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Online holiday bookings rise at both Thomas Cook and TUI Travel

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Improvements to travel agent Thomas Cook’s website have helped to boost UK bookings by 19% in recent weeks, the company said this week.

In a pre-close trading update the company said its UK mainstream online bookings benefited from the rise over the last four weeks. The boost came after a “subdued” winter season where UK bookings had fallen by 4% in total in the year to March 24/25. Mainstream bookings were down by 9% but specialist and independent up by 1%.

Sam Weihagen, group chief executive, said: “Trading across the group has been stable since we last reported and in line with expectations. In the last few weeks we have seen an improvement in UK booking trends, helped by our recently launched advertising campaign and upgrades to our website.”

Last year Thomas Cook said it wanted to raise the proportion of its bookings made over the internet to 40% or 50% from levels of around 25%, and also announced it was to close around 200 shops to rebalance its business in the light of growing internet sales. It also saw its share price fall when it delayed its results in order to renegotiate with lenders.

This week Thomas Cook said bookings in its Central Europe business were down by 3% in the year to March 24/25 and 18% down in West and East Europe, though up by 10% in Northern Europe and up by 20% in its Airlines Germany division.

Total bookings for summer 2012 were down by 2% compared to the same time last year. Mainstream bookings, it said, were down by 10% but bookings in its independent specialist businesses were up by 14%. Average selling prices, it said, were 4% up on last year.

In its own pre-close update, also out this week, competitor TUI Travel said that in its key UK market online sales accounted for 40% of its summer 2012 bookings, 5% more than at the same time last year. It said its UK winter programme was almost fully sold, with 48% of its summer programme sold. Some 63% of of its UK holidays are ‘differentiated’ from those offered by other companies.

Bookings in the year to March 25 were down by 6% in the UK, compared to the previous year, down by 2% in the Nordic region, flat in Germany, down by 17% in France, by 2% in Belgium and 4% in the Netherlands.

Peter Long, chief executive of TUI Travel, said: “We are pleased with our Winter performance, particularly in the UK, where our focus on differentiated product and online distribution is resulting in us outperforming the market.

“Summer 2012 volumes have improved in all key markets since our last update. We are pleased with the development of bookings and pricing in the UK, where we continue to out-perform the market and have a strong performance in online sales.

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