Agents keen to capitalise on surging late demand are reporting significant price hikes and tight availability for October half-term.
Demand for autumn holidays has risen sharply since changes to the UK’s traffic light system and testing requirements were announced earlier this month, with some reporting sales almost back to 2019 levels.
Fred Olsen Travel head of commercial Paul Hardwick said the recent relaxation was a “game changer”, but warned: “Half-term prices have gone up significantly with the enquiries over recent days. People want to go away and want to go now.”
He said 60% of sales at the start of last week were for 2021, with a noticeable shift in demand to land-based holidays for destinations including the Canaries, Caribbean, Middle East and Cyprus.
“Our priority is to book holidays that go in the next six months, then we get the cash and that helps the business,” he added.
Haslemere Travel owner Gemma Antrobus said it was a struggle to find affordable flights out of Gatwick for half-term breaks to Turkey, Greece and the Canaries.
She said: “Prices have doubled in Europe. Clients tell you they have £3,000 to £4,000 to spend but that will only just cover their flights.”
Holidaysplease director Richard Dixon said the problem was exacerbated by airline capacity reductions over the past 18 months and the fact fewer holidaymakers were now cancelling.
He said: “Demand was always going to outstrip availability and lead to people struggling to get a holiday on the date they want it.”
Other agents reported less of an issue, suggesting problems were regional. Mark Johnson, director of Polka Dot Travel in Shropshire and Wrexham, said trading last week had been “the best for a long time” with prices and availability at good levels.
Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “Prices are rising as availability lessens for half-term, but there are still some good prices out there.”
The consortium’s managed service agents enjoyed their best week since the start of the pandemic last week with sales up 30% on the week before and trading at 97% of 2019 volumes.