The winter market looks set to continue the trend for late bookings, although operators are cheered by interest in mid-haul destinations as well as all-inclusive options and destinations outside the eurozone, such as Egypt.
Youtravel.com sales and marketing director Paul Riches says: “The winter season will be a late-booking one as the delay in the summer bookings will have a knock-on effect.
“We need to keep track of what’s going to be a complex consumer attitude towards travel this winter.”
Sharm el-Sheikh is youtravel.com’s top winter-sun destination. Riches adds: “The move towards all-inclusive holidays is prevalent in the Egyptian resorts, especially for families.
“Like Cyprus, the Canaries have suffered recently, because of the strength of the euro. However, their great value, especially in all-inclusive resorts for families, is second to none, and bookings are coming in for winter.”
Thomson and First Choice product general manager Katrina Berry says: “Customer demand for all-inclusive remains strong. Sales continue to perform better year-on-year in this category, and we have increased bed capacity.
“More holidays are available to destinations outside the eurozone compared with last winter because of the weak value of the pound.
“Demand for Egypt remains strong, and we have increased capacity to the Cape Verde islands this winter, with a new flight from Manchester to Boa Vista,” Berry says.
Egypt is also performing well for upmarket operator Inspired Luxury Escapes. Sales director Theo Demetriou says: “We are seeing massive demand for Egypt winter-sun holidays. It has outstripped expectations for our first year. We are seeing a lot of [high end] Christmas bookings.”
Long-haul specialist Hayes and Jarvis programme director Lesley Rollo says: “Sri Lanka offers particularly good value for money this year, and we have to be careful to include beach resorts that continue to offer good value at all levels. We expect strong demand for the winter season.
“Kenya bookings are three times the level of last year, which means the destination has practically recovered to 2007 levels,” he says.
Hot tips for winter sun 2009/10
Youtravel.com predicts this year will be stronger than ever for this popular winter-sun island.
The tourist board has been working hard to push the upmarket side of Tenerife, says Riches. “Celebrities such as Coleen Rooney have visited Tenerife, giving the island a boost in the public eye.
“It’s proved it is not just a bucket-and-spade option, but also has top-end hotels with great facilities.
“No-frills and scheduled airlines have increased capacity to Tenerife, making it more accessible, and, as a result, a more flexible winter-sun option. Clients no longer have to go for the traditional seven days,” says Riches.
Cosmos has targeted Tunisia as a big growth area this winter, adding capacity to Monastir in anticipation of demand.
Thomas Cook product manager Mark Littlefair says: “Tunisia is becoming increasingly popular as a long-stay winter destination. Because of its competitive prices, it can be cheaper for people to go away than to stay at home. As a result, we are booking more long stays of 28 or 35 nights.”
Riches says: “Because of fluctuations in the euro, some traditional winter-sun destinations will be more expensive than in recent years. I believe Tunisia could come into its own and steal some share.”
Airfares to Australia have dropped significantly in the past six months, and remain low because of increased capacity on many major routes and a slowdown in bookings.
More airlift will be added this winter, with the launch of three flights a week to Melbourne with Qatar Airways, the first Australian destination for the carrier. The route will become daily in early 2010, and it will connect UK travellers via a one-hour stopover in capital Doha.
Tourism Australia marketing manager UK Alasdair Farrimond says: “These are the cheapest fares to Australia for years and, given that Australia is a must-visit destination for most Brits, now is the time to take advantage and make a booking.”
Until now, the Dominican Republic has been seen as an all-inclusive hotels destination served by only charter operators.
This image is changing, with the introduction of a twice-weekly British Airways flight from Gatwick to Punta Cana on October 26. This has prompted non-charter tour operators, such as British Airways Holidays and Caribtours, to introduce the destination, offering alternative accommodation options.
Dominican Republic Tourist Board director Sabrina Cambiaso says: “The Dominican Republic has a variety of new hotels ranging from luxury resorts (such as Tortuga Bay, which was the first in the Dominican Republic to become a Leading Hotels of the World member) to family-friendly hotels to boutique properties.”
Cheap flights to Bali with Singapore Airlines have helped to make this one of the success stories of the summer season for Hayes and Jarvis, and this trend is expected to continue into winter 2009/10.
Rollo says: “Bali has had its best year in a decade, which has a lot to do with it being so well priced for such an aspirational destination.
“We aim to boost our winter business by focusing on all-inclusive offers, for example, at the three-star Bali Tropic Resort and the four-star Melia Benoa Resort.
Five-night packages start from £1,119 and £1,239 per person respectively.
Kerzner International is opening the Mazagan Beach Resort in Morocco in October. Situated on the Plan Azur, 56 miles south of Casablanca, the 500-room property will have a golf course and spa. kerzner.com
Rotana is opening eight new properties this autumn and winter, two in Dubai and six in Abu Dhabi. rotana.com
Thomson is expanding its range of all-inclusive options in its second-edition winter-sun brochure, on sale now. Hotels that have been upgraded to all-inclusive include the Gran Canaria Princess and the Orquidea Hotel, Gran Canaria. thomson.co.uk, 0871 231 4725
Libra Holidays has launched a Jordan programme for winter 2009/10, offering seven-night packages to Amman, Aqaba, Petra and the Dead Sea, along with pre-bookable and commissionable tours and excursions ranging from two to six days. libraholidays.co.uk, 0871 222 8181
Hayes and Jarvis has introduced the four-star Hilton Maldives Iru Fushi Resort and Spa (five nights from £2,449) and the Olhuveli Beach (five nights from £1,419). hayesandjarvis.com , 0871 664 0246
Crystal Cruises is giving away a free cruise to an agent and their partner for every three bookings made. crystalcruises.co.uk, 020 7287 9040
Jetset has launched Jetset Lotto, where each booking made generates an electronic lotto ticket for the agent. There is also a live draw on the operator’s website every Friday at 10am to win £250. jetsetflights.co.uk, 0845 0252 777
Tourism Australia is offering Aussie Specialists 50% off selected accommodation as well as discounted and free excursions. They can also apply to take part in its mega fam trip, Corroboree Europe. specialistaustralia.com
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is giving agents the chance to increase their commission by 10% if they increase sales from the date the 2010 brochure was launched until August 31. fredolsencruises.co.uk, 01473 746164