FEBRUARY 2016 – Hot in 2016

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The next six months will go a long way to determining the future of the Irish holiday industry in Ire-land. Just over 30 new direct routes will start from Ire-land in 2016, highlights include a new Air Canada Rouge three weekly serv-ice to start on June 10, and two charter routes: to Cancun and Montego bay in Jamaica, Dublin’s first service to Jamaica for twenty years and a first ever service to Mexico. Vancouver direct will open the north west seaboard and the cruise market to Alaska. It fol-lows two new routes to Nova Scotia in 2014 and 2015. Aer Lingus is joining Ethiopian on the Los An-geles route from May 4, three or four weekly, and then launching a new service to Hartford Con-necticut in September, as well as joining United on the route to New Jersey’s rival to JFK, Newark. Hartford is midway be-tween New York and Boston in a big Irish hin-terland, neatly located for those seeking new Eng-land autumn and ski ex-periences.

Aer Lingus also have three new European summer routes to three differ-ent countries, Murcia, Montpelier and Pisa from Dublin, to Dusseldorf from Cork and Alicante from Belfast. Ryanair are full of sur-prises as usual. They are to return to Belfast Inter-national, starting with a four daily Gatwick serv-ice but promising further based aircraft and up to five new routes by year end. When Aegean an-nounced Dublin to Athens for the summer, Ryanair responded by adding a Dublin-Athens service of their own (the ferry point for the many under-served Greek is-lands is Piraeus), and then Vigo in north western Spain from Dublin, with the possibility of more summer 2016 routes to come. Michael O’Leary has 180 aircraft on the way, and some new direct routes to Germany could follow those recent high frequency services to Amsterdam and Brussels that have plunged prices to northern Europe. Cluj in Romania is a new route from Blue Air. The big question mark over Norwegian’s new service from Cork to Boston will not be re-solved before Easter, but Cork will see its biggest expansion for years in the coming months, Cityjet adding routes to Nantes, La Rochelle and a charter to Menorca, Iberia Ex-press will add Madrid, and Aer LIngus Regional will ad Leeds Bradford and Southampton. Shan-non has a new Edinburgh service and Knock has Flybe services to Birm-ingham and Edinburgh, as well as an interesting Falcon Holidays charter to the Costa Daurada.

Looking eastwards Turkish wil con-tinue to expand at breakneck speed and move towards a treble daily service. Emirates have added daily circular service from Dubai to Cebu and Clark in the Philippines, much more interesting than Manila to interna-tional tourists. Etihad will be return-ing to double daily later in 2016, having reduced their service. China Southern, Lufthansa and Finnair are all looking at expanding in the irish market to grow their eastbound connections while BA have streamlined Heathrow connections since Aer Lingus moved to T2 and British Airways moved to T5.

Ireland’s travel agents are also looking at a big year ahead, with most of them now operat-ing as tour operators in their own right, sourcing their beds from the big bed banks to match the prices on the internet. Tour operator brochure prices are running about 10pc higher than last year, and the politics of North African have not helped by causing tradi-tional markets such as the Canary Island s to be swamped by tourists would normally travel to Tunisia and Egypt. Turkey is another story. Preferred holiday destina-tion of 112,000 Irish tourists a year, it has just lost 23pc of its market when the Russians stopped coming. The shiny new resorts of Belek and Antalya need new customers fast, and their high end all in-clusive product will likely come on sale at giveaway prices. Also worth watching are the new luxury brochures on offer in the Irish market by interna-tional tour operators. Lead in prices are gener-ally lower when a holiday company enters a new market, so honeymooners might snatch a bargain in the coming days.

Bigger, sleeker and more innovative cruise ships continue to slide down the shipyards of Europe. Today’s cruise ships have viewing pods, vir-tual skydiving, and bumper cars on board. Royal Caribbean will launch two in the same month, the giant Har-mony of the Seas and the action packed Ovation of the seas. Norwegian, Carnival and MSC are building and ordering new ships with better restaurant choice, up to 17 on each ship, and activity choice and water parks, but there is a worrying trend here. The services that used to be free, high end restau-rants and menu choices in established restaurants, are increasingly being charged for. Norwegian jacked up service charges per room per day twice in 2016. While cruises on trendy new ships can be expensive, entry level cruises are offering even better value as they get the hand me down ships. Thomson Discovery is likely to be a big favourite for the Irish market when she starts cruising from Palma in June. The force is landing in Disneyland this summer, with the parks undergoing their biggest makeover since 1998 to make way for Star Wars attractions. Universal Orlando is also planning another Harry Potter attraction in 2016, having used the brand to boost market share and attendances in their never ending com-petition with Disney.

What’s next?The talking is continuing in bringing Ireland its first direct route to China and Qatar are also in discus-sion with the airport. Aer Lingus, should it get the aircraft, could announce as many as five new routes in 2017 to the USA. Destinations like Dal-las, Miami, Houston, and Denver are in their sights. But aircraft are scarce.

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