Industry concerns about media stories of Brexit “chaos” appear justified after analyst GfK confirmed pre-Christmas bookings fell following a report in The Sunday Times.

The newspaper’s front page on December 16 reported: “No-deal Brexit travel warning: don’t go on holiday after March 29.”

The Sunday Times suggested government contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit would include advice “not to book holidays after March” and reported officials had “war-gamed the impact” amid fears “it might bankrupt” tour operators.

GfK confirmed this week that summer 2019 bookings plunged in the fortnight following the story.

Senior client insight director David Hope told Travel Weekly: “Summer 2019 bookings were down 17% year on year in the week after The Sunday Times article, and about 19% down the following week.”

Sunvil chairman Noel Josephides said: “There has been no zip to the market since The  Sunday Times article.”

Fortunately, December is the slowest booking month of the year. Hope said: “These were small [booking] weeks, which exaggerates the performance.”

At the same time the trade went into December off the back of strong trading, despite the uncertainty around Brexit. GfK reported summer 2019 bookings up 10% year on year to the end of November and revenue up 11% following a 5% increase in summer 2018 bookings on 2017.

The current winter season also appeared healthy, with season-to-date bookings up 6% to the end of November.

Two-thirds of winter capacity and more than a quarter of summer 2019 were booked ahead of the article’s publication.

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