A senior panel of industry executives confirmed anecdotal reports of a recovery in leisure travel spending the UK but disagreed about whether this signalled a return to a debt-fuelled boom.
Speaking at the latest Travel Weekly Business Breakfast hosted in Google’s London headquarters, a personally-invited audience of over 100 guests listened to a debate about brand and reputation.
Asked about recent reports that January sales had got off to a flyer, Matthew Crummack, lastminute.com president, said that this appeared to be true in the UK, but other European markets remained soft.
“In the UK there certainly seems to be a little more stimulus in terms of transactional growth but that does not mean that price is anywhere near where it was a couple of years ago.
“Southern Europe is still incredibly challenging – people certainly are not making purchase decisions today as they were. But we have a lot of optimism for here in northern Europe.”
Despite the optimism, new Thomas Cook director of sales, marketing and e-commerce, Mike Hoban, urged caution in terms of whether consumer behaviour would return to the pre-recession norm.
“We are living in a new reality,” he said “The suggestion that people will go back to a debt-fuelled boom is a generational thing people will talk about as happening at the end of the last century. Consumers will be like reformed alcoholics.
“While it’s nice to see some improvement I do not think we will go back to where we were. That’s why it’s important that your brand can deliver on your promise at a price that’s fair.”
However, Richard Tams, British Airways head of sales and marketing, disagreed saying he believed the holiday remains the last thing most people will do without and “it will go on their credit card if it has to”.
“I do not think necessarily people have moved away from debt-fuelled consumption. They want a bargain, but they do prioritise travel,” he said.
Travel Weekly launched its Business Breakfasts last year aimed at readers of its Business:am morning news alert. This year a series of events will take place with the help of headline sponsor GfK, the official source of industry data, and supported by travel technology specialist Vertical Systems.
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