Comment: Is confidence returning to the travel market?

Travel Weekly assistant editor Robin SearleAfter a pretty tough 2009, those hoping that the start of 2010 would be a little less hectic will have been sorely disappointed.

The aftershocks of December’s travel company failures, Christmas Day’s attempted terror attack and the BA strike threat are still being felt, and now we’re having to cope with the effects of heavy snow across the UK.

With confusion still surrounding ATOL requirements, package travel regulations and VAT, you could be forgiven if your outlook matches the arctic conditions that most of us are getting used to.

But despite all the reasons to be gloomy, there are some positive, albeit guarded, noises coming from within the industry.

We won’t get a real handle on the peaks for another couple of weeks, of course, and after a fairly flat December any apparent recovery will be fragile.

But there does appear to be a shift in mood among consumers, with agents ‘cautiously optimistic’ about sales for summer 2010. Some customers who pulled in the purse strings last year seem to be slowly regaining confidence and feel that now could be the time to bag a bargain.

The challenge for the travel industry, now more than ever, is to persuade customers that their summer holiday is more desirable than a new flatscreen TV.

And to that end, we must do our utmost to ensure the government’s response to the recent terror alerts is proportionate, and doesn’t unduly punish those using our airports.

Passenger safety must be a priority, but measures have to be properly thought out, staffed and implemented if we are to avoid a repeat of the chaos that turned so many people off air travel following the last security clampdown.

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