Thomas Cook cheers strong summer in spite of Tunisia hit

Thomas Cook: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Thomas Cook: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Travel firm Thomas Cook said it had made good progress over the summer despite 'external shocks' including the deadly terror attack in Tunisia.

The shut down of the country as a tourist destination has resulted in a surge in alternative trips to Egypt and Greece, according to Thomas Cook.

It said the group's holidays were 95pc sold for the summer season in Britain, 1pc ahead of the same period in 2014, as the UK 'continues to perform comfortably ahead of last year'.

However, bookings were flat as capacity was slightly down and average selling prices were 1pc lower, due to an increase in the proportion of 'seat only' sales rather than packages. Shares rose 4pc.

There was no mention of any UK late bookings surge, which benefited budget airlines Ryanair and easyJet in August as holidaymakers made last-minute dashes for sunshine amid the gloomy weather at home, while also looking to take advantage of the strong pound.

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Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: 'Our trading performance for the summer season has progressed well, despite the impact of external shocks in certain destination markets.

'With more than a third of the winter 2015/16 season sold, the bookings profile for next year is also encouraging.'

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Thomas Cook has said that it expects to take a £20m earnings hit over the Tunisia attack in June - which claimed the lives of 38 holidaymakers - including the cost of cancelled trips, flying tourists home, and rearranging its flying programme.

There has also been a £5m impact from events in Greece as anxiety over its debt crisis earlier in the summer meant the operator had to offer bigger price reductions to sell holidays.

In the latest update there was no mention of a report by former Sainsbury's boss Justin King into the company's disastrous handling of the deaths of two children in Corfu, which is due to be published this month.

It is understood the report is currently being finalised.

Thomas Cook said all markets performed in line with expectations with northern Europe enjoying particularly strong trading in the second half - helped by recent poor weather in Scandinavia.

Across the group, summer capacity was 91pc sold, the same level as last year.

The company said that with Tunisia 'effectively closed for the time being' it had seen a significant increase in customers travelling to Greece and Egypt.

It added that the strategy of investing in long haul routes was paying off, with 'particularly strong growth in holidays to the USA and the Caribbean'.

The company's focus on its own-brand hotels also saw progress, with bookings up 38%. Meanwhile, mobile bookings are up 30% and now account for one in three web bookings.

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