Travel agents predict ‘steady’ sales for February

Independent agents reported “steady” rather than “earth-shattering” sales last week and predicted more of the same for February as new data shows consumers are continuing to prioritise travel spend.

Many agents described January as a mix of record sales and slow days – but still a top-performing month.

Travel Weekly agent columnist Colin Burns, branch manager of Hays Travel in Gateshead, said the agency “smashed targets” some days but dubbed others “toilet roll days” – enquiries that did not make it to the booking stage and “rolled” just out of reach.

Idle Travel director Tony Mann agreed: “January was a bit mixed, but we’ve still topped £1 million-worth in sales, above January 2023 and double 2019. Last week was all right but not earth-shattering.”

He forecast a “decent” February, adding: “I don’t think February will be busier than January, but that’s not a negative. Sales would have to fall off a cliff to be terrible. We’ve got used to more consistent levels of business every month over the last couple of years.”

Deben Travel managing director Lee Hunt said the agency’s booking conversion rate had dropped in January from 64% to 50%. He highlighted continued uncertainty over interest rates. “Possibly people are enquiring and then booking online,” he said, adding: “It’s been steady rather than busy, but it’s still our second-best January after 2023.”

ArrangeMy Escape general manager Jennifer Lynch said: “It’s been a bit of a mixed bag. It’s getting busier as we are going along.”

But Tivoli Travel owner Jo Richards said sales “had not stopped” since the start of peaks, with nine out of ten sales converting and January sales well ahead of a year ago. The agency has also attracted clients by offering to match Jet2 and Tui’s online prices.

“If we can we will,” she said, but added: “We’re still getting high-value, bucket list bookings.”

Brilliant Travel director Linda Pyle said some members had also enjoyed their best-ever sales days thanks to bucket list bookings, with strong footfall giving high street agents a confidence boost for the year ahead.

She added: “The core family product is doing well for everyone but there’s also been great success with high value long-haul and cruise bookings amongst members.

“I think February will be another successful month for our members. We’re also nearing half term and Easter which I expect will be driving a flurry of last-minute bookings.”

Kelly Cookes, chief commercial officer at The Advantage Travel Partnership, said sales chimed with holidaymaker surveys.

“Research has shown consumers are continuing to prioritise travel over other expenditure and this is backed by the data,” she said, adding: “As has been the case throughout 2024 so far, it was another strong week for our agent partners in terms of both bookings and revenue.

“Summer 2024 continues to take the lion’s share of bookings but we also seeing a strong demand for lates and an increase in 2025 departures as travellers are already beginning to plan ahead. There is high demand across the board.”

NatWest’s Retail and Leisure Outlook Report 2024, based on a survey of 2,000 people, suggested holidays were increasingly considered a “necessity” rather than a “luxury”. It found 17.3% of UK consumers planned to spend more on holidays this year than last year.

Similarly, Barclays’ consumer spend report for January showed spending growth through agents and airlines continued to outstrip almost all other sectors. Agents saw growth of 8% and airlines 9.3% over December, with transactions up 10.8% and 17.7% respectively.

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