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The peak booking season appears to have got off to a healthy start with some independent agency groups reporting strong demand for ‘safe’ destinations such as Spain, the Caribbean and the US.

Agents also reported a rise in average selling prices, and indications that customers are 
willing to pay more to trade up 
to long-haul destinations.

Midcounties Co-operative Travel reported 5% fewer bookings through shops last week than in 2015, although sales revenue was on a par with last year due to higher selling prices, and a 15% increase in sales though its homeworking division.

Group general manager Alistair Rowland said: “The lack of Egypt and Turkey volume is hurting mid-haul bookings, with customers paying more for Spain or stretching themselves to go to the Caribbean or Florida.”

Gloucestershire-based Miles Morgan Travel’s sales last week were up 10% year on year, while Midcounties’ Co-operative Travel Consortium reported bookings 8% ahead of last year.

Hays Travel said its 135 shops and 200-plus homeworkers were “extremely busy” on December 28 and 29, with average selling prices 8% higher than last year.

Retail and training director Jane Schumm said: “Turn-of-year trading started positively, with all our regional sales managers reporting December 29 to be a busy day.”

Baldwins Travel, which has seven shops in Kent and Sussex, reported record sales. Joint managing director Nick Marks said: “We’ve sold holidays across the board – cruise, Disneyland, ski, everything. It was our best January 2 ever.

“People held off a little with the problems at the end of last year, but other news has taken over and they now think it’s time to book.”

Thomson said it expected the highest-ever footfall in its stores this Saturday, following a spike in online searches over Christmas for the Caribbean.