Today (Friday July 8) the starting gun fires on the lates market as operators start to sell off unsold stock with two weeks to go before the school holidays.
However, the trade is braced for a challenging market. Observers predict an unprecedented lates period as bargain hunters are left disappointed while cheap deals for unpopular destinations go unsold.
Problems in Egypt, Tunisia and the eastern Med mean millions of Brits who holidayed in north Africa, Turkey and Greece last year have been competing for capacity in the west if they want a holiday.
According to sources this has seen a “scramble for beds” among the major operators, Thomson, Thomas Cook and Jet2holidays.
Last Friday, Majorca’s Palma airport handled a record 176,000 passengers, 20,000 more than its previous busiest day in 2015, while hotels on the island reported average occupancy rates of 95%.
Meanwhile, carriers such as easyJet are slashing peak season prices to Palma because the hotel beds that are left are so expensive.
Alan Bowen, legal adviser to the Association of Atol Companies, said: “It’s going to be very difficult for anyone depending on the lates. People aren’t going to pay £2,000 for a holiday to Majorca; they are looking for something for £500.”
Advantage commercial director John Sullivan said: “There isn’t much stock left and what is left comes at a premium, but you have people wanting Turkey prices in Spain.”
But industry consultant Andy Cooper countered: “It’s going to be an unusual year, but there is still quite a bit of capacity left.”
Teletext Holidays chairman Steve Endacott said the lates would be “difficult” due to demand focusing on the west and the swing against the pound since the EU referendum.
“Unless you are an operator who has hedged, you have seen prices go up. But the UK weather’s been appalling so there’s demand.”