Belfast Telegraph

Greece the 'standout destination' for Thomas Cook

Travel giant Thomas Cook has hailed Greece as the "standout destination" for holidaymakers this summer, but confirmed bookings to Egypt and Turkey were recovering after terrorist attacks hit demand.

The group said Egypt has seen a "significant" rise in bookings in recent weeks thanks to affordable deals, while demand for Turkey has also improved with sales holding firm on a year earlier.

Demand for trips to Egypt and Turkey plunged after the bombing of a plane from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and a violent attempted coup by the Turkish army, which has been followed by a string of terrorist attacks in the country .

Thomas Cook has since focused on other resorts, with Greece becoming increasingly popular.

It said holiday sales to Greece surged 36% in the half-year to March 31, which helped lift interim revenues by nearly 3%.

The group said the jump in sales from bookings to Greece, as well as strong demand for Spain and long-haul destinations, offset a 41% plunge in sales to Turkey.

Half-year revenues rose 2.6% on a like-for-like basis to £3 billion in the six months to March 31, while seasonal losses narrowed to £272 million from £283 million a year earlier.

Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook, said: "Greece continues to be the standout destination for summer 17, while customers are also seeking out smaller European destinations like Cyprus and Bulgaria, as well as travelling further afield.

"In contrast, following strong growth last year, bookings to the Spanish Islands have levelled off in a very competitive market."

Thomas Cook said its summer holidays are 61% sold so far, with UK bookings 2% higher against a 12% rise in the wider group.

Aside from Greece, other popular destinations include Cyprus, Bulgaria and Croatia.

Package holiday selling prices are up 8% in its UK business after it hiked deals to Spain to offset moves by hoteliers to increase prices after seeing a boom in demand in recent years.

It has also focused on more expensive deals, which has dented UK bookings growth.

The group said its UK business was "managing through a more competitive market to the Spanish Islands, focusing on selling higher margin, quality holidays rather than pursuing volume growth", adding that demand had now eased off to Spain.

Greg Johnson, analyst at Shore Capital, said Thomas Cook "appears in better shape than it has for a number of years".

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