Holidaymakers seek sun, sand and safety as danger changes travel choices
Irish holidaymakers are flocking to hotspots that are deemed sunny but safe this summer.
The terrorist threat in Europe - which intensified following yesterday's disappearance of EgyptAir flight MS804 - has already had a major impact on how holidaymakers are planning their summer, according to Irish tour operators.
Egypt, which used to be a popular destination for Irish tourists, is now off the list for most following terrorist attacks there. A series of bombs ripped through a market and beachfront hotel in the popular resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in July, 2005, killing 88 people and wounding 150.
Hundreds more people have been killed in various terrorist attacks across the country since the overthrow of democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi in July, 2013. Irish tour operators no longer operate tours to Egypt as a result of the heightened security risk posed by Islamic militants, and Irish tourists are increasingly looking for affordable and safe alternatives elsewhere.
"Clients have done the research and know what they want," said Marie Claire Porter, of Sunway Holidays.
With France now on high terrorist alert after the Paris massacres that left 130 people dead, traditional hotspots such as the Canary Islands, Portugal, Menorca and the Costa del Sol are selling out fast this summer, she said.
"We are finding some people are now booking for September and October," she said.
The Algarve, Madeira and Italy are also proving to be popular alternatives for families seeking affordable and stress-free package holidays, according to Michelle Anderson of Topflight holidays.
Ms Porter said there's no question that more people are heading to areas in southern Europe that are not high on any terror risk list, she said.
"The summer season is filling up very fast, especially July and August," she said.
Cormac Meehan, president of the Irish Travel Agents Association, said the spate of terrorist attacks in Egypt and elsewhere, has had a knock-on effect for the Irish travel industry. Tour operators decided to stop going to Egypt and Tunis altogether following attacks there, he said.
"They collectively decided they couldn't take the risk. The market decided some time ago that given the perception of terrorism that there may be issues," he said.
Three Irish holidaymakers, Lorna Carty, from Co Meath and Larry and Martina Hayes from Athlone, were gunned down at a resort in Tunisia in June 2015.