For many centuries the Irish have travelled in great numbers to all parts of the world. Of course most of that was involuntary, but it seems to have inculcated a desire in the race that keeps producing new travel records in modern times.
- The CSO has just released the fourth quarter results for 2007 of their excellent Household Travel Survey, and it contains lots of interesting and revealing information about the scale and purpose of travel by the Irish.
- To start with, for an extraordinary coincidence try this:
– We made 7.83 million trips abroad and an almost identical number domestically, 7.9 million.
– But the expenditure differed substantially, €7.3 billion abroad, and €1.55 billion at home.
– The average length of stay accounts for much of that, with visits abroad at 7.9 nights vs. 3.3 nights on domestic visits.
- Last year, Irish people spent almost one fifth more on travel than in ’06, an amazing €1.4 billion extra.
- Notwithstanding the emerging adverse financial and economic climate, Irish people’s appetite for travel abroad in the final quarter of last year was untouched. Growth in expenditure on trips outpaced the trend for the year to September. Irish residents spent 28% more on trips abroad in the final three months of last year compared to the previous year. (And a massive 37% more on holiday trips). This compares to a growth of 17% for the first nine months of the year.
- This experience however was not fully replicated in the domestic market where the number of trips in the fourth quarter grew by 5.5%, while expenditure remained static. This is the first time in 12 quarters that expenditure on domestic trips failed to grow on the corresponding quarter of the previous year. Indeed that’s only happened twice since 2001.
- Despite the static nature of the final quarter for domestic trips, the full year showed very strong growth of 9%, while revenue showed even higher growth of 13% to €1.55 billion (revenue from pure holiday trips was up 18%).
- As noted in earlier ezines, travel patterns vary widely between those aged over 50 years and their younger counterparts. While there was a slowdown in the final quarter of last year in the growth rate of trips by the over 50’s (+21% in the last quarter as against +55% for the first nine months), they provided all of the incremental growth in the market.
- Astonishingly, the over 50’s took 46% more trips in 2007 compared to 2006. In fact, the number of domestic trips taken by the over 50’s has more than doubled over the past 4 years, growing by almost 2 million. Today the over 50’s account for over half of all domestic trips (55%), compared to just 32% three years ago.
- While the web has grown in importance and currently accounts for 37% of all prebooked domestic trips (and about 55% are prebooked) most people prefer direct contact with the product provider.
- Hotels, second homes and self catering were the main winners in 2007, while demand for B&B’s (approved and unapproved) declined slightly.
- On the international front, total overseas trips grew by 15% last year to 7.8 million. Associated revenue was €7.3 billion.
- By less than 20,000 the UK just beat Spain as the most popular destination at 1.73 million trips. There was a big gap to third placed France with 815,000 trips, while next came North America with 685,000 trips, just ahead of Italy with 501,000.
- The main driver again was those over 50’s. It may seem rather incredible, but overseas trips last year by the over 50’s increased by almost 1 million, or 38%, on 2006. Trips abroad taken by the 20-49 year olds was actually down by 6.5% on the previous year.
- A higher proportion, as would be expected, used the web to make their overseas travel arrangements, 65%, up from 61% in 2006.
- That’s all mainly good news, but there are signs of some softness creeping into the market. Even the over 50’s are not immune to the unprecedented plethora of economic woes which abound internationally and domestically this year. The domestic market is expected to produce some growth, though almost certainly at rates well short of those enjoyed last year and previously.