Agents have reported significantly higher holiday spend by consumers with November described as one of the best trading months in more than two years.
The improved sales picture in the run-up to Christmas prompted some agents to draw comparisons with January, traditionally one of the industry’s busiest months.
Demand for longer durations and bucket-list trips have pushed up average spend, with the reopening of the US, removal of red list countries and pent-up demand cited as factors.
“In some cases agents are struggling to get through all their enquiries,” said Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes, who noted Advantage Managed Services members’ average booking value last week was the highest since May 2021.
“Members are reporting being anything from 75% to 110% of 2019 [sales] levels,” said Cookes.
The Travel Network Group chief executive Gary Lewis told a Barclays ‘Travel Sector’ virtual seminar the first week in November was a “record week”, while Hays Travel owner Dame Irene Hays reported a “significant bounce-back” with sales exceeding the agency’s target of 70% of 2019 levels.
“People are definitely spending more and wanting to do long-haul, bucket-list holidays,” she added.
Spear Travels chairman Peter Cookson said average spend per booking was about 30% up on previous years. “We’re used to doing five-figure bookings, but one client upgraded his initial £20,000 budget to £55,000.”
Spear’s sales in the first 15 days of November were ahead of the same period in 2019, 2018 and 2017. Cookson added: “One of our shops said it was ‘like January’.”
Travel Counsellors’ sales in the 28 days to November 22 were 127% up on the same period in 2019, its highest trading level of the past two years. Leisure sales in the week commencing November 8 were up 135% on the same 2019 week.
Polka Dot Travel’s sales were “much closer” to 2019 levels and average selling prices up as clients upgraded or booked a second holiday.
“We’re not at January levels but relatively happy considering the time of year,” said director Mark Johnson.
Premier Travel director Paul Waters said agents were still spending more time than normal on cancellations but added: “Sales have been encouraging and hitting levels not seen since 2019.”
But Waters warned news of European lockdowns “will give some people reason to be wary”.