TUI takes a hit from political unrest as Britons stay away

First Choice and Thomson parent TUI Travel yesterday said the UK holiday market was among the worst affected by the political crises in Egypt and Tunisia as it reported a six per cent fall in recent summer bookings.

The travel company confirmed a £25m to £30m hit in the second quarter from unrest in the two countries, which were particularly popular destinations for UK travellers, with up to one million going to Egypt each year.

It has since switched its programmes to focus on other resorts in Spain, Greece and Turkey, despite travel restrictions having been lifted in Egypt and Tunisia.

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The group said that, even with the impact of disruption to these countries stripped out, recent summer bookings since January 16 were down one per cent in the UK as Britons cut back on spending.

But it stressed that this was against tough comparatives from a year earlier.

It said that the number of customers from the UK booking for winter had held firm, with a nine per cent rise in average selling prices helping to lift total sales for the season.

TUI Travel said it was too early to say when demand for Egypt and Tunisia would recover, adding it had cheap deals on offer for resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh.

Chief executive Peter Long said: “Recognising the importance of tourism in these countries, both hoteliers and tourist boards have been working with the industry on ways to encourage customers to return.”

Tui Travel said yesterday that, since its last update, trading had been in line with its expecta- tions.

Mr Long added: “Following the political events in Egypt and Tunisia our experience has been that customers continue to want to go on holiday with us, albeit to alternative destinations.”

The group, whose key source markets are Britain, France and Germany, said it was increasing the amount of higher margin “differentiated product” it sells.