Holidaymakers are flocking back to travel agents – seeking alternatives to those troublespots that used to be high up the tourist agenda.
That’s according to an award-winning Galway agency which has just reported its busiest January since 2008 before the recession hit home.
Fahy Travel had more than one reason to celebrate this week on the back of increasing business – but also at the first west of Ireland winner of Travel Agent of the Year Award for those companies with under ten employees.
Maura Fahy of Fahy Travel said they were delighted to have secured a national award after winning the Connacht category for two years running.
“It’s great for Galway, great for us and that it was won by a female run travel agency. The award is run in conjunction with the Holiday World Fair which was held in the RDS at the weekend and it was encouraging to see the optimism after years of the industry taking a hammering.
“It has been the busiest January for us since 2008 before the recession and I can see already that this boom will last well into February.
“There’s a huge interest in family summer holidays this year and places are fast booking up.
“We had noticed in recent years stiff competition from tour operators and people booking holidays online but there seems to be a shift back to the bonded travel agents as well as more cooperation between us and tour operators.”
Ms Fahy believes that their increasing cruise business helped secure the award. Fahy Travel have opened a cruise specialist shop upstairs employing two full-time staff.
And last Saturday instead of having two on duty downstairs, they had five agents working to deal with the level of enquiries.
Fahy Travel acquired Corrib Travel a few months ago and One Stop Travel run by Colm McDonagh folded in November which no doubt has put more business their way.
She believes that the public are more optimistic about the economy and have more money to spend but she added that the threat of terrorism globally has made people more cautious when making travel arrangements.
“We have noticed a rise in enquiries after years of people booking holidays online and put this down to people wanting to deal with a bonded travel company for the security.
“Of course that global situation also means there’s more pressure on us to find accommodation in European destinations as Morocco, Tunisia and Egyptian markets are effectively closed to Irish operators.”
Those particular markets accounted for up to 600 holidaymakers a week from Ireland (400 alone to Egypt) which means those beds now have to be found elsewhere.
She said that the city break market was particularly hit by the global terrorism which was probably another reason people were returning to the more traditional sun spots.
Though much of the New Year bargains might have already been sold, there is no doubt, she added, that tour operators will be sourcing newer resorts.
That also means new routes will be opened from regional airports as tour operators try to encourage holidaymakers to other destinations.
A new service to Costa Dorada in Spain starts in June from Knock Airport and indeed Fahy Travel encourage people to use both Knock and Shannon where possible.
Spain remains the most popular destination with their customers and last year over 1.3million people travelled from Ireland to the mainland and its islands.
Ms Fahy said that Lanzarote continues to be the most popular of the Canary Islands with the Irish.
The big news in the holiday business is the huge interest in cruises from people of all ages and apparently there’s a cruise holiday to suit everyone.
Ms Fahy says that they are particularly good value this year as more and more people seek value for money with the all-inclusive packages.
Honeymoon budgets seem to be on the increase and money is no object when it comes to couples booking exotic and long distance holidays with the Maldives and Asia being the most popular among newlyweds.
Kellers of Ballinasloe is one of two travel agents outside the city (the second is Society Travel, also in Ballinasloe) which has developed its own holiday parks in France.
Pierce Keller said that families still continued to visit France via car ferry making their way to campsites and mobile home parks along the French coast involving a drive of anything between 90 minutes and six hours.
A family could spend as little as €1,200 on a two week holiday like this in France in the early part of the summer but that prices increase the further it gets into the season.
€46,000 Lotto winner comes forward as deadline looms
Galway Bay fm newsroom – The Knocknacarra winner of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus from the 12th of December has come forward to claim their prize, just two weeks before the claim deadline.
The winning ticket, which is worth €46,234, was sold at Clybaun Stores on the Clybaun Road on the day of the draw, one of two winners of the Lotto Match 5 + Bonus prize of €92,000.
A spokesperson for the National Lottery say we are now making arrangements for the lucky winner to make their claim in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the Lotto jackpot for tomorrow night (27th February) will roll to an estimated €5.5 million.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.