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Travel industry news

24 Jan 2019

BY Rob Gill

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Agents see surge in pre-Brexit departures

Agents have reported an increase in the number of customers making late bookings for departures before the planned Brexit date of March 29, amid a January which is proving strong for many in the trade.

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“We’ve not had any drop in trade, but more people are looking at 2020 and sitting tight for 2019. It’s very unusual and my gut feeling is that Brexit has a fair bit to do with that."

Steve Cartwright, managing director of Cartwright Travel in Cardiff, said: “We’re seeing some people getting in with late bookings for travel before the end of March, as they want to get away before Brexit.


“We’ve not had any drop in trade, but more people are looking at 2020 and sitting tight for 2019. It’s very unusual and my gut feeling is that Brexit has a fair bit to do with that.


“People are waiting to see what’s going to happen with Brexit. If they keep waiting to book summer 2019, then in April and May you could have one mad panic for bookings.”


Cartwright Travel sells mainstream holidays as well as specialising in cruise, which represents 80-85% of its business.


“Cruise lines are bringing out deals and going on sale for 2020, which is brilliant moving forward as you don’t have to run as fast in 2020,” added Cartwright. “But cruise lines may have a lot of making up to do in 2019.”


Rob Kenton, managing director of Triangle Travel, which has four high street agencies, said business was “slightly down” but that if the last 10 days of January are strong the agency should finish on a par with last year.


“We’re getting enquiries, but people are taking longer than normal to convert,” he said. “Overall, it feels like we are not as busy as last year.


“We’re hearing concerns about passports, visas, driving licences and even if aircraft will fly. We’re confident we have been able to reassure them.”


Kenton added the number of late bookings for travel before March 29 had also increased for Triangle Travel.


“In the first week of January, 60% of bookings were for departures before the end of March – that figure was about 52-53% of bookings a year ago.” Kenton added this had now “levelled out”, saying: “We won’t get a complete picture until January 31.”


Kenton added his shops had seen strong demand for foreign exchange, particularly for euros, in December and that had continued into January.


Elsewhere, Richard Dixon, director at long-haul, tailor-made specialist Holidaysplease, said it had not seen any Brexit impact on bookings in January, with sales revenue up by 19% compared with last year, and that the week beginning January 7 was a record, exceeding £1 million for the first time.


“Homeworkers have not been telling us [clients] are wanting to wait before booking,” he said. “We mostly do long-haul and they are booking eight to 10 months in advance.”


Miles Morgan, owner of Miles Morgan Travel, also dismissed any Brexit impact in January.


“Happily, last week was the best in our 12-year history,” he said. He put this down to a greater presence on TV along with the strength of his team.

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