First payday weekend of year boosts summer sales

The first ‘payday weekend’ of January has boosted summer sales but agents say they continue to have to work hard to convert sales in the price-sensitive family market.

The trade reported Saturday to be the strongest sales day, suggesting clients waited to be paid until booking at the weekend.

Hays Travel shops and Independence Group members enjoyed their best weekend this month.

The group hailed the success of its payday campaign, which reassured clients plenty of holidays would still be available at the end of January, and said many clients were choosing staggered payment plans.

Retail director Jane Schumm said: “Many are making the most of low deposits and direct debit options to spread the cost of their holiday.”

Barrhead Travel recorded its best-ever weekend for sales and said it was on track to have its best-ever January.

Some agents predicted next weekend would be stronger still as more clients are paid at the end of the month, but cautioned the price sensitive end of the market was proving slower to book and noted that overall sales last week fell on the previous week.

Lower end of market ‘slow’

The Advantage Travel Partnership chief commercial officer Kelly Cookes said: “Family bookings are coming through but the lower end of this market continues to be slow. This is likely to pick up this week following [the end of month] payday. Enquiries are high and conversion is good.”

Summer 2024 bookings made up 50% of members’ total sales last week, with Saturday taking a 20% share of the week’s bookings. Cookes reported a “slight dip” in sales on the week before but said the consortium’s sales remained “significantly up” on last year.

InteleTravel UK and Ireland managing director Tricia Handley-Hughes said summer 2024 was “way ahead of the shoulder season”.

She said: “Summer is selling well. To date for summer 2024 we have already sold 40% of the total for summer 2023 and we are still only in January.  It’s looking as though it will be a really strong summer because Mediterranean sales are only just starting to take off.”

But she added: “There’s lots of price-matching and discounting, and customers are shopping around, so agents are having to work hard to secure sales.”

Polka Dot Travel director Mark Johnson agreed, but said: “We are consistently busy, with plenty of family bookings going through, having to work hard as the market is price sensitive in my view, but delighted with the volume that is coming through.”

Long-haul hike

Merlin Travel Group reported a “noticeable” hike in long-haul sales, particularly to Asia, Caribbean, the Indian Ocean and US, while Independent Travel Experts said keen pricing was boosting sales to Greece.

Managing director Gary Gillespie said: “Greece continues to climb in popularity, driven by pricing, to now hold a joint second position with the US and cruise options.

“Despite this, Spain continues to maintain its lead, increasing its share to 30%, marking a 2% growth from the previous week.”

Overall ITE saw sales slow slightly week on week. Summer 2024 accounted for 61% of sales, while family bookings nudged up 3% to 25% of overall sales.

Stephanie Townend, director of Everbuds Travel, said the January “surge” had started for her travel agency last week, with Greece standing out as the most popular option.

She said: “We have noticed Greece is more popular than anywhere else. Our busy period started about the second week into January rather than immediately after Christmas.

“We don’t recommend now that people wait for lates [to book]; the late deals are not the bargains you used to get, and especially for the peak periods, the prices are a lot higher if you leave it.”

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