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Terror attacks prompt switch to Mediterranean, says Thomas Cook

Holiday firm Thomas Cook said it has switched to selling more Mediterranean trips as a response to recent terror attacks.

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The group said underlying operating losses improved by 11% to £49 million in the three months to the end of December as holidaymakers sought alternatives to Tunisia and Egypt after terrorist attacks.

It described trading conditions as “challenging” in its typically less busy winter period.

Group bookings were 2% down on last year, though average selling prices increased by 4%.

The firm said there were “clear signs of recovery after customer confidence impacted by the tragic events of Paris and Istanbul”.

The firm added its winter season is 82% sold across the group, broadly the same as last year. Its group summer programme is 29% sold, which is 2% below last year.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “It is clear that the awful attacks in Paris and Istanbul impacted confidence, leading some customers to delay booking their holidays.

“However we’ve seen clear signs of recovery in recent weeks – customers still have money in their pockets, and want to go on holiday.”

Mr Fankhauser added the firm “acted fast” to offer alternative packages in the Mediterranean and Caribbean instead of Tunisia and Egypt, which contributed to a 1% rise in group revenues to £1.4 billion.

In the UK the firm said winter bookings were 2% down, but an uplift in long-haul travel saw average selling prices rise by 2%. Average summer prices in the UK are so far up by 4% after the group reduced its charter business and boosted online sales.

Analysts at Jefferies said the proactive changes to destinations, prices and volumes were helping it “navigate a tough operating environment”.