Early Easter fails to dent late sales but prices remain high

This year’s early Easter break has failed to dent late sales but travel agents warned prices remained high and the weather could pose a challenge in European resorts.

The Easter weekend is at the end of March this year, just over a week earlier than last year. Most UK schools are scheduled to be off from the end of March for the first two weeks of April.

Agents said there were few current concerns about availability, adding many holiday resorts were open or opening early for the start of the season as a result of the Easter dates this year.

Designer Travel managing director Amanda Matthews said trading for her agency was up 30% year on year.

More: Poll finds 41% of Scots plan a holiday in Europe this year

She said: “We are still so busy for late bookings and Easter. We are finding many resorts are opening earlier, even in Greece and Turkey, and clients that don’t want to go further afield are willing to take a chance on the weather. The United Arab Emirates has been popular and at this moment we are not finding it an issue with availability.”

Love To Travel owner Joanne Dooey said there were signs the early Easter had prompted some families to switch to a later date.

“We are not getting a lot of family bookings for Easter; May has been more popular,” she said, adding: “We have noticed in the past few weeks that customers are booking very much last minute so departing with in a two-week window. There are no issues regarding availability for Easter but pricing is high.”

Heidi Evans, director of Oasis Travel in Stoke-on-Trent, said the agency was currently seeing more couples booking late.

“Families tend to have booked in advance for Easter, but we are constantly busy,” she said, adding: “The weather can be a bit hit and miss in April in Europe but it’s usually warmer than here.”

The Advantage Travel Partnership also cited continued strong late sales but noted high prices and potential challenges linked to the weather in Europe and availability.

Chief commercial officer Kelly Cookes said: “Many resorts are open but the weather will be a challenge as Easter falls so early this year. Despite this, we are seeing strong demand for the Easter holidays, with bookings up 8% and revenue up 25% compared to 2023.

“The Canaries are our top selling destination for Easter, but prices are high and availability is becoming more of a challenge. This is followed by France as Brits head for ski holidays in the mountains as well as Paris city breaks, which are less affected by the weather conditions.”

Cookes said long-haul destinations were also selling well, such as the Far East, the US and Caribbean, despite high flight prices, but stressed agents were having to work harder and price-match to convert sales.

Last week the consortium’s sales were up 5% on revenue and 2% up on bookings versus the previous week and 39% up on revenues for the same week last year and 27% up on bookings.

Premier Travel said late sales were stronger than the agency chain had budgeted for, with March departures more than 30% ahead and April more than 14% ahead year on year. In total, 16% of new sales were for departures up to the end of April.

Managing director Paul Waters said a wider variety of holidays, from city breaks, to cruise, Europe, touring and long-haul, were selling for travel in March and April.

“We are not getting issues from our frontline on availability,” he said, adding: “Last week’s trading was slightly down week on week however we were expecting this as our half term week was a week later [than other parts of the country] and the previous week we saw strong growth.”

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