Industry leaders have dismissed talk of “green shoots” of recovery in travel and described the current UK market as the most difficult in memory.
Cunard president and managing director Peter Shanks said: “The market is much harder this year. We all expected it to bounce back and it hasn’t.”
Travel Republic chief executive Kane Pirie said: “It has been the most difficult start to a year I can remember.” And Shearings Group chief executive Denis Wormwell insisted: “I’ve not seen a market like it in 25 years.”
The three company heads were speaking at an E-tid industry breakfast briefing on Thursday.
Wormwell contested the view of Lowcost Travel Group chief executive Paul Evans, who suggested last week “the first shoots of encouragement” in the market had appeared.
He said: “Paul Evans always sees green shoots. I think he is wrong. There are no green shoots anywhere. Flat is the new growth. It’s a really tough market and I don’t think it is going to get easier.”
Pirie agreed, saying: “Market conditions are difficult. We are still growing, but the UK is difficult because consumer spending is contracting.”
The online agency boss added: “The cost of flying is higher than 12 months ago. The oil price is higher, APD is higher and it is ongoing.”
Shanks described the UK cruise market as flat after growing 6% last year. “We are seeing pressure in the UK and North America,” he said.
“North Americans are not looking to travel to Europe - they have seen the Arab Spring and Greece and are tending to stay in North America. The fastest-growing markets are Germany and Australia.
“The German market is absolutely buoyant - we are seeing 60% growth. But the UK market is tough. Customers are booking, but it is harder than for a number of years.”
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