Holidaybreak ‘resilient’ but winter losses deepen

Education and activity travel group Holidaybreak saw traditional winter losses deepen yet hailed a “resilient performance in tough operating conditions”.

The company, which runs brands ranging from Superbreak to PGL, saw a half year pre-tax loss of £19.2 million in the half year to March 31 against £17.7 million for the same period a year earlier. Revenue was up to almost £140 million from £150 million.

Overall sales are running 4% down for the year to date, reflecting a later booking trend in the group’s camping division. Sales of hotel breaks through UK travel agents and other outlets are 9% down with trading described as “difficult”.

Superbreak’s sales have also been affected by the loss of UK airport hotel contracts with large travel agencies, although this was described as being “low margin” business. Holidaybreak is to grow higher margin direct sales for hotel breaks while keeping a focus on reducing costs. 

The hotel breaks division saw its first half headline operating profit decline from £4.5 million to £4.2 million. However, the company’s PGL centres in the UK are 99% booked for 2011 and 63% booked for next year after seeing operating losses for the half year decline to £4.3 million from £3.1 million year on year.

The group’s adventure travel division was hit by a £1 million loss from disruption caused by what it described as geopolitical events. This led to an operating loss of £2 million from £600,000. Current sales in the division are 3% down as instability in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia negatively impact performance.

“The unprecedented series of global events led to high levels of cancellations, lower levels of forward bookings, reduced load factors and costs attributed to dealing with the disruption,” the company said.

Holidaybreak chief executive Martin Davies said: “We have delivered a resilient performance in the first half despite the difficult trading environment. “Our education businesses continue to perform well, evidencing the strong social, political and demographic drivers for growth.”

He said he was “particularly excited” about the growth prospects for newly acquired German arm Meininger and the potential to expand in the large German education market.
“We continue to review the overall group portfolio as we look to strengthen the education share of the group,” added Davies.

“In the meantime, all of our businesses are being managed tightly, with a focus on cash generation, margin and cost control and we expect to perform in line with our expectations for the year ending 30 September 2011.”

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