Travel agents hope for late surge in overseas bookings

Pat Dawson: ‘There is no doubt we saw a slowdown because of the good weather because people put off booking and stayed at home.’

By Pádraig Hoare

There was a significant fall-off in Irish holidaymakers booking sunshine getaways during the summer as the good weather and threat of European strikes kept many at home, according to the boss of the Irish Travel Agents Association.

Chief executive Pat Dawson said there is renewed hope of a late summer surge into August and September as the unseasonably warm weather begins to return to normal and consumers seek last-minute deals for the likes of Spain and Portugal.

“There is no doubt we saw a slowdown because of the good weather because people put off booking and stayed at home,” he said.

“While that is great for the local economy, it has a far-reaching effect on the overall economy, not just travel agents.

“It means there is less spend in the airports, newsagents, and city centre shops where people will spend significant sums preparing for their holidays. It all adds up to millions of euro across many industries.

“As well as the good weather, business travel gets very quiet in August, while air traffic control and other strikes in Europe have taken their toll. Many people didn’t book like they normally would.

“However it has begun to pick up again and we are seeing a resurgence for the next few weeks as consumers look for good deals.”

British travel company Thomas Cook said the summer heatwave kept holidaymakers from booking last-minute trips overseas and warned that annual profit would come in at the lower end of expectations.

Thomas Cook makes all its profit in the summer when its customers in northern Europe, including Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia go on holiday, mainly to warmer destinations in southern Europe, such as Spain, Turkey, and Greece.

The heatwave has affected the company’s ability to extract higher margins from late bookings.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “Because of the weather, we have now in the market more capacity to sell for the late business.”

Thomas Cook said that as a result, full-year underlying operating profit would now be at the lower end of market expectations, in a range of £323m to £355m (€361m to €398m).

In its last financial year, the 12 months to September 2017, it made £330m.

Shares in Thomas Cook fell around 1% and are down more than 20% over the last three months due to worries about the warm weather, compared with the mid-cap index FTMC which has risen 3% in the period.

Thomas Cook’s bigger rival, TUI Group, is due to report its third-quarter results on August 9.

Additional reporting Reuters

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