There was cautious optimism among the trade following a nuanced start to peaks with agents reporting a healthy flow of bookings to kick off the busy trading period.
Westoe Travel director Graeme Brett told TTG there had been a rush in custom following the 12 December general election. “We now have a clear election result and hopefully that should mean politics will stop interfering with people’s travel plans.”
Gemma Antrobus, owner of Haslemere Travel, tweeted on Thursday (2 January) morning clients were waiting at the door for the agency to open.
“We had really positive first trading day of the year," she told TTG. "We are not waiting for anything – Christmas has been and gone, the general election has been and gone, Brexit will happen.
“We have had so many years of watching and waiting; people want to get back to normality and people who held off last year are now thinking they won’t hold off another year.”
Lance Fougere, senior travel consultant at Baldwins Travel in Tunbridge Wells, described the start of peaks as “manic”. “I think 2020 will be a good year – I have a good feeling," he said.
The comments come following a survey for BBC Radio 4’s consumer affairs programme You & Yours, conducted by Savvy Marketing, which found package holidays remain an appealing proposition despite the collapse of Thomas Cook.
Nearly two thirds of the 1,000 respondents said they were still happy to book an Atol-protected package trip.
“People want reassurance now and you can’t put a price on that,” said Jenny Lyons, head of sales at Polka Dot Travel, who appeared on the 1 January episode. “Nothing can take the place of the travel agent who you build a relationship with.”
Meanwhile, 80% of respondents to TTG’s own snap poll on Thursday (2 January) said peaks had so far been either "great" (30%) or "average" (50%), underpinned by significant numbers of enquiries.
However, another piece of research for You & Yours, conducted by Company Watch, sounded a more cautious note, warning a third of UK travel agents and tour operators could go bust in three years.
Nick Hood, insolvency expert at Opus Restructuring & Insolvency, said many travel businesses were “fragile”. “A puff of adverse commercial wind will blow these straw houses down,” he said.