Last week was not a good one for the travel sector. “There is little doubt now the Brexit process has led many UK customers to delay their holiday plans for this summer,” admitted Thomas Cook’s chief executive on Thursday (16 May) as the group posted losses of £1.46 billion.
News of Cook’s losses come as little surprise – speculation around the future of the company and rumours of a potential takeover have been rife in recent weeks, alongside bids for its airline business.
More worrying was the unexpected €287.2 million loss posted by competitor Tui the day before – though the fact Tui’s share price remained steady suggests the City doesn’t expect anything better from the travel sector at the current time.
The impact of Brexit is being felt across the industry, with Clia UK chair Tony Roberts warning conference delegates 2019 was proving a “tough and challenging year” in cruise. And yet he insisted there are reasons to be positive, saying: “You only have to look at the $61 billion ship order book to see there is real confidence.”
This order book includes two Virgin Voyages ships, and it was telling Brexit didn’t feature once in a speech by remainer Richard Branson, who made a surprise appearance at the conference to instead discuss the vast potential of the sector.
This week, we speak exclusively to Royal Caribbean’s new sales director Martin MacKinnon, who is similarly hopeful, while Celebrity Cruises boss Lisa Lutoff-Perlo underlined her line’s commitment to the UK market onboard Edge last week.
The ongoing political situation is posing challenges, but the future-focused approach of cruise chiefs, at least, is heartening.
As MacKinnon concludes: “People still want to holiday.” I think that’s the kind of optimism we can all get onboard with.