The success of a TV campaign featuring the former footballer Jamie Redknapp and his wife Louise, the former pop star, has helped lift Thomas Cook’s summer sales during the peak January booking period.
Chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa told analysts in London: “In recent weeks, bookings for the summer 2010 season have improved significantly, marking a positive response to our current marketing campaigns and highlighting the resilience of the summer holiday.”
Thomas Cook, Europe’s second largest tour operator, also posted narrowing pre-tax losses, which fell to £81.5m for the first quarter from £112m year-on-year. It has also cut aircraft and tour capacity amid a slide in demand.
Fontenla-Novoa said UK summer bookings had a “slow start” in January following the snow and icy weather. Bookings rose 15 percent in the last four weeks, an improvement on the 8 percent decline for the total season. In Continental Europe the group raised has raised its summer holiday capacity by 8%.
Thomas Cook and Tui Travel have both cut capacity to maintain prices. These reductions, coupled with the collapse of XL Leisure, has led to a steep reduction in the number of summer holidays on offer to UK consumers during the downturn.
This has allowed Thomas Cook and Tui to rapidly rebuild profitability, reducing exposure to low-margin package deals.
The company said that operating cash outflow was “broadly in line with last year” despite capacity reductions.