Peaks period: Agents ‘cautiously optimistic’ about summer sales

Agents are “cautiously optimistic” about summer holiday sales at the start of the peaks period – but winter holidays continue to suffer.

Sales were mostly for summer 2010 rather than winter holidays, with all-inclusive and non-euro destinations remaining strong. 

Advantage Travel Centres commercial director Julia Lo Bue-Said said the current winter market was not performing well, with Advantage agents seeing peak sales drop by 10%.

However, Advantage saw sales of summer 2010 packages increase 20% for the first week after Christmas, partially driven by a 40% increase for eastern Mediterranean sales.

“The enquiry levels are up and agents are very positive as the conversions are there in very significant numbers,” said Lo Bue-Said.

Many agencies opened for three or four days over the Christmas period, with Saturday January 2 reported as the busiest day.

Daniele Broccoli, owner of Britaly Travel in Peterborough, and trade-only tour operation Typically Italian, said: “It is a pretty steady sell at
the moment and I am cautiously optimistic.”

Wetherby-based Spa Travel owner Paul Dayson said sales were up 24%, but complained that some independent tour operators were not available to deal with enquiries.

“We were really busy on Saturday [January 2] and I couldn’t get through to some operators, while some closed at 1pm,” he said.

Worldchoice said pricing was holding up, with an average booking price after December 29 2009 of £1,000 per person, up from £570 last year.

Operations director Bill Pickering said: “Flight-only and cruise did well and represented more than half of the bookings.”

On the Beach commercial director Johnny Pollard said: “We are up around 70% year on year so far. There are a lot of bargains out there and people are taking advantage. It has been all summer holidays so far, no late winter bookings. Turkey and Egypt are very busy and all-inclusive is ahead of everything else.”

Despite some positive reports, a note of caution came from a consumer survey for Travel Weekly by market research company TNS. It revealed that almost four in 10 customers do not plan to take a holiday in 2010. Of those planning a holiday, half said they would take only one trip, while just one in five will take three or more.

TNS head of travel and tourism Tom Costley said: “The overall picture of 2010 holiday plans seems very similar to last year, but we know from experience that people’s intentions can differ quite substantially to what they eventually choose to do.”

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