The peak January 2009 sales period is going to be tougher than ever and holidaymakers could book even later next year despite warnings about capacity cuts.

Hays Travel managing director John Hays predicted holidaymakers will leave their holiday bookings until closer to the departure date because of worries about their own financial security as a result of the current crisis in the banking sector.

Speaking at an e-tid breakfast briefing held at The Travel Convention, he said: “I will be surprised if January 2009 is good. I see a trend of people booking closer to departure. It´s not what we want to happen.”

The prediction is despite pleas by major travel companies to consumers to book early because there will a fifth fewer holidays on sale next year.

TUI Travel distribution director Nick Longman admitted next year would be a challenge. “I think the weekend break will be something people drop but people will still take their main holiday,” he said.

Hays added 2009 was unlikely to be a year of growth and that sales of package holidays were likely to be strong.

Both said 2008 had been a strong year for the trade, with higher average sales prices.

More news from the ABTA Travel Convention 2008.