The royal wedding is set to give travel agents a welcome distraction from a difficult trading period as stores close to allow staff to enjoy the celebrations.
Only 125 of more than 800 Thomas Cook shops will open from midday on Friday to allow staff to watch the event on TV. Cook’s call centres will open at 3pm for the same reason.
Thomson is opening 336 of more than 800 shops on the day from 1pm. The shops are mostly its larger outlets.
The wedding has provided a much-needed boost to spring holiday sales, but the lates maket is expected to be tough and research company Mintel has predicted that outbound tourism numbers won’t return to pre-recession levels until 2015.
Research by online price-finding tool InvisibleHand found that two million Brits planned to spend £2 billion to ‘escape’ the royal wedding.
Europe will be the main overseas beneficiary of the getaway, with 28% of people heading to the Continent, while domestic breaks will account for 34% of trips this weekend.
This corresponds with the latest Google data that showed the strongest year-on-year query growth for domestic destinations – up 19% in February. Short-haul destinations have seen the strongest growth in overseas queries.
Graham Balmforth, Superbreak national sales manager, said: “Sales to London have been fairly neutral, although other UK provincial breaks are up, which could be attributed to the extra bank holiday prompting breaks away from the capital.
“We may see an uplift in sales to London after the event, as people watch the day’s proceedings and take in the London sights featured on the TV.”
Accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimated more than six million people would take time off over the consecutive bank holiday weekends.
It also predicted that 560,000 adults would travel to London from around the UK.