You may have been wondering why the roads are so quiet these days, or why the drive into work has become so much easier, if not completely hassle-free?
Well, that’s probably because of a new trend that’s emerging among Northern Irish holidaymakers as they ditch the traditional July break in favour of an August getaway. Doreen McKenzie, of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), said that this month has become very popular on the holiday calendar. “Holiday peak time across the province is still around the July fortnight, but the next peak is the first two weeks of August, which is following in the footsteps of people in the Republic and in other parts of the UK,” said Mrs McKenzie, the founder and owner of travel agents Knock Travel.
“Over the past six weeks we’ve had a lot of people picking up last-minute holidays,” she added
And although the roads in Belfast city centre may be less choked, shoppers have been thronging the streets.
Hugh Black, manager of Victoria Square, Belfast’s multi-million pound retail complex, said that business was booming.
“Last week footfall was up 6% compared to this time last year, while sales also rose between 5% and 6%,” he said.
Economist John Simpson said the holiday period was not having a detrimental impact on the city’s livelihood.
“I don’t think there is any significant impact, there is just a variation because the first two weeks of August are the second most popular holiday period (here) after the Twelfth,” he said.
Retailers in Northern Ireland will be hoping that this month is better than August 2011. This time last year, retail sales fell due to weak consumer confidence and high inflation. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that like-for-like sales fell 0.6% in August 2011 compared with a year earlier.