With the economy in deep freeze and the £ still weak against the Euro and the US$, should you book your summer holiday soon or is it worth hanging on for a bargain? holiday.
Most tour companies agree that more customers will leave it late to commit themselves this year. There will certainly be more price cuts than usual, not least because airlines continue to suffer and some overseas hoteliers have responded to the crisis by offering operators better deals.
But deciding when to book remains a fine balancing act. Latest intelligence from the travel industry suggests that despite the steady drip of gloomy news, British consumers are less likely to relinquish their holidays than they were last summer - before the trickle of gloomy news became a torrent.
A survey carried out last month by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that 17% intended to take fewer holidays this year, compared with 21% when the same question was asked last July. Then, one in five said they would axe holidays altogether, compared to 16%.
Six months ago, 17% said they would take a cheaper holiday in the same location, compared to 13% in February. Meanwhile the proportion who said they would not be cutting back at all on this year’s holiday plans had risen from 12% to 15%.
It is also worth remembering that major tour operators have pruned capacity severely in expectation of slower business. So I repeat my earlier warning: do not linger so long that you find you cannot get what you want.
Watch travel websites to see whether prices start to rise. Watch the weather - because nothing will fuel desire for summer sun so much as a cold wet spring. My guess is that, come May or early June, there will be a late rush to escape.