Travel agents have reported a “better than expected” start to the year, with Egypt and long-haul selling well at the expense of the eurozone.

Footfall in the days in between Christmas and new year and the first few days of 2009 was healthy in many high–street agencies, despite plunging temperatures. However, there is concern that this may not translate into actual bookings.

Advantage commercial director Julia Lo Bue-Said said certain trends were already beginning to emerge, with Orlando, Turkey and eastern Europe attracting a lot of interest in its 711 outlets. However, the conversion of enquiries into sales will prove difficult, she added.

TUI Travel distribution director Nick Longman said it was too early to comment on booking figures. He added: “We have had really good feedback from the trade on the ­advertisements and they have been driving footfall into the shops.

“It’s very early days to assess trading for January, but there is no doubt that, for retailers, the economic conditions are going to be challenging,“ he said.

Global Travel Group consultant George Begg agreed that bookings “had not fallen off a cliff” as people thought they might and said he was “pleasantly surprised” by trading.

However, agencies thatspecialise in European destinations are being hit hard because of the pooreuro exchange rate.

Greece and Cyprus Travel Centre director Anna Mavroulakis said: “We have been affected big time by the euro. It’s a killer. We have to keep our fingers crossed and hope things get better.”

Cruise is selling well, although customers are looking for cheaper options.

Oasis Travel manager Brian Gillespie said: “We’re happy with how things are going so far as we’re slightly up on last year. People are still booking cruises but downgrading to cheaper alternatives.”

Homepage image: Marja Airio / Rex Features