TUI Travel sees demand rise

TUI Travel, Europe&rsquo;s biggest tour operator, yesterday boasted of a welcome hike in summer 2009 holiday sales despite the dire conditions facing consumers.<br /><br />The group said summer bookings have proved to be in-line with anticipated demand and also revealed it had fewer holidays left to sell than at this time last year.<br /><br />Chief executive Peter Long said he was &ldquo;encouraged&rdquo; as the rising demand seen in February and March continued into April and May.<br /><br />Long is likely to feel vindicated by the uptick, as he has often emphasised the comparative resilience of the travel industry in the recession.<br /><br />But despite his cheery mood, the group continued to report losses for the six months to the end of March.<br /><br />It said it made an operating loss of &pound;289m in the period, which represented a 15 per cent fall compared to the previous half year.<br /><br />This year&rsquo;s late timing of Easter also &nbsp;hit sales, it said.<br /><br />Holiday operators traditionally make a loss in the first half, which does not include profits from the all-important summer period.<br /><br />Cazenove analysts said the strength of the recent bookings suggested cuts in the group&rsquo;s capacity &ndash; the amount of holidays it offers &ndash; have worked.