The number of TTG Travel Agent Tracker respondents taking summer 2020 bookings surpassed 40% for the first time last week as agents continue to capitalise on the resumption of international travel.
Respondents reporting bookings for summer 2020 increased eight percentage points during Week 15 (week to Friday 17 July), making it the most popular booking window for the first time since the Tracker was launched in mid-April.
Moreover, the rate of respondents securing summer 2020 bookings is up by nearly four times from just 11% a month ago in Week 11 (week to Friday 19 June).
Several respondents said seeing the likes of Tui resume holiday operations in recent weeks had gone some way towards restoring consumer confidence, adding they had been personally buoyed by positive dispatches from supplier partners.
Those reporting bookings for spring 2021, however, fell back sharply by 12 percentage points from 39% in Week 14 to just 27%, while summer 2021 bookings remained steady down just one percentage point from 37.5% to 36.5%.
Nearly seven in 10 (67%) of respondents reported taking bookings for European destinations during Week 15, down two percentage points on Week 14. Those securing domestic (UK and Ireland) breaks held at 21.5%, with bookings for the Middle East doubling week-on-week from 3.5% to 9%, up 5.5ppts.
New enquiries and bookings were both down week-on-week, with enquiries falling 10.5ppts from 87% to 76.5% – albeit still the seventh consecutive week the number of respondents reporting receiving new enquiries surpassed 75% – and bookings falling seven percentage points from 69% to 62%.
More than a quarter of respondents (31) cited consumer confidence and uncertainty as the biggest issues facing their businesses, closely followed by refunds (25) and various issues around contact with suppliers – primarily converting enquiries.
“Tour operators and suppliers are not bringing back enough staff to help with increasing quotes,” said one Tracker respondent, who told TTG they lost an £8,000 booking due to not being able to reach a particular supplier. “Other operators are struggling with quote turnaround, why don’t they bring staff back from furlough? We need their support."
Other issues raised by Week 15 Tracker respondents including clients’ disinclination to travel while there are requirements to wear masks, price increases for future booking windows, and the ongoing challenges posed by the government and Foreign Office’s piecemeal travel restrictions. “Travel seems to take two steps forward, and then one back," said one respondent.
There was no shortage of positives though; "Customer confidence is returning, people are having conversations with us again and entertaining the thought of a holiday abroad," said one agent. Another added: “It’s early days – people are still hesitant, asking many questions. But at least they are showing an interest.”
Respondents reported contact from a record 85 different suppliers this week, up from a previous record of 82 in Week 13, highlighting the efforts by suppliers such as operators and cruise lines to meet the needs of the trade while firefighting their own challenges.
Jet2holidays was the most common with 32 references, followed by Gold Medal (12) and Travel 2 (10), with more than a dozen suppliers referenced by five or more Tracker respondents. These include If Only (nine); Olympic Holidays (eight); Celebrity Cruises, Kuoni, Sunvil and JTA (seven); and Classic Collection, ITC and Iberostar (six).
Smaller operators making an impression included Great Little Breaks, Typically Holidays, Belleair Holidays, Cuba Live and Indus Experiences, as well as Shearings after the brand was recently revived by Leger Holidays.
Week 15 Tracker respondents were also asked what questions they would like to ask consumers, with the most common questions focusing on what the trade can do to convince consumers their service is worth the premium versus booking direct, what further efforts or measures it will take to restore travel confidence, and whether they fully understand the benefits of financial protection.