Agents and operators offer conflicting views of January trading

Agents and operators offered conflicting views of January trading this week, but most described the market as “flat” – a view confirmed by analyst GfK.

David Hope, GfK senior client insight director, reported bookings down year on year in the week to January 5, but noted: “There was one day less of sales than last year. Adjusting for the lost day, the market is flat.”

Hope added: “[Season-to-date] summer 2019 bookings are still about 8% up year on year.”

Spear Travels managing director Peter Cookson said: “The market is flat. Year to date we are ahead, [but] January is on a par with last year.

“Saturday was quiet – so much for ‘Sunshine Saturday’.”

However, luxury operator If Only reported “an excellent Sunshine Saturday with revenue up 25% versus last year”. Sales and marketing director Gordon McCreadie said: “The Indian Ocean, Middle East, US and Asia performed well, reflecting concern over the value of the pound against the euro.”

Vivid Travel managing director Kane Pirie said: “We’ve had a fantastic start to January. The market is holding up so well despite the Brexit saga.”

Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said: “Business is OK, but it’s not booming.” He warned: “The fear is what happens after MPs vote next week. If there is a risk of a no-deal Brexit, the press will go berserk and the fear is people will stop spending.” MPs are expected to vote on the government’s Brexit deal on January 15.

Aito Agents chairman Gemma Antrobus said members attending the association’s conference at the weekend were confident they would “ride the storm”, saying: “There was no doom and gloom.” She insisted: “We’re used to having to adapt. We’ll get through this.”

Anthony Goord, co-owner of Peter Goord Travel, reported sales “slightly ahead” of last year but said: “People don’t seem to want to book around March 29.”

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