Upturn in summer bookings gathers pace

Upturn in summer bookings gathers paceImage via Shutterstock

Summer 2015 bookings continue to outpace sales a year ago, according to industry analyst GfK.

Year-on-year bookings for the week to February 14 were 7% up, while the previous week they were 3% higher. Summer 2015 sales for the season to date remained 3% up year-on-year to the end of last week.

The upturn began in mid-January following a slow start to 2015. GfK reported a 4% rise in year-on-year bookings in the final week of the month following a 2% increase the preceding week. This compared with year-on-year declines of 4% and 1% in the first two weeks of 2015.

Year-on-year package bookings in the week to February 14 were up 8% and family bookings up 14%. Bookings to eurozone countries also rose 8%, with a £3 increase in the average selling price despite the fall in the euro’s value.

The improvement follows a 4% rise in the number of outbound holidays from Britain last year. Recent Office for National Statistics figures showed holiday departures in 2014 hit 39 million for the first time since 2008.

Travel Designers director Nick Harding revealed he had scaled back marketing on Google and Facebook, saying: “I wondered whether we would cope. We’re cutting back on marketing so we can reduce the number of enquiries. There is only so much we can do.”

Advantage Travel Partnership commercial head John Sullivan said: “The market seems to have gathered momentum.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Packages and all-inclusive trips dominate bookings

Packages and all-inclusive trips dominate bookings

Image via Shutterstock

All-inclusive and package holidays continue to dominate summer bookings, according to the latest figures from analyst GfK.

However, total sales were down year on year in February after a strong start to the year.

GfK reported season-to-date sales for this summer up 1% on last year going into March, despite a 4% year-on-year decline in February. This followed a strong January when sales were up 3% on a year ago.

Yet package bookings in February were up 1% on a year ago despite the overall decline and all-inclusive sales were up 6%.

Bookings for the current winter season remain down on 12 months ago – with GfK reporting a 5% year-on-year decline in February to leave the season to date 1% shy of last year’s numbers. However, revenue was 1% up for the season to date.

Package holidays and all‑inclusive resorts also dominate the winter market. GfK recorded all-inclusive sales up 7% year 
on year for the season to the 
end of February and package bookings up 5%.

Seven-night holidays dominate both seasons, with GfK reporting these account “for just under half of all passengers” booked for summer 2014 and “virtually half of all family passengers” for winter 2013-14.

Leading retailers suggested some companies have outperformed these figures. Hays Travel managing director John Hays reported “a fantastic start to the year” with the company up 25% on sales and 28% on commission in January, and 11% up on both in February.

Hays said: “For a mature business these are wow figures – and I’ve been an arch-pessimist in terms of the economy and projections for the industry.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, managing director of Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “February was strong and long-haul is doing very well, but it’s still a tough market.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Thomas Cook reports increased summer bookings

Thomas Cook reports increased summer bookings

Bookings at higher margin ‘concept’ hotels are up 49% at Thomas Cook as Europe’s second largest travel group reported increased summer bookings.

The summer programme is already 50% sold, 1% more than this time last year with overall bookings 2% higher.

Bookings in the UK are 3% higher than last year with a 1% reduction in capacity.

However, average selling prices are 2% lower due mainly to product mix and a higher proportion of shorter duration holidays reflecting customer demand, partially offset by new product and cost out and profit improvement benefits, Cook said.

Cook admitted that overall winter bookings had been “adversely affected” by continued social unrest in Egypt, leaving the programme 93% sold.

UK bookings, excluding Egypt, are 2% up but prices were down by 3%.

Chief executive Harriet Green confirmed that the company had completed its planned disposals target 18 months early following the offloading of Cook’s interest in The Airline Group, shareholder in the national air traffic service (Nats).

In a trading update this morning, she said: “Delivery of our strategy of sustained profitable growth remains on track and our trading, with increased summer bookings, is encouraging.

“Winter trading has been satisfactory, despite the significant market disruption caused by continued unrest in Egypt, as our businesses have worked successfully together to offer our customers a wider choice of destinations.

“Customer bookings for the summer 2014 season have shown an improving trend since we reported our first quarter results with around 50% of holidays already sold, slightly higher than at this stage last year.

“Compared with last year, margins are expected to improve more than average selling prices, reflecting enhanced yield management and the benefits of our cost out and profit improvement programme, which is delivering ahead of schedule.”

She added: “The continuing transformation of Thomas Cook, including the delivery of our strategic targets, remains our top priority.”

A full update will be provided at the group’s half-year results announcement on May 15, together with details of further new product development and the second wave of our profit improvement plans, Green revealed.

 Sourced from Travel Weekly

Summer sales rise by 3% but winter bookings slide

Summer sales rise by 3% but winter bookings slideBy Ian Taylor

Industry analyst GfK confirmed a solid start to the year for summer 2014 bookings, but with sales for the winter down on last January.GfK data shows summer bookings up 3% year on year in January, leaving sales for the season up 2%. Summer package sales in January were up 6% on a year ago and all-inclusive bookings up 9%.

Average prices were also up, although by no more than the current inflation rate of 2%, adding £17 to the average price of an all-inclusive booking in January.

Sales for the current winter were down slightly in January, in line with the season to date. Yet package bookings remain 5% up for the season and all-inclusive sales up 8%.

Egypt and Thailand appear to be the losers, with sales to Egypt this winter down by one-third on a year ago. Thailand remains up for the season but was down 21% in January.

However, the Tourism Authority of Thailand hailed a 10.7% increase in UK arrivals in January despite well-publicised protests in Bangkok. The tourism board’s marketing manager, Joanna Cooke, said of the figures: “We’re delighted”.

Advantage managing director Julia Lo Bue-Said reported sales through the consortium “level year on year” for the summer, but said: “For winter, we’re up 3% for the season and last week we were up 7%.”

She said: “We had a really positive January and it has continued into February.”Tui Travel reported UK mainstream bookings for winter down 2% to February 2, but with prices up 4% as it hailed “robust” trading for the three months to December.

The group did not reveal summer booking numbers but reported UK direct sales at 90%.

Thomas Cook reported a 2% rise in summer 2014 sales despite a 1% cut in capacity, but with prices down 2%, as it reported improving quarterly results.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

Opinion: Rain and good rates spur rise in bookings

Opinion: Rain and good rates spur rise in bookingsWeather-wise it has been pretty miserable, yet there will be those who found some reason to be cheerful amid the downpours.Apart from manufacturers of wellies and umbrellas, a significant number of Travel Weekly readers will be aware that the weather can help boost bookings at a time of year when this is crucial.

Several sources reported positive bookings for summer 2014 during January, but the bad weather alone would not have been the only thing driving this.

Sterling gains strength

Unemployment has tumbled, consumer confidence is rising and, once again, the pound is strengthening, directly impacting holidaymakers’ spending power.

Sterling’s strength is increasingly significant. First Rate’s Winter Holiday Confidence Index revealed 40% of holidaymakers are planning to take an overseas holiday over the next 12 months and highlighted exchange rates as a factor people consider when planning a holiday.

Back in 2007, holidaymakers were getting more than €1.45 to £1. But during the recession sterling exchange rates depreciated significantly, almost falling to parity with the euro in 2009 and considerably increasing the cost of a holiday.

More recently, as the economic recovery continues, the pound has been strengthening and this is likely to play a part in the holiday intentions and destination choices of millions. Indeed, there is growing evidence to suggest this is already happening.

For example, the Vietnamese dong became better value during 2013. Several operators serving the destination reported a surge in bookings and the latest Post Office Holiday Money Report showed UK sales of the currency grew by 94% in the past 12 months.

Value in destinations

A stronger pound also looks to have influenced demand for the Dominican Republic, with sales of the peso up 82%; South Africa, with rand sales up 31%; and Russia, with ruble sales up 53%.

In Europe the top 12 best‑selling currencies have also weakened against the pound, making the eurozone and eastern Europe better value.

Even more attractive are destinations where the pound is stronger and resort prices have fallen. The best example is Bali where the currency has weakened 29% against sterling and resort prices are the cheapest among 44 destinations surveyed for the Post Office Holiday Money ‘Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer’.

In other destinations, agents could use this as a selling tool. Turkey is a prime example: the Turkish lira has dropped about 30% in value against the pound.

Of course, holiday intention and destination choice are not solely governed by favourable exchange rates and resort costs. But many holidaymakers do their research to get the best value and, while pressure on disposable income remains, these factors will influence decisions on how best to escape the British weather.

First Rate is a business-to-business foreign exchange services provider supplying partners including the Post Office and Virgin Holidays

Sourced from Travel Weekly

P&O Cruises launches trade incentive for fly-cruise bookings

P&O Cruises launches trade incentive for fly-cruise bookingsBy Holli-Rae Merrick,

P&O cruises is giving away ten Fiat 500s, ten trips to Venice and 500 dinner vouchers as part of a campaign to promote its Mediterranean fly-cruises.

The cruise line is also giving away 100 cruises to agents who have achieved Commodore status on its online training course and is to launch reduced agent rates for the first time.

Launching the trade promotion, Chris Truscott (pictured), sales and distribution support director, said the Italian Extravaganza campaign was in direct response to feedback from agents.

“It’s a big promotion and to me it’s very important that travel agents understand the product more,” he said.

“We wanted to give them some recognition and rewards for what they do.”

Every booking made online for a fly-med cruise on Ventura between February 1 and March 30 will be placed into a weekly prize draw. A Fiat 500 car will be given away each week during that period, as well as the £20 dinner vouchers and Commodore cruises.

In addition the top ten individual bookers during the entire campaign will be whisked off to Venice for a trip hosted by the cruise line. One of those ten will also win a Fiat 500.

Truscott added: “I hope agents can see how strongly we value what they do and how much we want to engage with them.”

The Mediterranean go-cruises lead in at £599 for seven nights but the new agent rates are £379 or £579 for 14-nights.

The cruise line has recently be pushing its Mediterranean fly cruise options from Venice and Genoa by adding seven more regional departure airports and making the flight section of the booking commissionable for agents.

Truscott said all the work to promote the fly-cruises had come off the back of the Agent Matters scheme, which involved getting feedback from agents.

Sourced by Travel Weekly

Protests hinder Egypt bookings bounce-back

Protests hinder Egypt bookings bounce-backBy Juliet Dennis

Ongoing violent uprisings in Egypt are hampering a bookings bounce-back to the destination while Bangkok protests have failed to significantly deter holidaymakers, according to the trade.The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated advice for both destinations in the last week.

Around 80 deaths were reported after protests on Friday and Saturday in Cairo, Alexandria and Fayoum, with westerners, including Britons, attacked by some demonstrators. The FCO told visitors to “leave the area immediately” if there were nearby protests.

The FCO warned visitors to Thailand protests were likely at polling stations during the nationwide election on February 2. It advised travellers to avoid demonstrations this weekend.

Agents said bookings for Cairo and Luxor were only “trickling in” since the travel ban was lifted on November.

Advantage head of commercial John Sullivan said: “The market for Egypt has not really returned. There’s a commonly held belief it’s not safe territory.”

He added: “The Red Sea has been unaffected and good prices have driven that market to bounce back.”

Miles Morgan Travel owner Miles Morgan agreed: “There’s no sign of bookings coming back for Cairo but consumers are increasingly internet-savvy and appreciate how far Sharm el-Sheikh is from Cairo.”

Explore sales director Carl Burrows added: “We are trying everything to stimulate demand as Egypt has so much to offer, but it’s an uphill struggle.”

Kuoni managing director Derek Jones said booking numbers to Cairo and Luxor remained “neglible”.

In contrast, sales to Thailand are undented by protests held so far in Bangkok, where a 60-day state of emergency was declared last week.

“We had a great week for sales to Thailand last week. There’s not been a huge amount of media coverage and there are no immediate concerns about forward bookings,” said Jones.

However, with protests due during this weekend’s election, Kuoni is moving 17 clients staying in three of its Bangkok hotels – the LIT Bangkok, Arnoma and Dusit Thani – to hotels in quieter areas of the city, away from protest areas.

Explore is similarly assessing whether to relocate clients due to start a tour in Bangkok on February 2 to a hotel nearer the airport, said Burrows.

Jones added there was a trend for holidaymakers to look further afield to destinations such as Vietnam. “What’s happening in Thailand may accelerate that trend,” he added.

Manager of Tickets Anywhere travel agency Tanya Farrer agreed: “Thailand is still popular but people are now looking at up and coming destinations such as Vietnam and Camodia.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly