January sales figures defy fears of downturn in spending on holidays

New year peak sales began strongly, defying fears of a downturn in holiday spending, with industry analyst GfK reporting bookings for summer 2018 up 7% on 2017 in the first full week of the year.

A £12 decline in average selling price (ASP) for summer holidays in the week to January 13 was more than offset by a £52 year-on-year increase in the week to January 20 and £51 rise for the season to date.

GfK reports bookings for the summer season to date up 4%.

UK retail sales excluding travel have fallen sharply, with Visa reporting household spending at its lowest for five years this month.

Yet outbound holiday bookings appear set to hit new highs after GfK reported the summer 2017 season ended with the number of bookings up 7% on 2016.

Soaring summer demand for Turkey may be coming at the expense of the higher-priced Canaries and Balearics.

Bookings for Turkey were up 122% last week on the comparable week a year ago, and up 78% for the season to date, but the Canaries down 5% and the Balearics down 6%. Season-to-date bookings to the US were down even more at 12%.

Family bookings for the summer to date were up 5% to January 13 and all-inclusive bookings up 6%, with shorter durations of four to six and seven nights showing growth at the expense of 14 nights.

Bookings for winter 2017-18 remain 4% up year on year for the season to date with an increase in ASP of £51. Spain has seen a 4% increase in bookings for the season so far and the Balearics an 18% increase.

Andy Nelson, director of northwest-based leisure agent Admiral Travel, said one of his three shops was 50% up, another 30% up year-on-year and his third, which opened last year, was trading “beyond expectations”.

Monday last week saw the firm’s best-ever day’s trading following a “very good” weekend, he added.

“What’s surprised me has been the number of bigger bookings; the cruises and groups. We’re selling everything through to summer 2019 and we’re doing an awful lot more long-haul.”

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