An early rise in holiday sales for this summer has gone into reverse amid signs of falling consumer confidence ahead of next week’s Budget.

Travel trade analyst GfK Ascent reports summer 2011 sales to date now 1% down on the same time a year ago, after being 5% up year on year at the end of January.

Sales through the high street, call centres and online remained up overall at the end of February but plunged in recent days, with GfK Ascent recording a 16% shortfall last week on the comparable week in 2010.

GfK Ascent managing director Sarah Smalley revealed the latest figures yesterday to tourism board representatives and destination marketers at a TWgroup Destination Connect seminar in London.

Smalley reported a contraction in sales of long-haul holidays alongside a sharp rise in average price – reflecting the increased cost of oil and rise in Air Passenger Duty (APD). Medium-haul sales are also down, but short haul bookings up as holidaymakers return to the eurozone and to traditional destinations Spain and Greece.

Smalley said there was clear evidence of price reductions in some destinations stimulating demand. However, there are fears chancellor George Osborne will compound the difficulties for long-haul destinations by announcing a further rise in APD in the Budget next week.

Abta chairman John McEwan, chief executive of Advantage, said: “The big issue is consumer confidence. We are beginning to see the impact of public sector job losses, there is the spectre of higher interest rates and the impact of last year’s changes in tax and National Insurance. Also, the unrest in the Middle East may have a psychological impact. But I’m confident the main holiday remains a priority for people.”