Long-haul boost for First Choice

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The weak US dollar is prompting holidaymakers to swap Spain for Mexico, First Choice said yesterday as it revealed long-haul bookings had surged 53 per cent for next summer.

The weak US dollar is prompting holidaymakers to swap Spain for Mexico, First Choice said yesterday as it revealed long-haul bookings had surged 53 per cent for next summer.

The tour operator, which posted a sharp rise in full-year profits, is pushing holidays in far-flung countries in an attempt to boost its operating margin.

Peter Long, the chief executive, said trading was "very strong", with destinations such as Florida in high demand. "You can go on holiday to Mexico cheaper than Majorca next summer. Non-eurozone countries offer better value," he said.

The group, which is reducing its exposure to traditional European resorts, is upgrading its long-haul planes to encourage customers to book earlier. Two new Boeing 767s will offer more legroom than standard economy class on scheduled airlines as well as better in-flight entertainment than standard charter planes. First Choice reported pre-tax profits of £74.5m for the 12 months to 31 October, against £47.8m the previous year.

Mr Long said the outlook for this winter and next summer was encouraging. Bookings for mainstream holidays were up 20 per cent for summer 2005 and 5 per cent for this winter, while bookings for specialist holidays were 21 per cent stronger for this winter and 34 per cent better for next summer.

From next week, easyJet customers will be able to book hotel rooms via First Choice's online booking arm in a deal announced yesterday.

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