Dubbed Sunshine Saturday by the UK travel sector, the first Saturday of the New Year is usually the most popular day for booking a break. And agents have reported a stampede, with some seeing demand soar 500 percent compared to the same period last year.
Hays Travel said Saturday was so busy most of the firm’s high street stores extended their opening hours yesterday to meet demand.
Online contact centres will have extended hours for the next six-week booking peak.
Dame Irene Hays, chair and owner of Hays, the UK’s largest independent travel agent, said: “Despite the cost-of-living challenges, the last thing people seem to want to give up is their annual holiday.
“We have seen an extremely busy to start to the peak booking season and already have customers looking for last minute sunshine, summer holidays, worldwide cruises and city breaks right across 2023, and even for two years ahead for Lapland adventures at Christmas in 2024.
“Remembering this time last year, when the Omicron variant restricted travel bookings for the first two weeks, we are feeling optimistic.”
The top destination for an immediate escape is Spain, followed by Tenerife and Lanzarote.
There is also an unusually high number of bookings for Italy, specifically Rome, in February, along with New York, a more traditional Valentine’s Day destination.
Spain, Turkey, Portugal, and Greece remain favourite summer destinations, with New York and Orlando the top long-haul trips.
Richard Slater, managing director of Henbury Travel in Macclesfield, said: “You’d think there would be a drop-off because of the cost of living crisis…but growth has been good.”
Gemma Antrobus, chairwoman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, added: “Demand is greater than I’ve seen it for a long time.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of trade body Abta, suggested consumers were keeping one eye on costs by opting for all-inclusive deals and going on fewer, longer holidays.