The summer holiday price war appears to have already started to rage in Britain, with self-catering holidays to the Balearics being pumped out for as little as £29. Tour operators and retailers are pointing the finger of blame at each other for forcing late holiday prices down so low. The crazy Teletext deals - mainly for seven nights' self-catering in the Balearics and Turkey - have prompted fears of massive overcapacity in the market for the difficult months of May and June. A quick search of the Teletext Holidays website by Travel Weekly last week threw up hundreds of bargain-basement breaks of less than £59 for clients willing to depart within the next 48 hours. Departures from all UK airports are available, making a mockery of claims that much of the stock is for unpopular regional flights. Meanwhile, prices as low as £69 are available for Florida. Retailers claim the prices are a result of rampant discounting by mass-market operators. I've never seen prices this low, said Steve Charlesworth, general manager of Teletext retailer Dunstan Brearley. The discounting has been driven by operators, not us. Holidays are shifting, but there is plenty of stock left. Cosmosair managing director Terry Williamson has refused to join in the discount frenzy and claimed he would not cut prices below £99. He criticised rivals for undoing the industry's efforts to encourage early summer 2003 sales. Where on earth is the incentive for people to book for next year? he fumed. We've all rushed out our brochures and yet people will see these prices and think they can wait to get a deal. It drags everything down. The so-called capacity cuts of some operators in January were just talk - my fear now is there will be loads of holidays in the market for June.
Holidays by Phone managing director Steve Endacott said Teletext retailers had to restore reality to the market. Some are selling holidays for no profit in the hope of selling insurance. They are the ones trashing the industry, he said.
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