Domestic tour operators have had a far from easy ride this year despite the boom for holidays at home, according to one of the UK’s largest travel companies.

Bourne Leisure director John Dunford said the group, which owns Butlins, Haven and Warner Leisure Hotels, took a hit of a ‘couple of percent’ on average sales values on bookings in 2008 for 2009 as a result of driving sales using cut-price deals for holidays this year.

Dunford said: “It’s a misconception that it’s been easy for us [domestic tour operators]. We have had to work to get bookings – we haven’t just sat around and smoked fat cigars waiting for the sales.”

He said they were as worried as any of the overseas tour operators as the country entered recession.

“At the start of the year we were nervous. We identified there were things we needed to do to perform the best we could in that environment. The key was creating value for money for guests,” he said. “We knew it would be difficult to get people to commit, so we tried to make it attractive with early booking offers.”

In the last quarter of 2008, each brand in the group was tasked with finding ways to offer value deals, but there was an inevitable impact on sales values. “It did hit the retail business,” he said.

Head of retail sales Allan Lambert said: “Since then we have repackaged offers to make them more attractive and gone from strength to strength.”