Dynamic packaging companies are comparing record January sales with a return to the “old days” as independent agents sell away from the big four to compete on price.

The big four’s price campaigns, designed to increase in-house sales in the critical peak season, are said to have led the shift. Sales of big four products through independent agents are predicted to be at least 15% down, although on some days the figures are down as much as 40%.

Industry sources say traditional package sales for summer 2007 are 15% down on 2006.

Business is booming - travel's strong January sales, driven by dynamic packaging, have been likened to the high street queues agents saw in the old daysHotels4U.com said sales this year were 600% up. Sales and marketing director John Harding said: “We had our best day on Monday where we booked 3,000 passengers. We used to see that level of booking 40 years ago with people forming queues outside agencies, but this is all online and through the trade.”

On Holiday Group sales director Brian Young said independents were turning to dynamic packaging to compete on price with multiples.

“The market has been booming for us since December 27. Independents are not selling the big four because their offers, such as Thomas Cook’s ‘free holidays’, take business from them.”

Meanwhile, Triton Airfares’ sales through Global agents are 88% up this week on last week; 220% up for Advantage and 142% up for Worldchoice.

The group is poised to launch a Triton Holidays price challenge in the consumer press, claiming Triton Search can beat or match big four package prices.

Association of Independent Tour Operators Specialist Travel Agents chairman Barry Moxley said the big four’s advertising had failed to inspire. “They are not selling the benefits of booking with them.”

Cosmos sales director Andy Washington credited increased Cosmos sales through independents on the multiples driving more sales in-house.