Trevor Laffan: Folks taking a staycation don’t want to get their fingers burned

Trevor Laffan: Folks taking a staycation don’t want to get their fingers burned

FOREIGN IDYLL: Larnaca on the southern coast of Cyprus is an attractive prospect — but many won’t want to travel in a plane.

AT the beginning of the year, like many of you, I made plans made for the summer holidays. I was looking forward to spending some time abroad, lying on a sun lounger in my mankini with a cool gin and tonic while transforming into a bronzed Adonis.

Those plans have been well and truly scuppered by the Coronavirus and many will be disappointed at not having the opportunity to admire my tanned physique strutting around the beach, but there you go. We’ll all just have to be patient for a little while longer.

In the general scheme of things, foreign holidays are a minor issue. Some have more serious things to occupy their minds, like losing friends and relatives to the virus or losing their jobs. Some companies have closed their doors for good and for many more, the future is uncertain. As far as they’re concerned, holidays are the furthest thing from their minds.

There is a push, though, to get the economy going again and we are being encouraged to holiday at home for what’s left of the summer to keep the money circulating locally.

Staycations are the order of the day. Many do that anyway and I know lots of people who own holiday homes, caravans, and mobile homes around Ireland, and they wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else, and that’s fine.

For more of us, the prospect of life in the sun is what keeps us going through the dreary winters, and after everything we’ve been through over the last three months, we’re chomping at the bit to get away.

I can only imagine what it must be like for all those wonderful people who soldiered on since March without a break.

If anyone deserves a holiday, it’s the health service personnel, the emergency services, postal workers, and all those who provided essential services. The men and women who kept the shelves stacked in the shops and manned the tills day in and day out, risking their own health on a daily basis while the rest of us kept our heads down. They have earned some rest and recuperation, but where will they get it?

My wife has a significant birthday coming up soon and to mark the occasion, we had arranged to travel abroad for the month of July. Our flights have just been cancelled so that’s been knocked on the head.

That’s OK though because for now, the fear of getting on a plane is very real. Crowded airports, security checks, mixing with other passengers in a metal tube for hours on end breathing recycled air... this is an issue for many travellers.

So, staycations are an option. Shops, pubs, hotels, and restaurants have suffered badly over the last few months. Some won’t re-open and for others the recovery will be slow and difficult, and we’re being encouraged to support them. And while they certainly deserve our support, it shouldn’t be taken for granted either.

Newstalk radio recently conducted a poll on where people are likely to holiday this summer. Fifty-one per cent said they would holiday in Ireland. Around thirty per cent said they would travel abroad, and the remainder said they would save their money for a decent trip away next year.

From my own discussions with people, I suspect that last option is gathering momentum.

Good weather is a firm favourite with holidaymakers and that’s one thing you can’t be guaranteed in this country, but it’s not a deal breaker for everyone: value for money is a major factor.

Holidaying in Ireland is not, and never has been, cheap. Your average Joe and Josephine Soap expect value for money, and they’re entitled to it, but will they get it here?

I chose a week in July and searched for a hotel in Killarney, Co. Kerry for two people. There were plenty of options ranging in price from €904 to €1,473, and that wasn’t including breakfast.

When you add the cost of food and drinks to your hotel bill, you’ve paid a hefty price for your week away.

But according to the Newstalk poll, half of us are prepared to do just that. I won’t be surprised though if that changes when people start checking prices.

I looked at a foreign holiday option for two people and I picked Cyprus simply because it’s a place I’m familiar with. I used the same dates in July and settled on Larnaca. The weather there is hot at that time of the year and as Cyprus has an average of three hundred and something days of sunshine a year, you can almost bank on a sun-soaked week.

I selected three hotels on the beach outside Larnaca a three star, a four star and a five star. The three star was €813 or €1,113 with breakfast and dinner. The four star was €1,148 and the five star was €1,197, and both included breakfast.

Airbnb is another option in Larnaca with a selection of good standard accommodation ranging from between €200 and €300 per week.

Your money will go a long way when eating out and alcohol is cheaper too, with return flights to Paphos in July available for under €200 per person.

The point I’m making here is that if those involved in the hotel/tourism industry expect customers to holiday at home, they have to offer value for money. The promise of a cead mile failte simply isn’t enough.

The foreign option involves travel and at the moment that may be a step too far for many, and that’s where I can see a lot of soul-searching.

But unless customers feel they are getting value for money at home, they may abandon the staycation in favour of a decent splash out abroad next year instead.

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