Holiday firm TUI sees later bookings trend

The owner of First Choice and Thomson today said winter sales were down 13 per cent as the trend for customers to book trips nearer the time of departure continued.

TUI Travel said the decline in its UK market was in line with expectations and that capacity reductions meant it had 12 per cent fewer holidays left to sell.

It has seen booking volumes improve in recent weeks, but customer numbers for winter 2009/10 are still down 21 per cent on a year earlier in the UK. This has been offset by an 11 per cent rise in average selling prices.

The company's summer 2009 programme, which runs until the end of next month, is now almost fully sold. Trading in the lates market has been solid and TUI said it continued to achieve required load factors and pricing levels.

Sales for this summer in the UK are down 4 per cent after a 10 per cent drop in customer numbers and 7 per cent increase in prices. Long-haul destinations have fallen by 20 per cent, compared with a 3 per cent sales increase for holidays to locations such as Egypt.

Chief executive Peter Long said the company was satisfied with its trading performance across all its seasons, including for next summer.

He added: "As we near the end of the current season, we are pleased that the summer 2009 lates market has traded well showing that holiday demand and supply have been in balance, despite the later booking trends experienced."

TUI, which also announced a £440 million debt refinancing plan, said it was on course to meet profit expectations for the financial year to September 30.

Crawley-based TUI employs around 50,000 people and operates a European airline consisting of over 150 aircraft.