British holidaymakers appear oblivious to Brexit concerns but that could all change if no EU exit deal is secured in time for the January peak booking period, new research reveals today.
Advance airline bookings for summer 2019 to EU destinations were up by 5.7% year-on-year by early October.
Bookings to destinations outside the EU were 28.5% ahead compared with growth of just 4.3% at the same time last year.
The figures from ForwardKeys, which analyses more than 17 million booking transactions a day, have been specially commissioned for the opening of World Travel Market in London.
The firm’s insights vice president Olivier Ponti said: “When we interrogate the flight booking data, looking at trends in the UK outbound market, the best description is ‘business as usual’ or if anything, the future looks brighter.
“For the 2018 summer holiday season, 28% of trips by British travellers to the EU were booked more than six months in advance, 32% were booked during the first quarter of the year, and 40% were booked during the season itself.
“Therefore, whilst it is too early in the booking cycle to predict reliably how good the holiday season will be, the initial indications are positive.”
Ponti added: “We do not see anything much in the data to confirm a ‘Brexit effect’ on people’s booking behaviour for EU destinations currently.
“However, January is traditionally a very important month for holiday bookings, so if there is still no Brexit deal by then and consumers start panicking, the outlook could rapidly start to look very different.”
Looking back on the year to October, outbound travel from the UK grew by 3.2%, with the winning destinations in the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa.
Countries troubled by security fears, terror attacks, and UK government travel bans three years ago bounced back.
Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey registered impressive growth rates and gains in market share, at the expense of Spain, Portugal and, to a lesser extent, Italy.
The fastest growing destinations for British travellers in 2018 were all non-EU countries, with Turkey up 57.5%, Egypt 42.3% and Tunisia 461.9%.
However, the traditional EU summer sun favourites of Spain and Portugal were down 1.8% and 0.7% respectively while Greece was up 11.2% and Italy 2.2%.
Ponti said: “The aviation industry started its 2018-19 winter season last week and total available seats on the scheduled flights between the UK and the EU increased by 3.4%, compared to the previous winter season.
“This appears to be a vote of confidence in the market – particularly when, by contrast, capacity over the summer was 0.5% less than summer 2017.
“As for next summer, seat capacity provides no clear picture yet, because at least two main airlines operating between the UK and the EU are currently hesitant to share their schedules with the industry.”
A WTM spokesman said: “Although consumer confidence appears to be undented, many of our exhibitors have seen Brexit as a massive cloud on the horizon for more than two years and time is running out fast.
“The warning from ForwardKeys about the crucial January booking period should urge politicians to seal a deal as soon as possible, to ensure that consumer confidence is maintained and that travellers can continue to cross the borders between the UK and Europe seamlessly.”
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