The Great Escape

Once glance at the latest financials from TUI and Thomas Cook tells you how tough 2012 looks, with substantial capacity and reduced sales.

Never before has the lates market been so crucial, but also so tough to predict, as multiple influences such as Euro 2012, the Olympics and not least the recession impact on customer demand.

However, the good old UK weather may still provide the increased demand required for the Great Escape.

The early weather patterns could not have been more favourable to the trade. Bright sunshine before Easter, followed by pouring rain as soon as the kids broke up for school holidays, repeated again over the half term holiday. Genius!!

This created a small surge in peak season bookings as families decided not to risk the UK weather, leaving operators with more manageable peak season load factors.

Combine this with the late appointment of an England football manager and little hype about the team’s chance in Euro 2012, and early season sales have remained remarkably strong. Given that the Olympics do not start in earnest until August and how few people have got tickets, I think we can also discount this as a major threat to peak season sales, leaving July as a the make or break month for the trade.The key issue for tour operators is hedging their costs this year has worked against them, locking in an average £10 cost increase per late holiday, when current exchange rates and fuel prices are more favourable.

This, combined with the need to clear their more expensive ‘differentiated’ stock in the lates market, means operators need a marked increase in late deal prices in July despite the recession.

Will it happen? I guess it depends on how much it rains, but the Great Escape looks like it might be on…