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.
Coffins have to brought by tractor over flooded North Galway road
Annual flooding on a stretch of road in North Galway requires the necessity for a tractor and trailer to bring the remains of a deceased person from the area to the local cemetery.
This was the claim at a local area meeting when it was demanded that Galway County Council carry out flood relief works on the road near Glenamaddy which is left under several feet of water every winter.
It resulted in Cllr Peter Keaveney tabling a motion at the Ballinasloe Municipal Council meeting that essential drainage works take place along the Roscommon road out of the town now that water levels are low. He wants this carried out within the next two weeks.
During one of the worst winters in recent years, the road was closed for three months and the Fine Gael councillor and agricultural contractor said that he pulled around 20 cars out of the flooded stretch when motorists decided to take the chance of driving through it.
Even in drought conditions, the levels remain incredibly high and this is mainly down to a local turlough that retains water throughout the year.
While he said that Galway County Council officials were extremely helpful, the problem lay with the Office of Public Works who would not allow drainage works as the road is situated in a Special Area of Conservation.
Senior Executive Engineer Damien Mitchell informed the meeting that Galway County Council are in a position to carry out some works but there are certain areas that only the Office of Public Works can drain.
Mr Mitchell said that the best way forward was a co-ordinated approach involving the County Council and the OPW while accepting that there was a major problem with flooding along this road.
In response, Cllr Keaveney said that this was a very acceptable move and added that a joint approach to the flooding in Glenamaddy was required at this stage and particularly with the winter approaching.
Williamstown’s Cllr Declan Geraghty said that residents were living in hell as some of them saw their houses destroyed by rising flood waters near Glenamaddy.
“There are even deceased people being brought by tractor and trailer to be buried which is an absolute disgrace. There is an opportunity to do this now or otherwise we are looking at flooding for the next 10 years.
“People have put everything into their homes only to see them destroyed when it comes to prolonged heavy rainfall.
“There is a solution to this problem and environmental issues should not take precedence,” he added.
The Independent councillor said that raising the level of the road, which leads to Creggs and onto Roscommon, was not the answer to the problem because the levels were so high.
Galway County Council have carried out several surveys of the area around the flooded road and officials told previous meetings that, subject to approval from the OPW, there was an engineering solution possible.
(Photo Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) and Cllr Peter Keaveney (FG) at the Creggs road out of Glenamaddy where flooding occurs on an annual basis.)
New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval
Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.
The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.
“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.
“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.
The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.
Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.
The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.
Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.
“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.
Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.
Teen arrested over €45,000 cocaine seizure
Gardaí have seized €45,000 of what they believe to be cocaine in Ballinasloe.
Gardaí attached to Ballinasloe Garda Station conducted an intelligence-led operation in the Dunlo Harbour area of the town yesterday.
During the course of this operation a quantity of suspected cocaine, estimated to be worth €45,000, concealed on derelict grounds was seized.
A male in his mid-teens was arrested at the scene and detained at Ballinasloe Garda Station on Sunday.
He has since been released with a file being prepared for the Garda Youth Diversion Office.
The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels.