TUI AG, our listed majority shareholder, is today issuing its first quarter results.
The report contains statutory financial information relating to TUI Travel PLC for the three months ended 31 March 2009 and 31 March 2008, prepared in line with TUI AG’s group consolidation accounting policies and formats, which are stated in Euros.
Consequently, it is not directly comparable with TUI Travel PLC financial information for the six months ending 31 March 2009, which will be reported on 19 May.
As previously stated in our first quarter results announcement on 25 March, we remain well placed to meet the Board’s expectations for the year ended 30 September 2009.
The Winter 2008/09 season closed out in line with our expectations and our last trading update on 25 March. As a consequence of our actions to reduce capacity, which resulted in us having significantly less stock left to sell in the lates market, we were able to maintain strong pricing throughout the lates selling period. We achieved our target load factors, although there was slight weakness in March as a result of Easter falling in April this year.
Consistent with our actions to align supply with anticipated demand for the Summer 2009 season, volumes to date are tracking lower than prior year. Trading since our last update remains robust, with volumes in the last eight weeks tracking ahead of the cumulative position. As evidenced in the winter booking cycle, the trend towards later booking has continued, but as a result of our capacity reductions we have less stock left to sell across all of our source markets.
In the UK, average selling prices have remained 10% ahead of prior year. Customer volumes are in line with capacity reductions, and as a result the programme load factor is now 58%, which is flat versus last year. Recent trading continues to show improvement versus the cumulative position, with volumes in the last eight weeks down 11% compared to cumulative bookings down 17%.
In recent weeks, demand for long haul holidays has been particularly strong despite the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, with bookings up 2% in the last two weeks compared to cumulative bookings down 25%. Customer demand has switched from Mexico to other medium and long haul destinations, particularly Jamaica (+30% in the last two weeks), Egypt (+23%) and the Dominican Republic (+19%). Of the c.2,500 customers that were in Mexico at the time of the outbreak, only c.10% accepted our offer of early repatriation.
The trend towards non-Euro destinations continues, especially to Egypt and Turkey, with the non-Euro destination mix up 3ppt to 32%. Demand continues to be strong for differentiated content (mix up 6ppt to 34%) and all-inclusive products (mix up 4ppt to 33%) as customers continue to seek value for money differentiated experiences.
In the Nordics, recent trading has been strong, with bookings down just 1% in the last eight weeks compared to cumulative bookings down 16%. Demand in Sweden and Norway has shown a marked improvement in recent weeks, although trading in Denmark remains difficult. The programme load factor is 66%, one percentage point lower than last year, and average selling prices remain 7% higher.
In Germany, a continuation of supplier and third party distributor funded discounts has allowed us to achieve higher margins per customer despite lower average selling prices. Customers continue to demand quality holiday experiences, as evidenced by a 3ppt increase in the proportion of bookings for 4-5 star accommodation. The programme load factor is now 51%, flat versus last year. In Austria, the launch of our new ‘Blue Concept’ differentiated product, which is tailored to the Austrian source market, has been highly successful and is sold out for the season. As a result, average selling prices are up 4% versus prior year. Our operations in the Swiss source market continue to experience pricing pressure as a result of aggressive competitor pricing and excess capacity in the market. We have a high degree of flexibility in this market, which we are leveraging to ensure that supply is in line with demand.
In France, trading has improved considerably, with bookings now down 16% compared to 23% at our last update as demand returned following the cessation of the socio-political unrest in the French West Indies and Madagascar. Demand in Belgium remains strong, with bookings in the last eight weeks up 2% and cumulative bookings down 6%. The Netherlands has seen some improvement in demand, with bookings in the last eight weeks down 10% compared to cumulative volumes down 17%.
In the Specialist & Emerging Markets sector sales are down 15% as the ongoing weakness in US consumer confidence has led to a later booking environment for our portfolio of escorted tours products. However, in the European division, pricing and margins achieved to date are ahead of last year as the businesses benefit from the restructuring programme commenced in the last financial year.
Within the Activity sector, we have implemented a number of capacity management actions across the portfolio. Our Marine programme capacity for the season has been reduced by 15%. Accordingly, sales, which are down 15%, primarily as a result of weaker demand in the US, are in line with expectations and margins ahead of prior year.
We will report Interim Results for the six months ended 31 March 2009 on Tuesday 19 May 2009. An analyst presentation will be held at 9.30am on the day.