Trade reports mix of departure dates amid strong start to year

Agents have hailed another week of record trading but noted a more varied mix of departures dates outside peak summer months.

Hays Travel, Travel Counsellors, Barrhead Travel and Advantage Travel Partnership were among those to enjoy record sales.

Hays said customers were queueing in branches, with most open on Sundays and extended hours this month to meet demand.

Travel Counsellors achieved its biggest-ever booking in the best-ever sales week in its 30-year history. The group recorded sales of £31.1 million last week, including a booking worth £1.2 million made on January 12.

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Barrhead Travel said January 13 sales were more than 20% up on the previous weekend, with January 14 its best-ever Sunday.

The agency said family bookings were one of the strongest growth areas last week, with summer 2024 the most sought-after season, but late sales were “holding strong”, accounting for almost 20% of new bookings last week for travel before the end of March.

President Jacqueline Dobson said: “Booking patterns suggest there may be more-frequent trips and longer holidays booked this year.”

Other agencies also reported higher-than-normal sales for travel by March or in the shoulder months.

“We’re seeing more lates than we’d normally see at this time of year,” said Premier Travel managing director Paul Waters. The agency chain said 18% of bookings last week were for departures until the end of March.

Inspire Group managing director Lisa Henning said late bookings and high average values were notable trends this month, which was “exceeding expectations”.

She said: “The book-to-travel date is short, with many of those booking departing within the next eight weeks, and the average value is really strong.”

Advantage Travel Partnership, which reported its members’ busiest‑ ever day on January 13, said summer bookings made up 51% of last week’s sales, with June’s 12% share ranking it ahead of July or August.

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