While online travel companies not even known a decade ago continue to grow in size and presence in the tour operator business in the UK, TUI’s UK operation remains by far the largest in the country, according to the latest Atol filings. Atol (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protection is the most reliable measure of a travel company’s size through the number of passengers it is authorized to process. Most companies renew their Atol licensing in March or September, with the biggest brands tending to renew in the autumn, according to the travel trade publication TTG, which reported on the Atol license renewals. As TTG explained, The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also regularly updates information about the number of passengers an Atol-holder is licensed to carry as companies adjust numbers according to forecasts, so these new figures are the most accurate guide to the size of travel brands available.
Some interesting notes from TTG on the Atol renewals include the following:
- The latest renewal brings the total number of Atol-protected packages to 27.1 million, an increase of 807,000 on the same point last year
- Tui has increased its Atol authorization by 573,000 seats in the past year, taking the number of passengers it is licensed to carry up to 5.3 million, meaning that its top spot could not be challenged even if its two biggest competitors merged.
- Thomas Cook could be close to giving up its title as the UK’s second-biggest tour operator if Jet2holidays’ expansion continues. A charter air operation that launched its own online holiday booking service just a decade ago, Jet2holidays has increased it authorized passenger number by more than 30 percent in one year and is close to overtaking Thomas Cook as the UK’s number two operator. The nation’s oldest tour operator, Thomas Cook has held the number two spot for more than a decade.
- The brand that seems to have taken the industry by surprise is loveholidays.com, in eighth place among the country’s Top 50 operators; two years ago it was No. 23.