British sun-seekers are flocking back to previously “off the map” destinations this summer, according to a study by Thomas Cook.
This year’s Thomas Cook Holiday Report – which covers bookings up until February 28 and a survey of 3,322 customers in March 2018 - revealed bookings to Turkey and Egypt were “strongly up” on 2017, and Tunisia – which for Brits went back on sale with Cook last August – was also “selling well”.
According to the study, online searches for Tunisia surged by 790% on February 13 – the day Cook’s first flights returned to the country.
Strong sales since have prompted Thomas Cook Airlines to increase its service to 11 weekly flights for this summer.
Package holiday bookings to Egypt were up 89% year-on-year, in spite of an ongoing UK flight ban to Sharm el Sheikh. In fact Cook’s visitor numbers to the Red Sea are now close to returning to 2015 levels, although centred entirely on Hurghada and Marsa Alam, introduced in February 2017 for the winter 2017/18 season.
The family share of bookings for Tunisia was 44%, and for Egypt 51%, prompting Cook to observe: “Clearly, the nation’s appetite for sunshine at a fair price fuels our demand to revisit these old favourites.”
Cook said 63% of summer 2018 bookings saw customers opting to go all-inclusive, while 20% of Brits were going on package holidays more frequently than three years ago.
Since its “pre-book your sunbed” option hit the headlines in January, Cook revealed that 50% of the beds available had been snapped up.
The operator added that while Greece was the “standout success” for 2017, this year Turkey looked to be “coming back into the nation’s affections” as the gap between itself in third and Greece as its second most popular destination “has narrowed dramatically”.
On the strength of bookings so far, Cook revealed that Turkey was outselling mainland Spain and the Canary Islands combined, with Spain holding onto the number one position due to the inclusion of the “ever popular” Balearic Islands.
Package holiday bookings to Turkey are currently up 84% year-on-year with Cook expecting popularity to continue with Turkey seeing the highest number of return customers out of any of its destinations – 18%, up from 16% last year.
Further afield, the US is Cook’s fourth most popular destination this summer, driven largely by flight-only bookings, with ticket sales to San Francisco and Los Angeles up 54% and 8% respectively year-on-year.