The head of Abta has confirmed a generally poor start to the peak sales period for the trade, with bookings down by about 10% on last January in the first fortnight of the year.
Advantage chief executive John McEwan, the chairman of Abta, told Travel Weekly: “A lot of specialist tour operators are showing positive growth and that is helping to offset the shortfall, but the market is down about 10% overall [year on year] in January.”
Following a report on Monday that UK sales at Thomas Cook and Tui Travel began the year poorly, McEwan said: “We’re reasonably happy with our volumes and share [at Advantage]. Thomas Cook and Tui Travel represent a relatively small share of our business.”
McEwan added: “It’s still early days and some of the shortfall is by design. Both Tui and Cook have taken out capacity.
“The market was about 4% down going into the New Year, which is not bad given the economic backdrop. Cumulatively, the market might be 6% or 7% down.
“All the research shows a holiday is still an important part of people’s lives. But people are being more cautious. There is not the same rush to book in January. Families are bound to be more circumspect.
“We anticipate the market for 2012 will be down – it has to be if Tui and Cook have taken out capacity. But there is good growth for specialists and high-volume bookings appear unaffected.”
McEwan said bookings for the current winter season remain “poor – down by double digits”.
“Some late business will come through – booking patterns are much later,” he said. “But the winter market has shrunk for the last four to five years. If people are making choices about what to cut, they are going to protect their main holiday.”
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