City Hall and promenade in London
Despite the pound sterling taking a beating against major currencies, forward bookings from the UK market to South-east Asia are ahead of figures at the same time last year, allaying fears of a UK sales slump post-Brexit.
ForwardKeys CEO, Olivier Jager, said: “Looking at the UK bookings for travel to South-east Asia in 1H2017, we observe that leisure and group bookings to Malaysia are currently more than 80 per cent ahead of the equivalent time last year. Bookings to Indonesia for the same period in the same segments are currently more than 50 per cent ahead.”
This peak winter season from January to March is also something to write home about, a check with UK tour operators shows. Darren Lancaster, director One World – Travel Sales & Marketing, said many UK operators are reporting stronger business, with some even expecting the peak booking period will lead to their best-ever summer arrivals in 2017.
“People in the UK are still happy to spend money on leisure activities, including overseas holidays. They believe they work hard and therefore deserve to treat themselves. This shows that the fears of a post-Brexit UK sales slump are deeply unfounded,” Lancaster said.
David Carlaw, head of longhaul product at Premier Holidays, has not seen any Brexit impact on winter booking patterns so far and tipped that destinations outside Europe might well see a demand spike as travellers decide to opt for destinations farther afield than traditional European resorts.
Lancaster added that Asia, already unrivalled in offering exceptional value, “now looks even better versus the European and Caribbean/North America destinations”.
Tour operators said this is an opportunity for ASEAN NTOs to target a bigger share of the UK market, warning against complacency amid stiff destination marketing competition.
Carlaw said destinations with the most proactive NTOs and airlines will come up tops. “Thailand is our number one seller, for example,” he said.
Lancaster pointed to airlines’ role: “Vietnam will continue to grow with VN flights switched to Heathrow on newer planes, and the ‘city and beach’ FIT market to central Vietnam via Danang will increase steadily on the back of direct flights from Bangkok.
“Similarly Qatar’s new route into Krabi will develop growth in the south of Thailand. Bali is also doing well as the traditional ‘bottleneck’ when flying via Singapore is now eased with more indirect flights via the Middle East, plus Garuda’s service from Heathrow via Jakarta.”
Amid the prevalent optimism, David Kevan, director of Chic Locations, warned against “perennial blue skies thinking”, as British holidaymakers will now exercise more frugality in their decision making.
“Clients used to travelling in the winter will not suddenly switch to summer, but they will consider March rather than February if there is a rate reduction – typically this happens in Phuket, for example. Repeat clients will find the garden view just as attractive as the ocean view, but a free upgrade would be kindly accepted,” he said.