UK sales for Sandals and Beaches resorts this autumn are more than double 2019 levels as a result of pent-up demand due to the Covid pandemic, says boss Adam Stewart.
The executive chairman of parent company Sandals Resorts International said holidaymakers saw travel as “critically important” and were determined to travel as soon as they could.
Stewart cited sales for this month and for October as 158% ahead of where they were in 2019, which he described as a “powerful statistic” at a time when families would not traditionally travel because the school holidays had finished.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Stewart said UK customers were telling the Caribbean resorts operator they were prepared to take their children out of school to ensure they got away.
He said: “Consumers are saying to us they missed their holiday and they are taking children out of school and heading to Beaches Resorts, or travelling with their loved one to a Sandals resort.
“They’re saying ‘travel is critically important to me, I haven’t been able to do it for the last 15 months…and we’re going to travel this fall between now and the end of the year’. “
Stewart said the resorts operator had held on to “about 80%” of the UK customers it had pre-pandemic and that sales had been ahead of 2019 by “strong double digits” since June.
But he admitted demand had been affected by changes in the traffic light system and Covid restrictions making the pandemic a “complicated” sales period, with consumer confidence rising and falling depending on travel advice.
“There’s a reaction; the phones start ringing like crazy for new bookings or they’re ringing because they want to delay or cancel,” he said.
He said availability was tight for the autumn half-term while 70% of the resorts’ rooms were already sold for January to April 2022.
The average booking window for sales for next year is 10 months between booking and departure, he said, although there were also enquiries for bookings in the next month.
He added: “Consumers are indicating without a shadow of a doubt that they intend to travel in 2022 and to travel in numbers, so we’re very excited.”
Many holidaymakers, from the US and Canada as well as the UK, are also trading up, said Stewart, to make up for missed holidays.
He said: “We’ve never seen so many first class flights booked. We’ve never seen so many people spoiling themselves on room upgrades, spa treatments, tours and excursions.”
Average spend in resort was up by more than 30% by holidaymakers paying for upgrades and other experiences such as spa treatments, he added.
He said this was a result of customers saving money and not being able to “let their hair down” during the pandemic, and now wanting to “make up for lost ground”.