“We have made a solid start to the year, but it is still early days, and we remain cautious, given the uncertain political and economic outlook around the globe”, Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said.
Demand for bookings to Greece were up 40 per cent compared to a year ago.Summer bookings were ahead of past year, after the company responded to the security turmoil of 2016 by expanding its presence in Greece, Portugal and Croatia.However, the group did maintain that increased demand for its Greece holidays mitigated any fall in Turkey’s popularity amid terror attacks.Spanish hotel chiefs have pushed up prices by as much as 15 per cent as they cash in on British families looking for safe haven holidays.It said this had left sales of package holidays for the key summer season “slightly behind last year’s levels, while pricing is up 9%”.
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Summer 2017 is so far 31% sold, which is 9% ahead of this time previous year, while the current winter season is only 82% sold, as expected.Thomas Cook said it was also seeing intense competition as airlines and holiday firms have ramped up their services to the Spanish islands, but stressed it wanted to focus instead on more profitable high-end holidays “rather than chase volume growth”.The firm said it was “cautious” about 2017, shares fell by 10 per cent in morning trade.Fankhauser said: “Bookings to Greece are now up by over 40%, while demand for destinations such as Cyprus, Bulgaria, Portugal and Croatia is also strong”. The London-based company’s increased offering in Greece has more than compensated for continuing declines in Turkey, while demand for holidays in Egypt and Morocco is edging back up after slumping in the wake of a 2015 massacre at a Tunisian hotel and the suspected bombing of a jet departing the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik.Other smaller destinations are also seeing an opportunity to expand due to reduced demand for Turkey, said Fankhauser.Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Times are tough in the European travel industry and Thomas Cook isn’t having the best of it, though the good news is things don’t seem to be getting any worse.