June means a change of pace and a different set of priorities for us in the AA. Traffic is never as bad in the Summer months. Car breakdowns do still happen but they tend to be more scattered through the day and across the country, reflecting travel patterns as many families start to think of summer holidays.
Naturally enough the volume of travel related enquiries to us starts to peak. We have always provided advice to people going abroad. If you want to know how much petrol will cost you in Spain or what documents you need to pick up a hire car in Florida, the AA answers those questions.
We also get tons of queries from foreigners planning to visit Ireland. You may recall that we predicted back in February that we expected to see an increase in the number of Americans coming to our shores this year and that seems to be coming true.
I’m all for initiatives like The Gathering, even if there are plenty of people who are cynical about it. It was an attempt to light a candle rather than curse the darkness and it seems to be doing some good.
Back at the turn of the year we looked at data from our online AA RoutePlanner which gives directions and journey times for driving in Ireland. Based on what we saw we said we thought there would be a big surge in US visitors, a lesser increase in visitors from Europe and a slight decline in visits from our neighbours in the UK.
CSO data for the months of February, March and April showed exactly that. With any luck it will continue as a pattern through the Summer and give our hard pressed and hard working hospitality sector a much needed boost.
Of course there are always Irish people outward bound as well. When we asked people about their travel plans for the year in our regular AA Poll it made for some sobering reading.
48% of the 9,500 people that we asked said they were not sure if they could afford a holiday at all this year. A quarter said that they definitely would not be taking one. If you are one of the ones lucky enough to be planning a trip abroad then by all means shop around and choose wisely but be careful please about what you cut back on.
I would be very reluctant to do without travel insurance although when you are within the EU there is at least the E111 card in case of a medical emergency. When my kids were smaller we had to deal with two broken arms and a torn-open knee-cap over the years. Three visits to the (excellent ) Spanish emergency services. No wonder my hair is going grey.
I also had a bizarre case of role-reversal a few years back. I was labouring away at my desk trying to make a small dent in a large pile of work when the mobile rang. It was my Dad, normally resident in beautiful Enniscrone looking out at Killala Bay but on this occasion he was further afield.
“I’m in Paris!” chirped the mobile in a tone that indicated this was not the sole reason for the call. So it proved. It turned out he was indeed, and what’s more he had managed to have his wallet nicked. Cards and cash gone and he stood on the Champs Elyssess without a sou to his name.
I wound up having to nip out of the office to wire a chunk of money over to him. Fathers are supposed to do this for their wayward sons, not the other way around. On the bright side he did have the foresight to be insured so we weren’t either of us badly out of pocket in the end.
I’ll be down in Enniscrone myself during the Summer. Assuming he’s not off globe-trotting I will be reminding him of the incident as we share a glass looking out across one of the most beautiful sunsets to be seen anywhere on the planet.