might be marginally up. Funnily enough, cruising took a bit of a dip last year, but it’s up this year.”
Travel agents reported that early booking by clients was the big trend of 2017. “This year has taught us in the trade – and consumers – the advantage of booking in advance. The days of hanging on for specials in key destinations is a thing of the past,” Mr Meehan said.
“But new accommodation in the likes of Spain, Portugal, France Italy and Greece will be coming on stream for the summer of 2018 so there might be less pressure,” he added.
Spain and Portugal continue to be key markets, with the US in third place, despite the strong dollar. “Some agents tell me family breaks – five or six days with a New York show or shopping – are very popular. There is great value because there’s more flights and connections out of Dublin.”
And he said the survey threw up some surprises: “There’s sign of growth in the camping and holiday parks holiday. More people are taking camping and caravanning holidays than take cruises,” he said. “The destinations are becoming more and more sophisticated. The standard of accommodation in chalets is comparable to any permanent structure.”
The survey also revealed that more than 70pc of ITAA travel agents’ customers are returning customers due to the personalised service provided by travel agents. Families and the over-50s market are the largest demographics booking with travel agents, each making up one third of all customers.