Customers are saying “to hell with” the latest political turmoil created by Brexit and continuing to book holidays, according to the trade.
Demand for holidays does not appear to have been hit by a dramatic political week in which Parliament was shut down for five weeks, MPs passed a motion to block a no-deal Brexit and Boris Johnson failed in his latest call for a general election.
Agents, operators and consortia said sales were largely in line with last year – unlike a bookings fall ahead of the original March 29 exit date.
Mark Johnson, operations director at Polka Dot Travel, said the 15-branch agency had continued to hit its targets in the last week. He said: “There has been no impact on performance. If anything, customers want to book so they can get away from the Brexit saga.”
Paul Waters, director of 21-branch Premier Travel, said: “We had a positive week last week. When the deadline was near in March, our branches said it was impacting business. We are in a stronger position this time round.”
Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, said the consortium’s members had seen an uplift in lates and winter bookings and strong sales for next summer in the last week, adding that 2020 was “better than this time last year”.
“Members are not worried about October 31 because they have heard it so many times,” he said. “They went through this in March. People are not changing their behaviour.”
Speaking at Brand USA’s Travel Week in London, Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “UK customers have been quite resilient in the face of all the news. Second time round [October 31], people are thinking ‘whatever, I’m going to travel’.”
However, he admitted a “slight fall” in bookings in recent weeks.
Sunvil chairman Noel Josephides said the operator’s booking pattern in the last week had been “quite normal”.
“All our regulars are booking. We are seeing people saying ‘to hell with it’ and going on holiday. It’s different from the situation in March. The public are more confident,” he said.
Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association chairman Ken McLeod said: “I don’t think Brexit is discussed between customers and agents. In March, you had the whole summer ahead, but now it’s the winter programme, which can be a little more flexible. There’s no real downturn, but it’s a rollercoaster.
“People are sick and tired of it and are booking. The 29th [March] passed, and the 31st [October] might pass too and it might be the same next year. I don’t think anyone cares anymore.”
However, a senior tour operator, who asked not to be named, said: “Everybody I speak to says the ongoing situation is knackering consumer confidence.”
He added the cost of acquiring customers was “blisteringly high”, so “the only happy businesses in a situation like this are those underpinned by loyal customers”.