HOLIDAY company Hays Travel will see its sales jump to at least ?550m this year, the company?s boss has predicted after it beat the odds to mark up a new record turnover.
John Hays, the chief of the Sunderland-based company, says the industry is still under pressure but his firm is capitalising on a desire for sunshine breaks as frustrated families want to break away from Britain?s depressing weather.
The country?s biggest independent travel agent says its margins continue to be squeezed hard, but it secured sales of ?520m in the year to October 31, which was up from ?475m the previous year. Hays said the company?s like-for-like sales had been rising for the last eight months.
And far from people shunning package holidays as miserable, mass-market affairs in favour of cheap flights and internet-booked hotels, the calls were rolling in.
?We are trading really strongly at the moment. It is partly down to the weather. The summer was so wet and the winter was so cold that people really want to get away from it,? he said. ?There is a real return to package holidays. People want value for money and to know what they will be spending before they go.
?The terrible British summers over the last three years are pushing them to go abroad.
?We are seeing more bookings coming in and there are signs of a recovery in the market although it has a long way to go before it is like it was a few years ago.
?People want to know that their holiday is guaranteed by the CAA, ABTOL and ABTA and that it is all protected if anything goes wrong.?
Customers are increasingly looking for more exotic locations outside Europe, where the weak pound goes a lot further.
Hays launched the Hays Faraway brand a year ago to capitalise on that demand and it now brings in ?40m with half the income from US holidays, while many people in the region are making the most of Newcastle International Airport?s links with Dubai.
And a big boost for the company comes from supplying back-office work for other companies as well as for its own 43 shops.
The company recently started to cover work for Glasgow-based Minoan Holidays as it already did for firms including Sunshine.co.uk and loveholidays. Working for other businesses brings in half the firm?s revenues.
The business has around 900 staff after growing its chain of agencies. But its online presence, 300-strong nationwide network of home-based agents and call centre has meant it has moved into a strong national trade.
The problems at larger rival Thomas Cook, which announced plans to shut 195 agencies and axe 2,500 staff, means it is not finding it hard to recruit some experienced staff.