It could take until 2024 for the market to return to a traditional booking pattern, predicts Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes.
Speaking during a panel debate at the consortium’s overseas conference in Madeira, Cookes said 40% of Advantage’s bookings made each week were for holidays departing within 12 weeks.
Normally 60% of business comes in the first quarter of the year, but this was currently not the case, she said.
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She believes the trend is likely to continue this summer with consumers waiting until nearer the date of travel before booking due to uncertainty in the current market.
The change in booking patterns has also seen holidaymakers switch from booking multiple short trips to one longer duration holiday, and take time to consider what and how they book, she added.
But Cookes was confident the trend for late bookings would be “short-lived” with the market gradually returning to normal over the next two years.
She said: “I think it’s a short-lived problem. I think people will go back to booking in advance.
“What is positive is that on a weekly basis we are starting to see further-out bookings start to creep up.
“My belief is that it will come back but not until 2024. There are a lot of hurdles. We are trying to help members with bringing in that business from further out.”
She advised agents to “stay close to clients” and keep engaging with them and market inspirational travel to encourage bookings for further ahead.
The growth in the number of online players, particularly consolidators, has also slowed in the last two years, with consumers seeking a more personal booking approach.
“Throughout the pandemic we saw some businesses move off the high street or scale down their operations and sit it out but a lot of these have scaled back up and taken on new locations in the last few months,” she said, adding: “Customers’ buying behaviour has changed, people want that handheld approach.
“There’s never been a better time to book through an agent.”
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