Wendy Wu Tours says it is having to work harder to convert sales as holidaymakers take longer to commit to booking.

The long-haul tour operator, which specialises in Asia but has added South America for 2019, has reported a slow but encouraging start to 2019 after bookings “totally dropped off” between Christmas and New Year.

Despite being “marginally down” on the same period last year, global sales director John Warr (pictured) said sales were now picking up, with trade bookings outperforming the direct market.

He said: “Between Christmas and New Year we were alarmed by how poor the market was; it totally dropped off. What we have seen in January has been a little bit of a slow start but it’s gradually getting stronger. Last week the numbers were much improved and we are expecting this week to be stronger.”

Warr said enquiries were coming in, but added: “People seem to be taking longer to make that final decision to part with their money.”

As a result the operator said it was taking more effort to convert enquiries into sales, although strong offers such as its current business class upgrade with Air China were helping.

“We are having to work a little bit harder to convert sales and this is taking a little more aggressive discounting. Our business class upgrade offer on Air China is helping agents convert. We are already chasing enquiries harder and being more disciplined in our follow up process with agents,” he said.

The operator is offering free business class upgrades on fully-escorted China and Japan tours booked before January 20, offering savings of up to £1,000 per person.

The operator’s ‘Total Solar Eclipse South America’ trip in July, new for this year, is selling well alongside Japan and China, added Warr.

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