Travel trade bookings plunge

Holiday hiatus: Small operators face collapse while giants prepare to slash capacity

The British travel industry yesterday disclosed that it has suffered a further slump in bookings that could force holiday companies to drastically reduce capacity next year and drive smaller operators and travel agents out of business.

The potential crisis follows industry figures which show that 1996 bookings are down by more than 30 per cent on this year.

Cumulative figures to September show bookings at Thomson, Britain's largest tour operator, are down 40 per cent. Bookings at Airtours, the second- largest group are down 50 per cent, while those at First Choice show a 6 per cent drop.

Shares in both Airtours and First Choice fell yesterday although the latter denied that the bookings slump might jeopardise its pounds 44m rights issue.

Although autumn is traditionally a quiet time for holiday bookings, the industry is looking nervously to the key January period, when many summer holidays are traditionally booked.

If bookings for summer 1996 do not pick up then, holiday companies will be forced to reduce capacity further. This follows a nightmare summer for holiday companies when travel groups overestimated demand and were left with a million unsold holidays. These were then heavily discounted.

Larger operators such as Airtours and First Choice have already said they will reduce capacity for 1996 by 10 per cent and increase brochure prices by around 8 per cent.

But for smaller travel companies, many of which have already experienced poor trading this summer because of the heatwave, it could be the final straw. "Some of the smaller companies might find it difficult," a spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents said. ABTA said many smaller companies were already feeling the squeeze as suppliers' bills were arriving, while bookings were weak.

The figures on low 1996 bookings confirm the trend towards the late booking of holidays, which destabilises the industry. Holiday companies prefer customers to book holidays early as they can earn interest on the cash. Early bookings also tend to be made at the full brochure price, while last-minute deals are usually sold at a discount.

Tour operators were saying yesterday that the slump in bookings appears worse than it really is because the 1996 brochures were launched in September this year rather than in August. This means travel groups have had less time to sell the holidays. Other factors include uncertainty ahead of next month's Budget. "There is no panic," one said. "No one will really do anything before they see what January is like."

Tour operators say holidays in Spain - nearly half the market - are selling poorly. Cyprus is another poor performer. Winter sun holidays have been selling poorly.

The crisis follows the hot summer that has ravaged the travel trade's profits, with many British people choosing to bask in the sun at home rather than book overseas holidays.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Chief Financial Officer

120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?