So what’s really happening out there at the moment? This year our industry has been focused mostly on the latest mega-merger.
But whilst the big operators have been worrying how to get bigger, it is the smaller operators that have done well in summer 1999.
In a market that is generally flat for the vertically integrated operators, only Thomas Cook is ahead of last year, mainly as a result of its aggressive pricing policy in January.
One of the worrying things that is again apparent, is our inability as an industry to match supply and demand.
How could top operators fail to see the problems in May until March, when an attempt was made to push back summer 2000 brochures to allow more focus on this summer’s sales?
Surely they should have seen that May was a problem earlier than that – or was everyone too busy worrying about the next takeover target?
A more planned approach to capacity management must lead to better profits for the whole industry and better shareholder value than the frantic chase for new acquisitions.
In fact, summer 1999 trading is turning out quite well – despite all the distractions.
May was poor, the number of discounted holidays and empty seats compounded by problems in Kosovo and Turkey.
June has been an exceptionally good month and high season looks good.
Winter sales are a worry, especially when you consider that we have the much hyped millennium effect in there – I expect all operators to move their attention to winter very soon.
Summer 2000 has got off to an excellent start – again with some surprises.
The best performing operators are First Choice and Cosmos, both not vertically integrated (although First Choice is well on the way).
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the last six months has been a sudden realisation there is now a variety of ways to sell holidays.
We are coming to terms with the ‘I want it now’ culture – and Internet e-commerce, digital TV and, of course, Harry Goodman’s incredibly successful TV Travel Shop can satisfy this demand.
The operators who can adapt and take advantage of these new sales channels and who can also correctly predict supply and demand, will succeed in the future.
Who said that tour operating is difficult?!
Nigel Wright is managing director of Cosmos and Avro
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