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Exclusive: Summer holiday sales hold up despite economic turmoil

Package holiday sales this summer to date were just 2% down on last year despite the economic doom and gloom, new industry statistics have revealed.

Figures from Ascent Market Intelligence’s Leisure Travel Monitor show holiday sales in August were 7% down on last year and 8% down in ­September. High-street agents enjoyed a 58% share of ­bookings.

The dips have been blamed on strategic capacity cuts by major operators, which took 276,000 passengers out of this summer’s market, rather than a fall in consumer demand.

This is backed up by higher increases in average sales ­prices in September than in August, with fewer late holidays left to sell at discounted prices. The proportion of this summer’s bookings sold in September is the same as last year.

Overall, holiday prices this summer were up 6% on last summer – less than fuel and some supermarket price hikes.

Ascent MI chief executive Sarah Smalley said: “This is not the sign of an industry in a terrible state. It’s a positive image when you place it in ­context with what’s happening in the UK.”

She admitted the economic downturn may not have ­impacted on this summer as heavily as expected because consumers had already decided to travel.

Package holiday sales fell by 4% year on year, with 400,000 fewer passengers travelling. However, it is package sales priced at less than £400 that have declined the most, falling 22% on last year, a drop of 800,000 passengers.

Sales of packages priced £400 to £1,000 increased by 8% this summer, a hike of almost 400,000 passengers, backing up figures that all-inclusive and long-haul holidays are up. It is also bookings in these sectors that have helped agents increase their share of summer sales.

Smalley warned agents not to sell on price alone as there is clear evidence that holidaymakers are not trading down.

“It’s cheap packages that have disappeared from the market and people are fleeing into the all-inclusive market, which is higher value. Agents should not think they need to go to rock-bottom prices.”

Travel and the economic crisis

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