One of the industry’s biggest independent retailers has declared “real evidence for optimism” in consumer demand for holidays.

Hays Travel managing director John Hays told the Hays Independence Group overseas conference in Tunisia: “We’ve had 16 months of overall growth in commission earned. That is 16 months of solid trading.”

He reported commission earnings at Hays Travel up 11% over the past year.

Hays told Travel Weekly: “That is 11% revenue up [in commission earned] right across the retail business.”

He said: “Last year I told the conference I saw signs of optimism. Now I’m much more optimistic.

“We are not seeing much in the way of increasing volume, though it’s not negative. But transaction value is up significantly.

“People are spending more. They are not booking more holidays and may even travel for shorter durations, but they are spending more when they do go away.”

Hays said: “The data is mixed, but when people go away they spend more and our figures reflect that.”

He added: “I believe this is a sustainable recovery. Inflation is lower and there is more desire to spend. The data suggests people are not piling on debt.

“Inflation is looking more subdued and it is not a debt-fuelled recovery. The confidence in the sector is shown by people being willing to buy businesses.

“The Thomas Cook share price has clearly recovered. Shoppers have opened their purses and there is genuine optimism.”

He said: “I’ve put my money where my mouth is by buying Bath Travel. There is real evidence for optimism, although there is lots could blow us off course.”

Hays announced the purchase of Bath Travel last month for an undisclosed sum, taking the combined retail business to more than 100 outlets.