January snow ‘stalled three months of leisure travel growth’

Three consecutive months of year-on-year growth in the leisure travel market came to an end in January, according to the latest official figures issued by GfK Ascent-MI.

The snow and ice at the turn of the year has been blamed for the performance last month – the British Retail Consortium has called it the worst January on the high street for 15 years.

January sales ended flat year on year. However, a pick-up in trade in the last week of January and first two weeks of February could indicate that the 2010 peaks market came in late.

GfK Ascent-MI chief executive Sarah Smalley said: “After three consecutive months of growth, it’s disappointing that the bad weather has not helped January sales.

“Overall, given circumstances outside of the industry’s control, it seems we have had a reasonable January and the early signs in February are very promising.”

Bookings to date for summer 2010 are 4% down in terms of passenger numbers, an improvement on the position in December when they were 6% down.

Smalley said there was nothing to suggest the improved position was down to a price war but that operators and agents were having to react to changes in the market by tweaking prices.

Overall, monthly revenues have varied from being down 15% to 28% up, suggesting operators have not got to grips with market fluctuations such as those caused by last month’s snow.

Smalley said: “Being able to respond quickly in a critical sales period can be the difference between losing money and making a profit.”


Key trends in January

> Eight to 13-night breaks saw growth (+25%) for summer 2010, whereas the traditional 14-night break continued to suffer

> The greatest reduction in passengers came from holidays priced under £600, the unprofitable part of the market where operators are cutting capacity

> Self-catering is down 170,000 passengers compared to the same period last year as clients opt for all-inclusive, which is also helping to raise the average selling price

> The average sales price for all-inclusive increased by just £5 on the same month in 2009, suggesting there are some good deals to be had in this sector

> All-inclusive has been taking market share and now represents around one third of the overall market, ahead of self-catering

> Mid-haul was the star performer in terms of haul-type ending the month 2% up

> Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt and the western US were the top-performing destinations

> The family market continued to fall and was 7%  down

> Cruise bookings were up 20% with a particular uplift in sales on the high street

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