CAUTIOUS industry bosses believe the trade is on the
brink of recovery following the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

This weekend is deemed critical in assessing the true
state of the market, with operators and retailers hoping the end of the war in
Iraq will spark the long-awaited bookings boom. Even before the events of Wednesday,
which saw US forces take control of Baghdad, the trade noticed improved
bookings for the next month.

Ilkeston Co-op Travel managing director Chris Smith
said: “Shops are reporting fewer questions about the war and whether it is safe
to travel.”

Travelcare general manager Amanda Williams said:
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel.” But she said agents were having to
alter large numbers of bookings following cuts out of regional airports – which
could put staff under pressure if demand bounced back significantly.

In a reaction to extra demand for April, capacity was
added by some operators.

Thomas Cook put 10 flights back on for post-Easter to
destinations such as Palma and Faro out of Gatwick and Manchester.