TUI Travel upbeat as summer sales follow strong winter

TUI Travel , the world's biggest tour operator, said it was confident of hitting the top end of profit guidance for 2013 after a strong finish to winter trading and rising summer bookings.

The group, which owns Thomson and First Choice, on Wednesday said in a first half trading update that its winter program had ended strongly with higher sales at better average prices helping to offset a 4 percent fall in total bookings.

The firm added that summer bookings were up 9 percent in its UK and Nordic markets as austerity-hit consumers escape the economic gloom with fixed-price getaways.

It said 46 percent of its mainstream summer program had been sold, with total bookings up 2 percent and its average selling price rising by 5 percent.

"We are confident that our strategy is driving performance and we continue to expect to be towards the top end of our roadmap guidance of 7 to 10 percent underlying operating profit growth for the 2013 financial year," the group said.

Earlier this month the group's Thomson Airways unit was forced to switch customers to its Boeing 767 aircraft after Boeing had failed to give it a new delivery date for its first 787 Dreamliner jet. It did not give an update on the situation on Wednesday.

Shares in TUI Travel, which have risen 35 percent in six months, closed at 310.4 pence on Tuesday, valuing the business at almost 3.5 billion pounds.

(Reporting by Neil Maidment, Editing by Brenda Goh)