Customers have been queueing at travel agencies as pent-up demand, marketing campaigns and renewed consumer confidence have driven strong early peaks sales.
Haslemere Travel owner Gemma Antrobus said clients were queueing at the door at 9am on January 2.
“We’ve been really busy,” she said. “The election is out of the way and there’s an element of ‘we want something to look forward to’.”
Premier Travel director Paul Waters said: “December finished strongly. Our first trading day of January was encouraging and we are off to a positive start. We had people waiting for us to open [on January 2].”
Tony Mann, director of Bradford’s Idle Travel, said: “There were six or seven people queueing [on Thursday]. Between Christmas and New Year it was really busy.”
He said operators’ TV marketing and renewed trust in packages following the collapse of Thomas Cook had encouraged bookings.
Kelly Cookes, leisure director at The Advantage Travel Partnership, praised marketing campaigns for inspiring customers to book. Clarity on Brexit following the election has also proven a boost. Cookes added: “People are feeling there is light at the end of the Brexit tunnel.”
The Travel Network Group chief executive Gary Lewis said members had seen a “very strong start”, adding: “Consumer confidence is on the rise and there is more certainty.”
Chris Bailey, managing director of two-branch Bailey’s Travel, said: “December picked up on the back of the election being out of the way.”
Fred Olsen Travel head of commercial Paul Hardwick said enquiries were up 38% year on year between Christmas and New Year, despite one less day of trading.
“No one has mentioned the word Brexit for two weeks,” he said. “That’s making people want to spend money.”
John Escott, general manager at Elite Travel Group, said December was a positive month for many members, “with many reporting a significant increase in consumer confidence after the general election”.
He added: “The general feeling is that long-haul, tailormade high-end holidays are selling very well.”
A Tui spokesperson said demand for summer 2020 is already strong and the family market is particularly buoyant.
“Greece, Balearics and Turkey remain the most popular choices so far for beach breaks and Mexico for long-haul; North Africa has proved popular for value and year-round sun,” said Tui.
“We’re also seeing an emerging appetite for solo travel, particularly with the over-50s, with around 20% of our programme of Tui Tours booked by solo passengers.”
Homeworking agencies also attributed growth to a post-election consumer confidence boost. Travel Counsellors reported a 14% rise in 2020 bookings made in December, while Not Just Travel said Boxing Day sales were up 60%.
The positive outlook was reflected in Travel Weekly’s online polls. Almost two-thirds of 133 respondents on Facebook said they had had a positive start. One-third said business had been slow.
On Twitter, 53% said they had seen a positive start; 20% reported slow business; and a quarter said trading was on a par with last year.
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