Wendy Wu Tours took 20 new bookings to China last week with the destination “starting to bounce back”.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, newly-appointed chief executive Glen Mintrim he was “surprised” at the spike in sales and noted business was not yet back to normal levels.

He said: “I nearly fell off my chair in trading this week because we have had 20 new bookings for China alone. It’s the first time I’ve actually seen China bounce back. I’m not saying it’s bouncing back to the normal levels. But we were surprised because China has been quite quiet.

“People understand China as a destination has got [the virus] under control, and people feel safe with the vaccines coming out. So we’re seeing that China is definitely coming back. To have 20 new bookings in a week is amazing as the price is quite big.”

Mintrim added that Japan was looking “pretty strong”, given the Tokyo Olympics have been delayed until next year and people had missed out on the country’s iconic cherry blossom season in 2020. But he said the jury was still out on whether people would be able to travel to see the spectacle next March.

“We’ve got over £3 million of business sat in March for Japan alone,” he said. “And we’re saying: ‘Do we start moving this? But if we move it into April are we then going to have to move it again and again and keep moving it? So we’re staying firm at the moment and keeping our fingers crossed.”

Mintrim said Wendy Wu Tours was budgeting for people resuming travel in earnest from next summer, and that anything the operator manages to sell prior to that would be “a bonus”.

“We’re preparing for the worst-case scenario,” he said. “We’re saying, ‘what’s the financial impact if people do not travel until July or August time next year?’ But there is hope that we may get a bonus if people do get to travel in March or April. We are holding on to that hope.”

Mintrim said he would make decisions about travel next spring by the end of December.

“We always give people at least 10 weeks’ notice of any movements of any holidays and we think that by the end of December, there will be a much clearer picture,” he explained. “Japan is particularly precious because of the Olympics next year.

“When we’re speaking to Japan on the inside, they are expecting things to happen. They’re hopeful, but they can’t guarantee it. So we’re holding firm; we don’t want to cancel people just yet because it’s going to be amazing if it does go ahead. We’ve just got to hold on to that hope for the next few weeks.”