Holidaymakers are booking more and paying more, undeterred by wildfires and conflict in the Middle East

Going places: Travellers are booking more and paying more for holidays (Simon Calder)
Going places: Travellers are booking more and paying more for holidays (Simon Calder)

The insatiable appetite for travel continues, according to the full-year results from Europe’s biggest tour operator, Tui.

“The consumer is continuing to prioritise holidays abroad,” the chief executive, Sebastian Ebel, said as he revealed business is booming.

Earnings before interest and tax for the Anglo-German company more than doubled to €977m (£838m) for the year to the end of September 2023. The number of customers rose by 14 per cent to 19.1 million.

Sales for the current winter are 11 per cent up on the previous spell – with travellers paying an average of 5 per cent more.

The pattern continues into summer 2024, with bookings currently up 13 per cent and average prices 4 per cent higher. Last summer, Tui’s prices were 27 per cent up on 2019 levels – meaning the average holidaymaker in 2024 will be paying one-third more than before the pandemic.

Mr Ebel said prices for upmarket properties in Greece are particularly high for next summer.

From 14 June to 14 July, the Euro 2024 football finals will take place in Germany. Traditionally holiday sales have slumped during big football tournaments, allowing travellers to find bargains.

But Mr Ebel told The Independent: “The impact has become smaller and smaller. I remember 10 or 15 years ago, it was a big impact. But now all the hotels show the matches.”

The conflict in Israel and Gaza had a temporary effect on sales for holidays in Egypt, Mr Ebel said.

“We saw six weeks of lower bookings. The people who were booked still went there,” he said.

“I would assume that after Christmas we are back on a growth pattern. Egypt is a very high-value destination.”

Egypt is in the top three of winter destinations for Tui, alongside the Canary Islands and Cape Verde.

Mr Ebel said there was “no significant change in customer behaviour” following the wildfires across the Mediterranean in 2023. He said that poor weather in northern Europe had much more impact, driving higher sales.

Tui’s cruise division, which includes UK-based Marella, saw occupancy soar from an average of 64 per cent to 84 per cent. “Cruise is performing outstandingly well,” Mr Ebel said.

The Tui chief executive also announced that a leading UK travel industry figure, David Burling, is leaving Tui at the end of the year after 34 years with the company and its predecessors.

Mr Burling, currently Tui’s CEO for Markets and Airlines, joined Thomson Holidays as a trainee in 1990. He will be replaced by David Schelp, a serving Tui executive.