Martin Alcock speaks to Travel Weekly about recent ATOL trends

Martin Alcock spoke to Travel Weekly about the trends we found from the recent ATOL data.

18 May, 2023 Updated 18 May, 2023
2 min read Posted by Martin Alcock
PTR update

The below article is taken from

Booming outbound sales show no sign of stalling despite a fresh rise in interest rates last week increasing costs for households, with two top-five ATOL holders reporting “strong” bookings and a third boosting its ATOL licence.

On the Beach reported “significant top-line growth” year on year after “record sales” in 2022, while Tui hailed the UK as its “most advanced” market with summer bookings up 10% on 2019.

Yet a leading industry consultant warned “we’ve been here before” as the biggest groups pile on capacity.

“I’m pretty sure we’re at the highest aggregate ATOL number ever – certainly the highest in the last 10 years.”

Martin Alcock, director of the Travel Trade Consultancy and a former senior ATOL analyst at the CAA has added 280,00 to its ATOL since April, taking it above two million and making it the fourth-largest licence holder, after already adding 666,000 since the September 2022 renewal. Jet2holidays added more than 500,000 in February, while Loveholidays added 594,000 and On the Beach 139,000 to their ATOLs at the March renewals.

“People have renewed ATOLs and less than six months on revised projections having seen the demand. The market has surpassed expectations and kept growing.”

Martin Alcock

He noted “a mismatch” between the biggest companies and the rest of the market, where capacity has remained more stable, saying: “It’s harder for smaller companies to access funding. A lot see the demand but can’t service it. Phones are ringing, but people can’t get to them.”

“The danger is we’ve been here before with a chase for volume. It can do terrible things to pricing [and] become a race to the bottom.”

Martin Alcock

Alcock argued: “Everybody is still doing very well. But the Bank of England is trying to stop people spending. If it’s successful, maybe they [these companies] can’t all grow by that much. It sort of defies gravity. Sooner or later these things bite.”

Simon Cooper, outgoing chief executive at On the Beach, reported premium holiday bookings up 20% year on year and a 47% increase in value. The figures, in half-year results to March published on Tuesday, more than compensated for a 25% fall in traffic “at the value end” of the market, with total passenger numbers up 11% year on year.

Cooper forecast no shortage of capacity in the lates market, despite the strong sales to date, reporting “significant unsold bed and seat capacity”. He insisted: “There will be plenty of seats and beds for those who want to travel in the next three to four months. People either booked well in advance in reaction to the cost of living or have waited to see where to go. We’re seeing seat price inflation easing and a larger volume of unsold seats than expected.”

TUI forecast “a strong summer” and announced the opening of 21 new retail branches in the UK this year, with three already open, in Liverpool, Oxford and Banbury.

The Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25 points to 4.5% last week and revised up its inflation forecast, with a further rate rise now expected.

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Martin Alcock
Martin is one of TTC's Directors and manages the day-to-day running of the business.
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Martin is one of TTC's Directors and manages the day-to-day running of the business.