Agents are optimistic of a strong peak booking period, with early demand appearing to outweigh consumer uncertainty in the lead-up to Brexit.
Richard Dixon, director of Holidaysplease, revealed the homeworking agency had seen a 119% year-on-year surge in sales between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve – building on a “strong December” which saw bookings up 33% compared with 2017.
“Sales have been coming in thick and fast,” he told TTG.
Matt Harding, interim head of Freedom Travel Group, said the consortium had also seen encouraging turn-of-year trading with “an unheard of amount” of its Personal Travel Advisors opting to work on New Year’s Day to cope with the demand fuelled by “competitive pricing”.
“There are so many offers out there helping to create interest,” he said. “It was just a handful of PTAs working on New Year’s Day last year – this time it was about a third.”
Harding and Dixon said they had not seen consumer confidence being dented by Brexit ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU on March 29.
Tony Mann, director of Bradford’s Idle Travel, had the same confidence, saying he was hopeful of a strong January following an all-time record month last year.
He said despite an influx of customers asking for clarity on travel post-Brexit, he was “confident bookings will still come through”.
Mann also appeared on BBC Radio Leeds on New Year’s Eve to discuss Brexit and advise listeners. “We’ve seen people choosing to come in-store rather than just book online because they want to discuss it with us,” he said.
Deben Travel boss Lee Hunt was also buoyant about peaks in the run-up to Brexit, explaining how the Suffolk agency had booked more long-haul in December than usual.
“Brexit doesn’t seem to be putting people off, but we haven’t done that much European winter sun. Is that because of Brexit? It could be,” he said.
“There’s also a lot of value for money at the moment further afield and we’ve based our peaks campaign around long-haul so the bookings are definitely still coming in.”
Harding agreed: “In the winter lates market long-haul is doing very well, which could be an impact of Brexit if people are perhaps trying to avoid Europe.”
According to agents across the board, long-haul has been performing well, with the US, Middle East and Japan – which will host the Rugby World Cup in autumn – proving most popular.
“The US is doing well for us,” added Dixon. “It was our number one destination in 2018 too.”
Sally Wallis, director of Beaver Travel in Radlett, Hertfordshire, said the agency had also enjoyed a rise in cruise sales, a trend echoed by Harding, who revealed December had been “one of our strongest months ever for cruise”.