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TUI Travel hit by traditional winter slump

INTERNATIONAL holiday company TUI Travel’s operating losses trebled to £107m in the three months ending 31 December, the company revealed yesterday, as it reported sales of £2.5bn, an eight per cent reduction on the previous year.

The company typically experiences losses in this period, with core business based in summer. The increased loss was attributed to planned capacity reductions, which were introduced to protect margins.

TUI added that the 2008 booking season was finished when Lehman Brothers collapsed, which shielded the first quarter of 2009 from the effects of consumer reluctance and exaggerated this quarter’s losses.

The operator also highlighted difficulties with its French airline, Corsair, which suffered from weak demand for French West Indies destinations. TUI said it would explore increasing the airline’s flexibility.

However, chief executive Peter Long claimed that business was recovering, saying:

“Trading has been difficult, especially against a tough comparative period, but sustained improvements in demand over a number of months leave us more confident that the worst is behind us.”

TUI added that business had so far improved enough to forecast meeting first half expectations. The company also reported two acquisitions in the first quarter: Australian cruise operator Select Tours, and student sports organiser SET Sports Tours.