Failure to agree a Brexit deal before Christmas risks consumer “panic” ahead of January peaks, analyst ForwardKeys has warned.
Despite there yet being no discernible “Brexit effect” on bookings according to its latest research, ForwardKeys says the outlook “could rapidly start to look very different” if the government fails to come to an agreement with the EU over the terms of the UK’s departure from the union.
ForwardKeys’ analysis of more than 17 million daily booking transactions, commissioned for WTM London, found summer 2019 (April-September) forward air bookings by Brits to EU destinations are up 5.7% on the same period last year. Summer 2019 advance bookings for non-EU destinations, meanwhile, are up 28.5% on this time last year.
Olivier Ponti, ForwardKeys vice-president insights, said: “When we interrogate the flight booking data, looking at trends in the UK outbound market, the best description is ‘business as usual’ or, if anything, the future looks brighter.”
According to ForwardKeys, 28% of Brits’ summer 2018 trips to the EU were booked more than six months in advance, 32% during the first quarter, and 40% during the season itself.
The analyst says this demonstrates that while it is still too early in the current booking cycle to predict how good the season will be, initial indications are “positive”.
“We do not see anything much in the data to confirm a ‘Brexit effect’ on people’s booking behaviour for EU destinations currently,” said Ponti.
“However, January is traditionally a very important month for holiday bookings, so if there is still no Brexit deal by then and consumers start panicking, the outlook could rapidly start to look very different.”
In the year to October, outbound travel from the UK grew 3.2%, led by the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa. Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey all reclaimed ground on the likes of Spain, Portugal and Italy, and the fastest growing destinations for British travellers were all non-EU countries.
With 3.4% more UK-EU seats available for winter 2018/19, Ponti added the aviation sector appeared confident Brexit would not halt Brits’ travel ambitions.
Ponti also explained why the British are considered great travellers, accounting for a 6.8% share of all international flight seats currently off a population of 66.6 million.
This compares favourably with the US which has the exact same share of seats, but from a population of 325.8 million.
Meanwhile the Chinese account for 4.1% of global seats with a population of 1.415 billion.