With some consumers feeling the pinch, there has been a lot of talk about non-traditional payment options such as direct-debit instalments. Suzanne Cumpston from Sam Smith Travel in south Wales said younger clients in their 20s and 30s were looking at low deposits and paying by direct debit, but stressed it was still only a small percentage of clients.
It’s been a similar story for Premier Travel, which has only seen a “slight increase” in customers asking to pay in instalments. “The vast majority are still paying their deposits as normal and understanding when their balance will be due,” added Paul Waters. “With deposits remaining low, most people can afford to go on holiday even with the cost of living.”
While consumers are clearly determined to book holidays this year, prices are going up and many agents are having to work harder to get within clients’ budgets. “The biggest barrier is price,” said Thorne. “Some clients are going down from 14 to 10 days, changing destinations or changing airports. Even with free child places, it’s particularly hit families.”
Cruise and long-haul the big winners
Premier Travel has also suggested reducing durations for some clients, as well as considering all-inclusive resorts so they don’t have to “worry about extra costs while they are away”.
Kelly Cheesman, co-owner of Yorkshire’s Beverley Travel, said some families were worried about holidays becoming more expensive. “People are making different choices in how they are spending money,” she said. “The dates are being tweaked so they may go a day earlier to save money.”
Holidaysplease director Richard Dixon added customers “have been willing, but not always happy” to pay more for their breaks this year.
Long-haul is enjoying a resurgence in 2023, but it’s far from a uniform picture with the lack of flights to some destinations still proving a problem.
“The pandemic made travel seem more precarious. South Africa, Canada and Japan are very popular this year,” said Sam Smith’s Cumpston. She added many older clients were now booking their first holidays for three years and were often “making up for it” by arranging two or three trips at the same time.
Thorne said her agency’s long-haul business was dominated by cruise bookings, while the Caribbean has also been a “big seller”, although the market to the US has been affected by high costs and lack of direct flights from Scotland.
“We are seeing an increase in people looking to travel long-haul and a renewed confidence in customers wanting to cruise,” added Premier’s Waters.