trade has drawn up action plans in a determined bid to beat the
bookings slump as war in the Gulf rages on.
The ongoing conflict has sparked an increase in
holiday cancellations andprice slashing,
widespread reductions in airline capacity, staff cutbacksand reduced travel agency opening hours in a market trading 30% down
Fears are also rising of a prolonged war, with new
figures from the WorldTravel and Tourism
Council suggesting this would slash the UK's tourismincome by $5 billion this year.
Despite this, the trade continues to put a brave
face on the situation andis digging in for
the long term.
Tour operators are already putting together
post-conflict campaigns, whileagents are using
the quiet time to increase training and sales of holidayextras. Hoteliers are adapting cancellation policies to stimulate demand
and pushing leisure sales.
MyTravel, where a staff consultation period to shed
700 posts ends in thenext week, said the
trade had been preparing for the situation for months.
UK managing director distribution and charter tour
operations SteveEndacott said:
"There are no crisis meetings because everything has beenplanned. We've had plenty of warning about this conflict and the impact
isas we expected."
But operators admit they are seriously worried
about sales for the nextthree months,
with May and June always traditionally hard to shift, andeven fear a price war if too much capacity is left in the market.
Cosmos commercial director Stuart Jackson warned:
"I'm most worried aboutMay and June
because it gets to a stage where you have to carry on with acertain volume."
On-line retailers have already seen distressed
stock for April, May andJune dumped on
the web in a last-ditch attempt by operators to shiftholidays. Prices are already hitting lows of £79 for seven nights in
Tenerife and £1 a night for accommodation-only
ABTA has told consumers to expect "bargains in
the short term" but haswarned the deals
may dry up when the war ends.
Meanwhile, British Airways has brought forward
plans to cut 3,000 jobsfrom next March
to this autumn while 87 Air Miles call-centre staff inCrawley have come under renewed threat of redundancy.
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