2023 Set for Booking Boom as NI Shows Holiday Hunger

NORTHERN Ireland holidaymakers are quick off the mark for 2023 with many planning to go abroad for the first time since the covid-19 pandemic

NORTHERN Ireland holidaymakers are quick off the mark for 2023 with many planning to go abroad for the first time since the covid-19 pandemic.

Not only has this been visible through heavy booking periods and percentages of travel soaring above both Covid-19 and pre-covid-19 levels, it can also been seen in the strong global recovery of the industry.

A survey of 2000 UK consumers at the end of 2022 has shown that almost two-thirds (64%) are planning on flying abroad in 2023. Holidays topped the list of most important things people planned to spend on in 2023, with two-thirds (66%) saying this was the most important.

70% of people surveyed agreed that they will prioritise a holiday over other expenditure in their yearly budget and three quarters said it was one of their most important plans for next year. To prioritise their holiday, people will be cutting back on other discretionary spend like eating out (46%) or new clothes (40%) and on big purchases such as new cars or home improvements (33%).

Consumers are also looking at the way they travel to prioritise a holiday, with two thirds of people saying they are more likely to book with a low-cost carrier (66%), while three quarters of people are more likely to fly short haul instead long haul (74%) and holiday in closer to home destinations in Europe (70%), in order to protect their holidays. The majority (80%) also believed that holidaying in the UK can be more expensive than abroad.

Around half of respondents said they still plan to go on the same number of holidays that they usually plan for and spend the same amount, while around a quarter of people plan to go on more and spend more on holidays compared to last year.

Half of Brits are planning on taking at least one holiday in 2023, while almost a third plan to take at least two.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost all surveyed (94%) agreed that going away on holiday is one of the most enjoyable experiences. 86% said having a holiday is a priority for them, with 57% saying this is because of the quality time it allows them to spend with friends and family and the opportunity it provides to recharge (48%), while the significant majority of people (83%) said holidays are crucial to their emotional wellbeing. The survey was conducted by easyJet

With the soaring popularity in travel in mind, Belfast International Airport, George Best Belfast City Airport and City of Derry Airport have all increased their efforts to promote travel to and from Northern Ireland, with a wealth of new routes and airlines making Northern Ireland their home for 2023.

“Two years of being bottled up have seen lots of customers taking extra short breaks and main holidays for the traditional destinations from Belfast. The novelty of booking online before the pandemic seems to have hit home that you need a local agent who is easily accessible to sort out issues that can arise.” – Trevor Ardies, Rosetta Travel

In what would be a significant boost for the Province, new transatlantic carrier Fly Atlantic, recently announced plans to set up a brand new hub at Belfast International Airport. If plans go ahead, the new hub will re-open the much-missed direct routes from Belfast to the US by 2024 – a very welcome development.

Ryanair has announced its return to Belfast International with a total of 16 routes to be flown out of the airport for summer 2023 while Eastern Airways will begin its new daily service between Belfast International and Southampton in February 2023.

This increase in airline activity demonstrates the belief and positive attitude in Northern Ireland as tourists, and as a tourist destination.

EasyJet is also expanding its operations at Belfast International Airport with the basing of an additional Airbus A320 aircraft at the airport for summer 2023. The airline has also announced it will launch a new summer route between Belfast and the popular Greek island of Rhodes in June 2023 offering twice weekly departures on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The addition of the new aircraft also created around 35-40 job opportunities at the airport. Meanwhile, Travel Solutions, Northern Irelands leading tour operator, launched their new Portugal Holiday programme direct from Belfast International for summer 2023.

Travel Solutions, who also operate out of City of Derry Airport, say they are looking forward to a “record-breaking year” with 2023 bookings already exceeding their expectations.

Managing Director Peter McMinn said: “Travel Solutions continue to see massive growth in holiday sales, and we are looking forward to a record-breaking year in 2023.”

“Here at Terra Travel we are looking forward with confidence to 2023. 2022 turned out to be a great year for us and I am certain we can look forward to a busy and rewarding 2023.” – Damian Murphy, Terra Travel

Meanwhile, Lufthansa has announced that it will fly from the Province for the first time ever with a brand new route to Frankfurt in Germany from Belfast City Airport. Emerald Airlines have also announced it will increase its services from Belfast City Airport, while at City of Derry Airport Loganair has increased its service on the Edinburgh route while Ryanair has increased the frequency on its Manchester route.

The cruise industry has also witnessed a vast uptake of bookings with interest from holidaymakers spiking following the sector’s heightened covid safety measures. From mask wearing, strict vaccination rules and testing requirements, cruising took every measure to ensure cruise passengers could continue to explore the world safely. The tactic proved a great success, with many travellers now opting to undertake their first cruise experience.

“As 2023 dawns it closes over a door on the last 3 years of worry and anxiety in our industry. The door will never fully close, but as new ones open we see a new enthusiasm from couples, families and those that can’t wait to experience travel and enjoy life together.” – Sharon Thompson, Thompson Travel

Belfast Harbour has not missed out on this cruising boom, with a host of cruise ships making Belfast a port-of-call in 2023. Cruise lines we will see sailing into our waters this year include SAGA, Viking, Ambassador, Norwegian, TUI, MSC, Princess, Celebrity, Windstar, Fred Olsen, Cunard, Costa, Regent Seven Seas, Azamara, Oceania and Silversea. Meanwhile, following the success of Royal Caribbean International’s direct charter flights from Belfast City Airport to Bologna, Italy, in summer 2022, the cruise line has announced it will be expanding the offering to summer 2023. Guests departing from Belfast will have the opportunity to fly direct to Bologna thanks to the partnership between Royal Caribbean International, Belfast City Airport and British Airways. The 2023 flight programme offers direct flights between Belfast and Bologna from 14th May until 22nd October 2023, putting guests’ minds at ease for a smooth holiday experience from start to finish.

Jennifer Callister, Head of Ireland sales at Royal Caribbean International, said: “We’re delighted to be able to give guests travelling from Belfast the chance to fly direct to Bologna, making it even easier to book the ultimate holiday and allowing them to prepare themselves for all the fun they’ll have onboard.”

The Holiday NInja, a Northern Ireland-based website where Northern Ireland holidaymakers can book their next getaway, is looking forward to what 2023 will bring.

Holiday NInja said: “Everyone wants to get away! Thats the simple enough message, and there seems to be a trend of places and destinations that would be away from the norm – I think people want to get out and explore the world a bit more now after the issues of the last couple of years.”

So why book now? With holidaymakers excited for a year of travel in 2023, travel agencies are encouraging those looking to get away to book early. An increase in demand and value-for-money sales are available right across the board so now is the best time to go out and source that dream holiday from one of our local travel agents here in Northern Ireland.