Sunshine Saturday: Sunderland-based Hays Travel sees FIVEFOLD increase in New Year bookings on busiest day of the year for travel agents

Sunderland-based Hays Travel has recorded what is expected to be one of its busiest trading days of 2023.

The Wearside holiday firm, which ended last year with a clutch of top business awards, saw bookings surge yesterday (Saturday, January 7), as customers rushed to beat the January blues.

A slew of deals on offer across the sector also made it a popular choice for families struggling with the Cost of Living Crisis.

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And agency stores are expected to extend their opening hours to make the most of the six-week peak holiday-booking period.

Dame Irene Hays, chair and owner of Hays Travel, which has seen sales rise fivefold compared to the same time last year
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Dame Irene Hays, chair and owner of Hays, the UK's largest independent travel agent, said: "Despite the cost-of-living challenges, the last thing people seem to want to give up is their annual holiday."We have seen an extremely busy to start to the peak booking season and already have customers looking for last minute sunshine, summer holidays, worldwide cruises and city breaks right across 2023 and even for two years ahead for Lapland adventures at Christmas in 2024.

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"Remembering this time last year, when the Omicron variant restricted travel bookings for the first two weeks, we are feeling optimistic for 2023."

Dubbed Sunshine Saturday by the UK travel sector, the first Saturday of the New Year is usually the most popular day for booking a break.

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Last year was a wash-out due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but business has bounced back in 2023.

Customers have been able to take advantage of low deposits, special offers and direct debit to spread the costs of a trip, while extra air capacity among carriers has allowed greater flexibility of holiday duration.

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Spain is currently the top choice for bookings, accounting for about a third of all departures over the next 12 weeks, with Tenerife and Lanzarote proving popular for anyone seeking guaranteed winter warmth and sunshine.

Turkey, Portugal and Greece remain favourite summer holiday bookings, but bookers have also seen a high number of bookings for Italy, particularly Rome, in February.

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Dame Irene, whose firm runs 450 shops across the UK, added: "We are focussing on the quality of our customer service, offering great value and, as an independent travel agent, the widest choice to help our customers find the holidays they're dreaming about."