John McEwan, chief executive, Advantage Travel Centres
I’m going to be brutally honest about the industry’s prospects – 2009 is going to be really tough.
But we’re still standing, and now is not a time to withdraw into our shells and let the economic gloom settle.
It is time to be confident in what you do and how you do it. Independent retailers have plenty to shout about and should be doing their best to make sure they are heard.
Consumers will still want that all-important holiday this year. And the majority of people are not in any mood to take a risk with that purchase. Financial security, sound advice, great service and competitive pricing are high on the agenda and are what our members pride themselves on – hence our bullish approach.
Our advice is to maximise your earnings in as many ways as possible. Operators are keen to get your business with tactical offers and override deals. Keeping on top of all the deals in the market, and choosing the best ones for you and your customers, is more important than ever.
Simon Hargreaves, managing director, TTA and TTA Worldchoice
So what is the truth about forecasts for 2009? The national press appears to believe it’s all doom and gloom, yet the data generated by the industry is less painful to read.
Taking all this into account, and playing the mug’s game of predicting the future, we expect the decline in 2009 to be of the same order as 2008. Depending on what you sell, most companies will have seen the market decline between 1% and 5% this year.
Some sectors, such as the long-haul market, will be harder hit in 2009. There is just no way that we can avoid this with the way the dollar-pound exchange rate has gone. Most long-haul companies I have spoken to have seen double-digit declines and may well suffer the same in 2009.
There are sectors, such as cruise, which will continue to grow – but more slowly than in recent times. It is hard to cut capacity in the cruise sector, but elsewhere the reported reductions in capacity will help to protect margins.
Over the next 12 months it will be more important than ever to decide which part of the market to concentrate on and which part of the market to expect problems in. Personally, I am motivated by the knowledge that, despite everything, there will be winners.
Most companies will feel pain during the downturn, but they will survive and will be fitter as a result. But the winners will be those who spot the opportunities first and who – in spite of everything – find ways to expand and advance. That may be hard for some people to imagine, but it’s the prediction that I’m most certain of as we head into 2009.