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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Nervous tourists cancel trips
A travel agent's window
Despite bargains, consumers choose not to travel
By BBC business reporter Marcia Hughes

Holiday bookings for this time of the year are down by around 20%.

Heightened fears of flying and potential troubles abroad mean that taking a trip abroad is of little appeal to many previously enthusiastic travellers.

Last week Thomas Cook slashed 500 jobs and other travel agents look set to follow - those specialising only in destinations like Egypt and Middle East will be particularly hard hit.

Travel agents are slashing their prices but despite hundreds of bargains, holidaymakers are still wondering if it is worth proceeding with their booking and many have already cancelled.

"I think people are very uncertain, I think they are glued to their TV sets, they are hearing all sorts of bad things. Commentators have been talking about this and I think it is the final straw for some consumers," says Tim Burn, chief executive of Airtours.

"We find that holidays are more of a necessity than a luxury and people will still tend to go on holiday."

Unhappy holidays

But there is no doubt that business has fallen, and many destinations have been badly hit.

Last month sales in one company, Sunset Faraway Holidays, were up 28%; now, although helped by holidays to the likes of the Seychelles and Mauritius that are bearing up, they are now down by 16% since 11 September.

A travel agent
Travel to exotic locations has been hardest hit

"We have seen the tourist hotspots in the Middle East such as Dubai, severely affected by cancellations and also prospective new bookings," explained Hamish Kaumaya, marketing director of Sunset Faraway Holidays.

"However, we are trying to restore the confidence to clients."

If this picture continues across the industry, job losses are inevitable and some businesses may be forced to fold.

Travel agents have their work cut out with the number of cancellations they have been receiving and dealing with holiday makers that suddenly want to go alternative destinations.

And although they have started to reduce their prices it will remain problematic convincing some people that it is still worthwhile planning ahead with regards to holidays.

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The BBC's Marcia Hughes reports
"Travel agents are slashing their prices..."
See also:

02 Oct 01 | Talking Point
Is life getting back to normal?
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