Stark said while competition between operators had put “huge pressure on price and margins”, agents had benefited from surging cruise bookings, up 10% year-on-year.
On Brexit, Global managing director Stark revealed there was a clear trend towards UK domestic holidays (up 18% year-on-year), likely fuelled by poor exchange rates.
He said with about 5% of Global’s peaks trade comprising summer 2020 bookings, the consortium’s January business reinforced a broader trend towards more long-range bookings with consumers “thinking beyond the likely economic impact of Brexit”.
Stark added Global members had also reported “unpredictable” bookings patterns, with some days proving unseasonably quiet while others have been busier than usual.
“What is obvious is customers interested in price promotions have scooped up deals, although this low-value end of the market isn’t where the specialist retailers should be focusing,” he said.
“Overall, we are slightly up in terms of sales year-on-year, but I’m really expecting things to pick up over the next two months as agents have the opportunity to mine their databases and target customers with the exciting products that are available.”
Stark hailed the cruise sector for its efforts to court the trade: “There are many more agents selling cruise nowadays,” he said. “And that is down to the great work the cruise lines have done in educating retailers on the opportunities available.
“The whole sector is on a high and the amazing depth of product means it is easy to find availability to suit clients.”
Another boom for Global agents has been UK holidays, with domestic operators benefiting from the unease and uncertainty around Brexit and summer 2018 heatwave reminding consumers Britain has plenty to offer holidaymakers.
“We have seen a big jump in UK holidays so far for the summer,” said Stark. “The traditional big names such as Shearings, Haven, Super Breaks and Hoseasons have done a lot of promotion and pushed up the quality of their offering.
"I also think uncertainty over Brexit and the poor exchange rate has prompted lots of people to think about domestic breaks.”
Stark said Global agents had seen year-on-year “uplift” across long-haul and luxury options, which he said he believed could be “big growth” areas for members as they are less likely to be “swayed” by exchange rate concerns.
Stark added Global’s sales to Spain and Portugal’s Algarve had been “solid” despite a slight downturn in European short-haul bookings, with consumers once again looking towards North Africa and Turkey in pursuit of value.
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