There are positive signs that consumers who had been waiting for the Brexit crisis to be resolved are now booking their summer breaks – but many are looking for bargain basement deals.
Tony Mann, director of Idle Travel in Bradford, told TTG: “It’s been a rollercoaster – it’s definitely been up and down with some really busy days and then it’s quietened off.
“We had a promotion last weekend and that definitely worked - we had a queue on Saturday and then it was really busy on the Monday with lots of summer bookings. It does seem to have picked up with quite a lot of lates to the Med for summer 2019.”
Steve Cartwright, managing director of Cartwright Travel in Cardiff, said: “Last-minute bookings have been coming in for about a month. I think it will be an extremely late market with bookings coming in June, July and August. We need to constantly stimulate the market with promotions.
“People are starting to say “let’s get on with it” rather than waiting for the government to make a decision [on Brexit]. As long as you’ve got six months on your passport you shouldn’t have a problem whatever happens.”
Don Bircham, managing director of Hays Travel North West, told TTG the market was crying out for a scrap of certainty from the government on Brexit, which he said could unlock bookings to Eurozone destinations and spark a bumper lates market starting this month.
“I would certainly share Cook’s view - we’ve seen significant upturn for Turkey,” Bircham told TTG, citing Thomas Cook’s 2019 Holiday Report, which ranked Turkey as its second biggest seller for summer 2019.
“Cruise and long-haul is strong too. The impact [of Brexit] is largely on mainland Europe - the Balearics, Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc. There’s a lot of pent-up demand there to unlock.
“I’ve got this feeling May could be the start of lates. If that kicks in, we’ll hopefully see all that money under the bed come out.”
Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, said one of the association’s members had told him there had been “a bounce but on a very soggy pitch”.
“April has been better but not sufficient to make up for the lack of bookings earlier this year,” Bowen added. “There is a long way to go for most businesses, we do expect - or maybe hope for - a decent lates market and bad weather this bank holiday may help.”
In April, data analytics firm ForwardKeys said it was predicting a “flat” year for UK holiday bookings this summer.
Olivier Ponti, vice-president of insights at ForwardKeys, added: “The trends we saw in early April have not changed with the advent of the Brexit extension. If anything, they have continued.”