Trade reports positive late sales but value end sluggish

Travel agents are reporting healthy late sales with growing numbers of family enquiries for summer, but say the bottom end of the market remains sluggish.

Many high street agents cited “impressive” sales last week and an uptick in interest from families as Jet2holidays slashed prices for summer breaks booked through independent agency partners.

Seaside Travel brand manager Richard Lowrey-Heywood said its in-house lates campaign, combined with Jet2holidays’ price cuts, had led to “non-stop sales” across all branches on Saturday.

He said: “Late sales are just amazing. Jet2 did their price drop and it was just what the industry needed. On Saturday we were like, ‘Wow!’”

Jennifer Lynch, general manager at ArrangeMY Escape, said last week was “one of the best in a long time” with “lots of big bookings” for this year and next. But for late summer sales, she noted: “Families are coming in late with unrealistic budgets and expectations.”

The Travel Network Group commercial director Katharina Peck described trading last week as “quite impressive, particularly for summer”.

We are seeing families book, but not the lower end of the family market

She hailed strategic pricing for May and June as appealing to a broader demographic and resulting in a 9% hike in family bookings week on week. Late sales took 77% market share, up five percentage points on the previous week.

The Advantage Travel Partnership chief commercial officer Kelly Cookes blamed last week’s hot weather for a small sales fall, but said demand was holding in lates despite unchanged prices. “We are seeing families book but not the lower end of the family market,” she said, adding: “The weather will be making some question whether to commit.”

TravelTime World director Ashley Quint added: “We keep having to quote, two, three, four times – and not just for families. People are jittery.”

Silver Travel Advisor said some clients were holding out for price cuts. Head of retail Julie Crumpton said: “Customers don’t seem as desperate to get things booked as last year.”

The reports came as On the Beach noted a “healthy” overall market with “plenty” of seat capacity and bed-stock in its pre-close trading statement.

But chief executive Shaun Morton described the ‘value’ end of the market as “more challenging”, saying: “There is no price inflation in the market for three-star hotels. Prices are flat: an indicator demand is not there.”

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