Agents ‘can prove worth’ in finding family deals

Agents say the next eight weeks will see them “come into their own” to find deals for families yet to book as they urge operators to avoid price cuts.

Many retailers have already taken to social media to stimulate the lower end of the market ahead of the main July school holiday.

Idle Travel director Tony Mann said agents had the knowledge to find holidays to suit lower family budgets.

MoreComment: The family market is key to positive momentum

“Agents can come into their own now,” he said. “We can use our skills to tweak elements of the holiday and show customers what they can get for their money by changing airport, board basis, duration or destination.”

Scottish agency Love to Travel is using social media and shop windows to push offers and holding fun days in store to attract sales, with families often leaving it to within four weeks of departure to book.

Owner Joanne Dooey said: “Families have been holding off due to the current financial climate and, if they can, are booking last-minute and coming in with no destination in mind, just wanting a good deal.”

What we don’t want is a fire sale that hurts prices for short-term gain

Beverley Travel director Karl Douglas said higher living costs and the general election were fuelling uncertainty among families, but said the agency still hoped for a strong lates.

“We’re seeing people compromise so they can still afford a holiday, whether it’s shortening duration or dropping down a star rating,” he said.

The Advantage Travel Partnership chief commercial officer Kelly Cookes said volumes were “still noticeably missing” among price-sensitive families who were “waiting to see” if they could afford a holiday.

The Travel Network Group director of membership services Stephanie Slark agreed, adding: “Our members have mixed feedback, with some of them saying that families are not booking to the same levels as usual, especially for the school summer holiday. We believe that customers may be waiting for and expecting discounting for peak departures and are holding off for these.”

Inspired Travel owner Kate Harris said late family sales could pick up after the May half-term holiday. She said: “There’s definitely been a slowing up in May, although I still can’t grumble about sales. A lot of the families I have booked are high end and I’m booking a lot for next year. During half term it usually goes very quiet and then you get a flurry of bookings after that.”

Tour operators insisted the demand was there from the family market.

Jet2holidays general manager of trade sales Lloyd Cross said the operator was “totally focused” on helping agents capitalise on demand from families with its ‘money off’ promotions and free infant and child places. He said: “There is strong demand from families, and we’re taking advantage of opportunities to help partners increase sales.”

Olympic Holidays cited “steady” family bookings, with island-hopping itineraries now more popular as they can be tailored to different budgets and duration. Emilia Berni, head of marketing, said: “We expect to continue to see those who are more flexible on dates, destination and property type waiting until closer to the time to secure a good deal.”

Agents urged operators not to slash prices in lates. Mann said: “What we don’t want is a fire sale that hurts prices for short-term gain.”

MoreComment: The family market is key to positive momentum

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