Security fears hit Thomas Cook as tourists choose Spain over Turkey

Thomas Cook said its summer bookings fell as security concerns meant more holidaymakers opted for breaks in Spain over Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt, outstripping its efforts to adjust flights.

Despite shifting 1.2 million airline seats from the eastern to the western Mediterranean, the travel operator said bookings were down by five per cent and full-year profit would now be at the bottom end of market forecasts.

Thomas Cook shares dropped 19 per cent to a three-year low of 72 pence after its first-half results, on a day travel stocks fell after the disappearance of an EgyptAir flight.

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Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said Turkey, its second most popular destination last year, had not recovered as he had hoped after an attack on tourists in Istanbul in January. “This has had a particular impact on our German airlines business, which is the market leader into Turkey,” he said.

The last update from Thomas Cook in March, which sent its shares to a previous three-year low, came on the same day as explosions in Brussels. Mr Fankhauser said holiday bookings in Belgium had come “to a standstill” as a result.

Thomas Cook shifted airline seats from Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt to the Canaries, Balearics and mainland Spain where it had found extra hotel rooms, but it was not enough to compensate.

Its rival TUI said earlier this month its bookings were up one per cent, with demand strong. “We are suffering a bit more (than rivals) because we are much bigger (in Turkey) than other competitors,” Mr Fankhauser said.

Thomas Cook said operating profit for its year to end-March 2017 would be between £310m and £335m.

First half revenue grew slightly to £2.67bn, it said, and an underlying operating loss narrowed by five per cent to £163m thanks to an improvement in margins.

It said it continued to expect to pay a dividend this year.