Bookings for the western Mediterranean are holding up -for the moment

Packege holiday travellers are shunning long-term bookings. Bookings for trips over the next few weeks are beginning to improve, but few holidays for 2002 are being snapped up. Anyone booking holidays now would get really good deals according to some in the trade, but Abta chief executive Ian Reynolds said price levels at present were ”unsustainable for the industry in the short-term” and would not last. “Nobody is booking for holidays beyond Christmas. People are making their holiday decisions at the last minute,” said Nigel Wright, managing director of holiday company Cosmos. Andrew Windsor, managing director of distribution businesses for the Thomas Cook travel company, added: “We plan to stimulate the market and try to build consumer confidence.” Both men were speaking at the Association of British Travel Agents annual convention in Lisbon. Mr Windsor said that while bookings to the eastern Mediterranean, Egypt and the US were down and could be expected to stay depressed, bookings to the western Mediterranean are holding up well. Earlier this week, Thomas Cook said it was cutting 1'500 jobs in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the US. Mr Windsor is to announce his company will reduce the number of holidays it sold next year by about 15%. He will tell the conference: “We actually took more people on holiday last week than we did in the same week last year and the number of cancellations, which went right up after September 11, have fallen sharply.” The Centre for Economics and Business Research, the London-based consultancy, commissioned by the Association of British Travel Agents, said the effects of September 11 on the travel industry would be longer lasting and more severe than the Gulf war. Travel bookings would have fallen by 1.5 per cent next year due to the economic downturn but fears induced by the events of September 11 would lead to a total drop of 5 per cent. In 1991, the year of the Gulf war, bookings dropped by 1.1 per cent but rose the following year by 9.8 per cent. However, the attacks on the US would have a greater impact on consumer confidence, according to the centre. Although the industry would return to growth in 2003 it would not be until 2005 that it resumed a 6 per cent growth rate.

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