Tui Travel reported increased direct sales last week and said more than half its UK summer 2014 bookings have come online, but UK managing director Dave Burling insisted: “That doesn’t mean independent agents are not important.”

Burling told Travel Weekly: “Obviously, we have policies that drive direct distribution, but I don’t see a time when independent agents won’t be important to us.”

He said Thomson and First Choice exclusive product, which account for 84% of summer bookings to date, offer benefits to independent agents who sell them

“These hotels often sell early. The average selling prices are attractive. They generate repeat business,” said Burling.

He added: “Our forward sales are up year on year through quite a few independent agents. There are still opportunities for independents.”

Burling said: “We’re not going to please everyone, but we’re still very keen on selling through independent agents.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, managing director of Advantage Travel Partnership, told Travel Weekly: “Tui still has some reliance on third-party sales – on strong independents and regional miniples.

“We work with Tui where they have regional gaps. We’re not naive. We’re clear on their strategy. We work with Tui where there is an opportunity to help our members.”

Referring to Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus, which will operate as a Thomson Sensatori resort next summer, Burling said: “Our hotel partner Atlantica Hotels is going to invest a lot in Aphrodite Hills. It will be an even better product.”