A Welsh travel boss has revealed there’s a massive demand for sunshine holidays with bookings up by 25 per cent on pre-Covid levels.

According to Hays Travel North West managing director Don Bircham, January is the peak period for the industry with families desperate to escape the cold, wet and gloomy weather.

This year the numbers are 25 per cent up on January 2020 – two months before Covid lockdown hit in March that year – as customers beat a path to the doors of their 47 shops across North Wales and the North West on the first Saturday of the New Year.

The fast-growing company has stores in Wrexham, Mold, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay.

Favourite destinations include mainland Spain, Greece and Portugal, the Canaries, Balearics, Florida and Cruise, while Sicily – where Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden and comedian Alan Carr are renovating a property for ITV’s The Italian Job – is also attracting plenty of interest.

Meanwhile, Turkey is popular with the lira in freefall against the pound and Russian holidaymakers staying at home.

Don, who opened his first travel shop in Mold, in Flintshire, 22 years ago, said: “The first Saturday of the year is traditionally a big day for us and for the travel business across the country but this has been phenomenal.

“January is one month when there are no holidays for staff and we even suspend our training programme for the month make sure we are fully staffed for our customers.

“We are also seeing many former customers return to us – people who may have been booking on the internet are seeing the benefits in terms of safety and security of booking with a travel agent.

“There is also the protection and expertise a travel agent can bring in terms of knowing about restrictions on travel, passports and visa regulations and, in these days, vaccination requirements.

“We’re part of the biggest independent travel agency in the UK and we’re not going anywhere. We’re very competitively priced for everything down to holiday insurance.

“There has never been a better time to book with low deposits and easy payment plans to spread the cost of the holiday from now up to eight weeks before you go while the big tour operators like Jet 2 Holidays, Easyjet Holidays and Tui are offering big discounts including free child places.”

Don added: “Programmes like The Italian Job do have an effect because you’re sat at home and it’s dark and wet and cold and fighting for the remote control and there’s Sicily, all sunshine, sandy beaches and blue seas.

“This is only the second year since we’ve been let loose again after the pandemic and people understandably want to stretch their wings again and fly off to somewhere sunny and welcoming.

“We’ve had a big marketing campaign, we’ve been on the TV and the radio and we’ve written to all our previous customers.

“Seventy ;per cent of the holidays we sell are for this summer, some people are already booking for summer 2024 and the rest are early season sunshine holidays, mainly for couples and to places like the Canaries, Dubai and Florida

Hays Travel North West, which employs 250 staff and recently added new stores in Blackpool and Preston and Don said: “We are ATOL-protected and ours is a well-recognised, solid and respected brand.

“Through Hays Travel we are able to offer a brilliant choice and we are not aligned to any particular tour operator so we can sell a wide range of holidays which fit the customer’s requirements.

“There is absolutely no pressure on our staff to sell a particular type of holiday so our customers come in and receive impartial advice without a particular emphasis on one tour operator. I think this is one of the main reasons people choose our branches to book their holidays.”