The ash flights crisis brought an abrupt end to a period of double-digit passenger growth, the TTA Worldchoice consortium has revealed.


Simon Hargreaves, the independent agency group’s managing director, said the six-day flight ban, which brought chaos to the travel industry, “was a bit of a kick because everyone was getting used to steady growth”.


He said that before the April disruption, the consortium had seen year-on-year booking increases of more than 20% for five consecutive months.


The consortium said it expected April’s figures to also show growth but not on the scale of previous months due to the ash crisis.


Hargreaves said booking prices were also up, echoing a trend seen in official GfK Ascent-MI industry booking data, with the high end of the market bearing up better than the mass market. He added that the family market was continuing to struggle, a trend also borne out by GfK data.


But Hargreaves said he was confident this market would rebound due to the quality of family product on offer.“What got us through the recession was people seeing holidays as a given,” he said.


“The thing we have to do is to get the families back – for them to regard one or two holidays a year as a must.


“Family bookings definitely did go down; it was just discretionary spend for them. But look at the design of family holidays – we are doing a good job of that as an industry.”


Hargreaves said it was an “old-fashioned” view that consumers take only one main two-week holiday a year. He said there were more opportunities for agents to sell multiple trips to the same customer.