The year 2016 saw a significant movement back to travel agents by the consumer, writes ITAA President Cormac Meehan. This is driven by several factors and the first and most important is information overload. There are literally thousands of Internet sites out there providing information and travel choices to the consumer.
Trawling these sites is time consuming and by the time a decision is made, the availability may be gone. Travel agents have a quick search and availability technology with real time accessibility. Specialist and luxury travel services are easier to buy with a travel agent. The agent has no vested interest other than the consumer. If you go to an airline site to book flights, car hire and/or hotels, you will only get what they want you to have: their flights etc.
Globally, industry experts put the movement of consumers back to travel agents at 50% up on last year!
People often wonder where travel agents would like to visit or what their bucket list would be. Believe it or not, I have never been to Greece: Santorini would be on the top of my list for the people, the food and the clear blue sea and skies.
In an ideal world I would be very interested in the seven ‘-stan’ countries of Central Asia – it would take a lifetime to discover their secrets. I have a long-standing invitation to speak at a conference in Tajikistan and perhaps I will take it up next year. The Mediterranean coast of Turkey is one of my favourites, it is one of the most undersold tourist destinations for many reasons. Antalya, the old and new city, is definitely worth a visit. People make the destination, that’s what they say about Ireland and it’s true.
The top three trends for travel in 2017 and beyond are:
- Adventure Holidays – we have seen this in Ireland with the growth of surfing. Millennials like activity and have such a premium on their leisure time, they want a leisure/activity balance. It’s healthy and wholesome!
- Ocean Cruising – people immediately think of the Caribbean, over eating and endless days afloat! It’s not like that, destinations vary, cities on the Mediterranean such as Barcelona, Rome, Dubrovnik and Athens; departures from Dubai to the Indian Ocean and South Africa; cruising the Scandinavian and North Atlantic waters looking at ecosystems and habitats beyond our imagination! Cruises can vary in duration from five days to several months! Cruising has become very affordable and accessible.
- European River Cruising – the Rhine and the Danube offer great leisure opportunities with a great cultural mix, smaller ships, greater luxury and more affordability. Cities like Amsterdam, Cologne, Vienna, Basel and Budapest – all worth a visit en route.
Traditional forms of holidays will remain popular. Spain is our biggest seller, great value, good products varied from leisure to high activity – mainland to islands. In the area of Spain’s southern Sierras you can ski and surf in the same day!
Portugal is also very popular with some lovely locations from the Algarve to the scenic cities of Lisbon and Porto with an increase in flights to the latter.
Direct flights from Ireland West International Airport at Knock is a great bonus. Over 800,000 consumers used the airport this year. There is great scope for more departures and increased capacity from Knock. Look at Cork, now boasting transatlantic flights for the first time. Knock has a great future that will grow the region in terms of inward and outbound travellers, so helping economic growth throughout the region west of the Shannon.
Finally, city breaks are important as is travel to the USA, from Hartford, Connecticut, to Miami, Florida. Dublin Airport is host to several major global airlines that provide hubs for global transport via London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Istanbul and Addis Ababa.
The year ahead looks good for global travel and tourism.
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) represents Ireland’s travel industry, bringing together 100 travel agent members and 70 affiliate partners. ITAA members cover 140 outlets throughout Ireland. All members are licensed by the Commission for Aviation Regulation and are fully bonded, providing full financial protection for their customers.