Half-price holidays! Getaways slashed by 50% after sales slump

Ruth Doherty

If ever there was a time to bag a holiday bargain, this is it.

Holiday firms are slashing their prices by hundreds of pounds after a slump in bookings and profits.

Britain's second biggest holiday company, Thomas Cook, issued a profits warning earlier this week amid reports they will be as much as £60million lower than expected.

The company said profit margins in the UK are being hit because it is being forced to keep prices down to tempt budget-conscious, cash-strapped families.

As consumers suffer the biggest squeeze on living standards for generations, many are giving up on the idea of taking a sunshine holiday abroad this year.

At the same time, the fall in the value of the pound against the euro in recent years has forced up the price of holiday spending, like buying a meal.

Protests in North Africa and the Middle East have also hit bookings to usually popular destinations such as Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco.

Thomas Cook said families who are booking trips tend to be buying better value 'all-inclusive deals', with food and drink included in the headline price.

One study suggests that internet searches for the term 'cheap holidays' have more than doubled in recent weeks.

A family of four going to Tenerife and staying in a three-star hotel on a half-board basis with Thomas Cook at the end of this month will pay £1,863 – saving £1,222 or 39 per cent.

And it's not just Thomas Cook feeling the squeeze. A couple taking a seven-night holiday at a three-star apartment in Cyprus at the beginning of August with First Choice will pay £400 per person – a saving of £347 or 46% on the brochure price.

Holiday industry expert Bob Atkinson, of travelsupermarket.com, told the Daily Mail: 'With Brits counting the cost of rising fuel, bills and food, they have been holding off booking their summer trips.

The tour operators have stock left to sell and in recent weeks have been discounting prices to shift these holidays.

'A lot of travel companies, particularly those that operate in the family package market, are having a very tough time.

'You can find discounts on Thomas Cook's site for summer school holiday season of up to 50 per cent. They are not the only ones and it is possible to find savings up to 65 per cent against the brochure price.

'From a consumer point of view this is good news.'

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