Belfast Telegraph

Brussels terrorist atrocity hits travel companies hard

By Staff Reporter

Airline and travel stocks led early losses across the stock markets following yesterday's bomb attacks in Brussels.

At least 34 people were killed and more than 200 injured after explosions at Brussels Airport and a city centre Metro station.

Stocks across Europe opened in the red yesterday in the aftermath of the attacks, with travel shares worst hit.

Ryanair was down almost 4%, and IAG, the parent company of Aer Lingus and British Airways, was down 1.5%.

For financial markets, the events came in a week where liquidity was starting to dry up ahead of the Easter holiday and investors were beginning to think about cashing in on a steep rally in stocks over the last few weeks.

Meanwhile, holiday firm Thomas Cook said British tourists were delaying booking their holidays amid fears of terrorist attacks overseas.

The FTSE 250 company said the business continued to be impacted by a "volatile geopolitical backdrop", with the number of summer trips sold for 2016 hitting 40%, down 2% on last year.

It also said demand was shifting across the market, with "significantly lower" bookings for Turkey being offset by a rising demand for trips to the western Mediterranean, the US and Cuba.

Its winter market also saw a 3% decrease in bookings compared to last year, with 90% of its programme sold.

Travel companies have seen their bookings come under pressure after a number of terrorist attacks hit popular holiday destinations, including Turkey, Paris, Tunisia and Egypt. The update from Thomas Cook comes as airline and travel stocks led the losses on European stock markets as shares fell in the wake of the terrorist bombings.

Shares in Thomas Cook were down more than 6%.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: "Thomas Cook continues to operate in a volatile market environment.

"We know that customers want a summer holiday but we can see that some are leaving it later to book this year as they consider their options.

"The early actions we took to move flights away from Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt have positioned us well for increased customer demand to resorts in the western Mediterranean, with strong sales to the Canaries, Balearics and the Spanish mainland in recent weeks.

"We have also seen an increase in sales to long-haul destinations such as the USA and Cuba as customers look further afield for their holidays."

It said UK performance was improving, with average selling prices up 4% for package holidays and 1% for seat-only trips, but total bookings were down because of later bookings.

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