'Signs of confidence returning' says Cook

'Signs of confidence returning' says Cook

Thomas Cook is "bullish" about growth in the UK market despite the uncertain economic outlook and the company's difficult recent trading.

Ian Ailles, Thomas Cook UK mainstream managing director, told the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) conference in Barbados: "We see signs of confidence returning."

Ailles said: "I'm convinced UK consumers will continue to travel. Underlying demand will not change.

"All the projections point to a continuing increase in customer demand [because] people prioritise taking a break.
We expect to see fairly stable 3%-5% growth in the next three to five years. Businesses need to plan on that horizon."

However, Ailles warned: "We are all managing financial pressures. I've no doubt it will change the players in the travel industry. Some will disappear.

"But the contraction will not dent the fundmental requirement for holidays.

Ailles told Travel Weekly: "I see 3%-5% a year growth for the market as a whole. It's not stellar growth, but the projections are for a return to the [market] level of 2008 by 2015.

"That feels quite a long way away. But it feels like we are starting to bottom out and, once you bottom out, it is easier to gain momentum.

"Perhaps I'm more bullish, particularly on the price of oil. But people have had belt tightening and belt tightening and are getting to the point  where they want to go away."

However, Ailles told the ITT: "Consumers face uncertain times. In the short term they have to achieve more from less income, when in all living memory incomes have increased.

"The UK economy is unbelievably challenging for the vast majority of consumers. The cost of living is increasing, there is a decrease in wages.

"There is fundamental, stable requirement to purchase a holiday, but everything else is changing. The lives of consumers are changing."

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