A quick scan of the newspapers over the past couple of weeks has confirmed one thing – summer has definitely arrived.
I’m sure when I was younger Fleet Street’s finest would herald the start of the holiday season with pictures of bathing hunks in tight Speedos on Brighton beach. But nowadays, you know the season has changed when the pages are full of stories about what’s happening in the travel industry.
The black clouds hanging over the economy have exacerbated things this year. The holiday plans of the great British public are seen as a good indicator of how much money people have in their pockets and, longer term, how confident they are things will get better.
But barely a day goes by without some tourist board, operator or flip-flop manufacturer pumping out a survey about what’s hot and what’s not for 2008.
The frenzy for ‘bad news’ means virtually any story about holiday trends is guaranteed column inches. And when I look at how the evidence compares with the bookings, I wonder if we are in danger of talking ourselves into a recession.
For example, I’ve read Turkey is doing well (that’s true); Spain is suffering terribly (that’s not); and at least half of all Brits are staying put (rubbish).
I’m not saying things aren’t tough. But I have a theory why good high-street agents are reporting solid business. Could it be that what we have been saying all along is true – independents with strong customer relationships and top service are better-placed to survive a downturn?
Talking to friends, the idea of not taking a summer holiday is abhorrent. People still want a break, but are looking for sound advice and experts to find the right holiday at the best price.
Big ticket purchases such as cruises and luxury breaks are still doing well. Both are relatively unaffected by the credit crunch because they are planned-for trips or made by more affluent clients not feeling the pinch.
And guess what? Luxury and cruising are markets independents have been working hard to develop.
We can’t be complacent, but the reality is our industry is lucky because people like holidays. And whatever you’ve read, remember a two-week break in the Costas is still cheaper than staying at home.
Imagine the cost of keeping the kids entertained in the UK for two weeks. Trips to the zoo? Endless ice creams? Phew, that really is a scorcher!
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