Pent-up demand, keen pricing and a new-found “sod it” mentality among consumers has contributed to strong June and July bookings – and raised hopes of a bumper lates market.
The weather has also played its part after recent record temperatures gave way to almost autumnal conditions across parts of the UK, driving up high street footfall and enquiries.
Advantage Travel Partnership head of commercial John Sullivan told TTG that while the market was proving harder than ever to predict, members had experienced a “marked improvement” in July.
“The past few weeks have been really good,” he said. “The market’s been significantly more buoyant.”
Travel Network Group chief commercial officer Vim Vithaldas said while things had quietened down in the past week or two, there had been a “huge surge” in the 2019 short-haul lates market during June and July, with the long-haul focus now turning to 2020 bookings.
Their optimism reflects industry analyst GfK’s latest UK consumer confidence index, up two points, and its major purchase index, up six points.
“Consumers are marginally more bullish this month with improvements in confidence across most measures,” said client strategy director Joe Staton.
“This mirrors ongoing resilience in consumer spending, a key driver of economic growth and stable retail sales figures.”
Sullivan highlighted three factors underpinning his confidence.
“Firstly, there’s pent-up demand,” he said. “People who always were, and still are, going to book have been put off by general market uncertainty and distractions like Brexit.
“Secondly, pricing has been a little soft. There’s keen pricing out there. Finally, a bit of the ‘sod it’ factor has crept in. Some people have just decided to get on with it and book.
“What is clear, though, is mass market bookings have been more challenging than other sectors. How we will fare during lates is a really hard one to call.”
Vithaldas added summer 2020 bookings had slowed during June and July as the late summer 2019 market picked up.
“The usual short-haul favourites are performing well – Turkey, Greece, Majorca,” he said.
“Long-haul has been steady, up slightly year-on-year, with focus now turning to 2020. We’re seeing a lot of first-time cruise bookings too.
"The weather has absolutely played its part as well – footfall has been really strong the last three or four days [after the heatwave].”
While the “sod it” factor is undoubtedly something we can all get behind, Staton’s positive outlook sadly comes with an all-too-familiar caveat. “The months to the 31 October [Brexit] departure date will test the strength of this confidence,” his note cautions. While new PM Boris Johnson’s Brexit bluster offers some fairly baseless short-term verbal reassurance, you can bet come October, the same jitters we saw back in March are going to put the squeeze on bookings once again.