Fears are increasing in the trade of a flat peak sales period in January if no Brexit deal is struck.
Senior industry figures say there is clear evidence clients are putting plans on hold, or booking 2020 instead, and highlight Brexit as a key concern for 2019.
Alistair Rowland, group general manager for specialist retail at
The Midcounties Co-operative, said: “Concern about Brexit is creating a lag in volumes for forward bookings. If there is no deal this side of Christmas, January will be tough.”
Sheena Whittle, head of Personal Travel Agents at Co‑operative Travel, Midcounties’ homeworking arm, added that, compared with earlier this year, customers now “100% have Brexit on their minds” as the UK’s March 29 departure date looms.
Whittle pointed to a rise in early 2020 bookings as people “are hanging on to see what happens”.
Elite Travel Group chairman Wayne Darrock said the next two months were “critical”, adding: “If there’s no agreement, January and February may not peak.
“People may not book until after March – that could throw us.”
Michelle Oliver, director of Kinver Travel, said clients were asking about travel post-March. “We’ve had customers ask about passports and which airport queue to go through. They are scared.”
Speaking at this week’s Travel Convention, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said consumers “have questions and concerns” about how Brexit will affect their post‑March 2019 travel plans.
At Travel Weekly’s Business Breakfast at the convention, Paula Lacey, The Advantage Travel Partnership’s group commercial and membership director, said there was “nervousness” among clients. Cosmos chief executive Giles Hawke added: “It’s less than six months [until Brexit] and no one knows what’s going to happen. It’s an appalling state of affairs and is impacting on UK travellers’ propensity to book overseas trips.”
John Hays, managing director of Hays Travel, however, said bookings for summer 2019 were strong. But he admitted a slowdown in sales growth in the six months to April 2018 “might be down to Brexit”.
Latest figures from market analyst GfK indicate no overall impact but suggest Brexit could be affecting destination choices.
Bookings made by September 29 for April to December 2019 departures were 17% up year on year.
But in the past three weeks, growth in bookings for EU destinations for travel after March 29 slowed, falling below 2017 and 2018 levels. Non-EU bookings have been consistently ahead of the previous two years.
Abta report reveals Brits’ Brexit concerns
More consumers are “confused and concerned” about how Brexit will impact their travel plans after March 2019, according to Abta’s latest Holiday Habits report.
The proportion of people confused about how Brexit will affect their holidays increased from 36% to 43% year on year.
The number concerned by rising travel costs rose from 51% to 54%, while 48% thought it would be harder to travel after Brexit, up from 43% last year.
Released at the start of The Travel Convention in Seville, the report surveyed 2,000 consumers on travel habits and plans in the last 12 months.
Compared with a year ago, it found UK consumers taking an overseas holiday had risen from 57% to 60%; those holidaying only in the UK had fallen from 30% to 26%; 43% took both UK and overseas holidays; and the proportion taking no holiday had risen from 13% to 14%.