The majority of independent operators saw consumer confidence increase over the past six months, with holidaymakers becoming less price-sensitive. The latest Wanderlust/Association of Independent Tour Operators study shows 90% of specialist operators are more positive than in November when the last survey was undertaken.
The survey also revealed 67% of respondents saw an increase in bookings, with a further 15% reporting levels similar to last year.
The next quarter is expected to follow this trend, with 90% confident that bookings will be up or at the same level as last year.
Of the 60 operators taking part in the survey, 80% reported passenger spending was the same or greater than last year, and that travellers are less price-sensitive than before.
Consumers still consider the destination to be the most influential factor when buying a holiday, but the importance of customer service has now jumped ahead of price, suggesting that cheap deals are not the be-all and end-all in holiday plans.
Derek Moore, AITO chairman, said: ‘2009 was a challenging year for travel companies and while Britain's exit from the recession is slow, we know that people are less willing to forego holidays these days.
‘It's encouraging to see just how positive consumer plans are for travel in 2010; tour operator bookings show that the desire to take holidays in 2010 is stronger than ever.'
In a further encouraging development for the health of the travel industry, companies now report an increase in staff training, marketing and research to prepare for better times ahead, with some operators actually recruiting more staff.