TUI travel summer bookings up 9%

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THOMSON Holidays owner TUI Travel today said summer bookings were up by 9% as more Britons look to escape the country’s weather misery.

Europe’s biggest tour operator said it continues to see “very strong” trading momentum in the UK despite a 4% increase in its average summer prices, as holidaymakers seek to avoid another washout. TUI has also increased its summer capacity in the UK market by 3%.

Strong sales in the UK and Nordic region helped its core business increase summer bookings by 2%, offsetting weaker performances in France and Germany.

It has sold almost half its summer holidays across its mainstream holiday business.

The group, which also owns brands including First Choice, Gulliver Travel and LateRooms.com, said demand was driven by its online business and direct distribution - with online accounting for 40% of its sales in the UK.

The company said: “This is against a backdrop of uncertainty in the eurozone, highlighting that demand for the annual holiday remains resilient against a weak macro-economic environment.”

TUI’s strong trading comes amid a turnaround battle at rival Thomas Cook, led by new chief executive Harriet Green. This involves more than £400 million of cost cuts, axing 2,500 jobs or 16% of its 15,500-strong UK workforce and closing 195 high street travel agencies.

Sales in TUI’s core winter business ended down 4%, with flat trading in the UK and a 30% fall in France, helping it narrow winter losses.

TUI’s UK winter capacity was flat on a year ago, while it cut capacity in France by 33%.

It expects 7%-10% growth in underlying annual operating profit.

Shares in the tour operator gained 6% as the strong trading defied a bleak outlook for the eurozone.