THE Co-operative Travel Trading Group (CTTG) is already making its presence felt in the sector after claiming "fantastic progress" since its launch in October.
The Movement's travel buying and marketing group ? representing five leading retail societies ? held its first management conference in Birmingham recently where over 150 senior managers heard that CTTG had concluded sales agreements with four leading tour operators in readiness for its first major assault on the market.
Meanwhile CTTG's Chief Operating Officer Mike Greenacre warned last week that a phenomenal post-Christmas surge of bookings and inquiries would lead to a scarcity of family holidays in the peak July/August period.
Mr Greenacre believes demand will outstrip supply and claims that Government plans to fine parents who take their children out of school to go on holiday in term time will not have the desired effect.
With package holiday sales currently running at 20 per cent up on last year and Florida bookings up by over 26 per cent, year on year, Mr Greenacre told the News: "If demand for popular family destinations continues at this rate, then capacity during the peak period is likely to be quickly exhausted and parents will be left with little choice but to take term-time holidays ? fines or no fines.
"Threats of fines for parents who take their children out of school have undoubtedly contributed to the rush for July and August holidays, so we hope that proposals to spread school holidays widely across the year can be introduced as quickly as possible to relieve the pressure on parents and to counter the current distorted influence school terms have on the holiday market."
At the Birmingham conference, delegates were given news of deals struck with Thomas Cook, Thomson, First Choice and MyTravel and Mr Greenacre emphasised that tour operators were beginning to understand the power of CTTG as a sales driver.
But he warned: "We must work closely together with actions that demonstrate we can deliver sales to targeted levels and still be true to Co-op principles. "
CTTG, he said, was now the most important independent distributor for the four major tour operators and the commercial deals negotiated had made a "major positive impact" on profitability.
"We need to keep changing and adapting our business," he added. " There are no prizes for coming second."
Willie Tucker, Chairman of CTTG's Steering Group and Chief Executive of Midlands Co-op, told the conference CTTG had made "tremendous strides" in a short space of time.
"The creation of CTTG has to be the most important development in the history of the Movement's travel business," he added. "It is now vital that the group concentrates on achieving its strategic priorities."
Mike Beaumont, CTTG's General Manager, Commercial, described CTTG's progress as "fantastic". He said that in the last three months, 68 key commercial contracts had been renegotiated and significantly enhanced commercial terms had been achieved.