Strong demand for Greece and smaller European destinations has helped boost Thomas Cook Group summer bookings by 10%.
The second largest European travel group today reported that its summer 2017 programme is 47% sold, up 1% on the same time last year.
Overall bookings are up 10% compared to a weak comparable period last year when sales were disrupted by a series of geopolitical events.
Demand this year is particularly strong for Greece and smaller European destinations including Cyprus, Bulgaria, Croatia and Portugal.
However, the group is seeing early signs of holidaymakers returning to Turkey and Egypt – two countries affected by security concerns.
The focus in the UK remains on selling higher margin, quality holidays rather than pursuing volume growth amid a more competitive market to the Spanish Islands.
As a result, charter risk pricing is up 9%, but bookings are slightly behind last year.
For the UK as a whole, including seat-only and non-risk package holidays, bookings are flat overall, however average selling prices are up 3%.
The group reported UK winter sun bookings up by 6%, with prices down by 1%. The overall winter 2016-17 programme is 90% sold and “closing out as expected”.
Weaker demand for Turkey has ben offset by winter sales to Spain, particularly the Canary Islands, and to certain long haul destinations such as the Dominican Republic.
Looking forward, Cook said: “Trading for the group is progressing in line with our expectations.
“While we are seeing some margin pressure in parts of our business due to more competition, overall demand for our summer holidays is strong.
“Based on our current trading performance, and supported by further financial benefits from implementing our strategy, we continue to expect our full year underlying operating result to be in line with current market expectations.”
Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “Customers’ appetite to go abroad on holiday this summer is good across all our markets despite continued political and economic uncertainty.
“Our decision to expand our holiday offering to Greece has helped support customer demand, with bookings to Greece up by around 40% versus last year, while smaller destinations like Cyprus, Bulgaria and Croatia are also proving popular.
“After a slow start to the season and a tough year in 2016, we’re seeing early signs that customers are beginning to go back to Turkey and Egypt.
“Following strong growth last year, bookings to the Spanish Islands have levelled off in a very competitive market. Competition is particularly intense in the airline sector, putting downward pressure on pricing.”
He added: “As we look ahead to the rest of the year, I am confident that the work we’re doing to strengthen the quality and appeal of our holiday offering will win more fans for Thomas Cook, demonstrating continued progress in our transformation to put our customers at the heart of the business.”
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