In this issue

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Spain’s unmissable experiences

From outdoor adventures to hotels in monasteries, art galleries and food markets

News: Left hand story

Plus, right hand story here

News: Traffic light system to be introduced

Plus, Black Tomato launches kids’ story collection

News: Cruise lines announce coastal sailings

Ex-UK itineraries revealed as the sector cautiously restarts

News: Travel reports $4.5 trillion losses

The devastating impact of Covid-19 is revealed in the annual Economic Impact Report

News: Left hand story

Plus, right hand story here

News: Industry reacts to Budget

Plus, read the ABTA Magazine Guide to Tokyo

News: ‘Huge opportunity’ for agents when travel restarts

Plus: spike in bookings as roadmap revealed

News: Greece considers vaccination certificates

Plus: more cruise lines make vaccinations mandatory

News: Older travellers lead recovery of travel

Vaccine will provide travellers with the confidence to book and travel again within the next six months

News: ABTA calls on government for clarity

Plus, ABTA CEO Mark Tanzer on why the future of travel remains positive

News: WTTC wants business travel return

The resumption of safe international business travel will generate a much-needed revenue boost for businesses up and down the country, says Gloria Guevara

News: Italy offers trip for agents

Plus, Midcounties appoints former British Airways executive Sara Dunham

News: UK Holidays

P&O introduces short UK cruises; plus Linda Reynolds on a Thames trip

News: Three more countries added to the ‘red list’

They include the UAE and the popular destination of Dubai

News: Lockdown three reaction

£4.6bn relief package for businesses as England and Scotland enter strict lockdowns

News: Tributes paid to Sandals founder

Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was a “singular personality and an unstoppable force”

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Art and nature

The great outdoor

Food markets

No visit to Spain would be complete without a visit to at least one of its many mercados de abastos – food markets that have existed in Spain for 200 years and offer one of the most authentic culinary experiences you can enjoy. Here are a few of our favourites.

The market of Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, is the second most visited place in the city after its Cathedral. The market has been supplying the city’s residents and travellers with mostly local produce since 1873: today, in the bustling market, you’ll find seafood, meat and vegetables from the surrounding region, and plenty of bars and restaurants.

In Cadiz, on the southwestern tip of Spain, you will find a historic food market in the Plaza de la Libertad. Inaugurated in 1838, it is better known as Mercado de las Flores, and now boasts more than 150 stalls, many of which are small tapas bars serving local food and super finos (sherry) and table wines, and local brew beers. The best time to visit is midday for tapas aperitivo time.

The reputation of Mercado de La Boquería in Barcelona proceeds it. Found in the middle of Las Ramblas, the city’s most famous road, the market is alive with different colours, smells and flavours, making it a favourite of locals and tourists. Although its structures didn’t exist until the mid 19th century, the first mention of the Boqueria in dates from 1217, making it one of the most storied markets in the world.

Mercado Central in Valencia is work of Valencian Art Nouvea – one of the most spectacular markets you’re ever likely to see. Covering more than 8,000 metres, it houses about 300 stalls of fresh products, with an emphasis on fish, fruit and vegetables. Get tapas or an aperitif in mid-morning, grab a coffee, or try one of the fresh fruit juices. Live like a local and enjoy a horchata de chufa juice with fartons, a confectionery sweet from the town of Alboray.

The Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid was inaugurated in 1916 next to the Plaza Mayor. Housing more than 30 shops, with each stall now a renown and quality brand that turns means the market is mecca food lovers.  In Bilbao, is the Mercado de La Ribera, one of the largest covered markets in Europe, with 10,000 square meters of surface. Its Art Deco decoration and large stained-glass windows also make it one of the most impressive: there are 180 stalls and few bars inside, making it the perfect place to start your aperitivo y pintxos at 1pm.

Mercado Parque de la Victoria was the first Andalusian gastronomic market, and is housed in a forge structure that dates from the 19th century. It has about 30 stalls, which serve fresh produce and hot food from the surrounding region. Try a salmorejo, a purée consisting of tomato and bread, orginating from the city.


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Traffic light system to be introduced

ABTA responds to taskforce

The Global Travel Taskforce has set out its approach for restarting international travel. A traffic light system, which will categorise countries based on risk alongside the restrictions required for travel, will be set up.

The Department for Transport said that key factors in the assessment will include: the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated; the rate of infection; the prevalence of variants of concern; the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

The report, produced by the Global Travel Taskforce, sets out how international travel could resume from May 17 at the earliest. More details can be seen here.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “International travel is vital – it boosts businesses and underpins the UK economy – but more than that, it brings people together, connects families who have been kept apart, and allows us to explore new horizons.

“The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine roll out, and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again.”

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The travel industry now has a much-needed framework for the restart of international travel and it is good to see government maintain its ambition for overseas travel to start from May 17 if the circumstances allow.

“While the framework isn’t perfect – the requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people – we welcome the fact that the government commits to engaging with industry on this issue. Small changes, like requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable while still providing an effective mitigation against re-importation of the virus. The government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility.

“Given that the summer season is a short window, which is critical for the survival of many travel companies, it is important the government regularly reviews the green list, ensuring that those countries which meet the criteria are added as soon as possible. Closing off destinations unnecessarily will significantly affect the industry’s opportunity to recover this summer.

“We also need to hear more from government on their plans to provide targeted ongoing support for travel businesses, as it is clear the recovery of the sector will be gradual.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “For an industry that has been shut down for 12 months now, the latest announcement by the Global Travel Taskforce is a step in the right direction, however there is still a long way to go. While we welcome the implementation of a traffic light system to open international travel as outlined in the Global Travel Taskforce announcement, we must learn from mistakes made last year in order to avoid unnecessary cost, disruption and anxiety for travellers. It’s encouraging to see that the introduction of a ‘Green Watchlist’ will come from one single government source and pleased that the overall objective of the watchlist is to give passengers greater certainty when travelling and assurance for those who wish to travel abroad. Our underlining concern at this point, in the absence of the full report, is clarity around the notice period of when countries will be added/removed, meaning travel agents will be left to deal with the operational challenges of cancelling and rebooking trips, and consumers will be scrambling to get home. We do however understand the need for the government to act swiftly in the event of emerging evidence, particularly to variants of concern.

“We have always advocated the need for testing in order to safely reopen travel, but we must have clarification on the types of tests permitted and whether this applies to children as well, along with an exemptions for vaccinated people. Whilst we are pleased that the number of tests have been reduced for countries on the green list, we must ensure that travel can remain accessible for all, particularly families, so we urge the government to consider affordable testing options – such as lateral flow tests – as part of this framework. It is encouraging to read that the Global Travel Taskforce wants to engage with the industry to find a solution to the testing issues and recognises how vital the industry is to the economy and bringing loved ones together.

 “Travelling will be complex for the foreseeable future, so we would encourage anyone who is considering booking a trip to speak to their local travel agent. We remain hopeful for some kind of summer season, as this is still some months away and as we know, circumstances can change very quickly, and with the continued vaccine rollout, particularly across the US and parts of Europe, we are positive there will be further progress to ensure a safe and sustainable return of travel. As the rest of the economy starts to unlock we will be doing all we can to work with government to safely restart travel.”


Black Tomato launches kids’ story collection

Treasure Island and Alice in Wonderland are among the classics providing the luxury touring company with inspiration

Luxury touring company Black Tomato has unveiled a new collection of immersive itineraries inspired by beloved children’s stories, set in destinations that form the backdrop to the tales.

The Take me on a Story collection, which begins with five itineraries, spans from Oxfordshire to Iceland. Each journey includes a photographer to capture the special moments.

Black Tomato said it was witnessing a huge appetite for multi-generational travel among clients, with a 70 per cent increase in bookings over the past two months and a 55 per cent increase in average spend per family.

Tom Marchant, co-founder, Black Tomato, said: “We cast our eyes to the enchanting world of classic children’s literature to stir creativity, instil enticing learning opportunities and capture the imagination of children of all ages by harnessing the transformative nature of travel. After the hardships of last year, being able to transport both children and adults into these rich, whimsical worlds feels like the ultimate joyful way to reconnect with family and welcome back the magic of travel.

“As a father myself, and following the journeys of many clients that have grown with us over the years, it’s a personal delight to see these stories come to life. This is a collection we will continue to grow by inviting clients to shape our offerings with their favourite books that can inspire their family travels. We believe these trips will not only provide an engaging, experiential platform for education, but importantly inspire wanderlust and excitement, in the build-up to travel.”

The first tours are: Take me on a Story to Oxfordshire: A trip inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Take me on Story to Alaska: A trip inspired by Call of the Wild; Take me on a Story to Morocco: A trip inspired by Arabian Nights; Take me on Story to Iceland: A trip inspired by Journey to the Centre of the Earth; Take me on Story to the British Virgin Islands: A trip inspired by Treasure Island. 

See more here.

Read more

The Welcome Back Series: Saga


Cruise lines announce UK coastal sailings

A number of lines have introduced ex-UK itineraries around the British Isles as the sector cautiously restarts

A raft of cruise lines have announced ex-UK cruises this summer, after a year without operating.

Royal Caribbean International has revealed that Anthem of the Seas will be sailing out of Southampton this summer, with a season of cruises planned from July 7.

MSC Cruises will embark on a programme of British Isles cruises that will be available to both families and non-vaccinated guests on board its new flagship, MSC Virtuosa.

Celebrity Cruises will send its recently revolutionised ship, Celebrity Silhouette, to Southampton for a series of cruises from July 3.

Saga Cruises has launched a series of four summer ex-UK itineraries on board Spirit of Discovery and new ship Spirit of Adventure. The cruises include British Isles sailings and a voyage to the Norwegian fjords.

Cunard is to offer ex-UK voyages this summer on board Queen Elizabeth. The cruises, which will sail from July to October, will feature scenic itineraries, sailings with ports of call and “sun voyages” to “wherever the sun shines brightest”.

Disney Cruise Line is to offer ‘staycations’ from British ports this summer, with Disney Magic sailing two and three-night voyages, as well as a limited number of four-night sailings.

Read our feature here.

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Our guide to Tokyo


Travel reports $4.5 trillion losses

The annual Economic Impact Report reveals the full impact of Covid-19 on global travel and tourism

The devastating impact Covid-19 has had on the global travel and tourism sector amounts to losses of almost US$4.5 trillion.

The annual EIR from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) shows the sector’s contribution to GDP dropped 49.1 per cent, this compared to the overall global economy which dropped by just 3.7 per cent last year.

Altogether, the sector’s contribution to global GDP plummeted to US$4.7 trillion in 2020 (5.5 per cent of the global economy), from nearly US$9.2 trillion the previous year (10.4 per cent).

In 2019, travel and tourism generated one in four of all new jobs around the world and contributed 10.6 per cent (334 million) jobs globally.

However, last year, more than 62 million jobs were lost, representing a drop of 18.5 per cent, leaving just 272 million employed across the industry globally.

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SMEs, which make up 80 per cent of all businesses in the sector, were particularly affected. WTTC reported on how the impact on women, youth and minorities was significant.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “We must praise the prompt action of governments around the world for saving so many jobs and livelihoods at risk, thanks to various retention schemes, without which today’s figures would be far worse.

“However, WTTC’s annual Economic Impact Report shows the full extent of the pain our sector has had to endure over the past 12 months, which has needlessly devastated so many lives and businesses, large and small.

“Clearly no one wants to go through what so many have had to suffer during the past difficult 12 months. WTTC research shows the global Travel & Tourism sector alone has been devastated, burdened by an unprecedented loss of almost US$4.5 trillion.

“With the sector’s contribution to GDP plunging by almost half, it’s more important than ever that travel and tourism is given the support needed so it can help power the economic recovery, which will be instrumental in enabling the world to revive from the effects of the pandemic.”


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Industry reacts to Budget

Leading figures say Budget does not go far enough to support travel and tourism businesses

The chancellor must move beyond the government’s “blind spot” concerning the impacts of international travel restrictions, ABTA has urged after Rishi Sunak revealed his Budget on March 3.

The Job Retention Scheme will be extended until the end of September, while the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has been extended. The fourth grant will cover February to April, worth 80 per cent of average trading profits up to £7,500; a fifth grant will be available from July.

Meanwhile, corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent from April 2023, but companies with profits of less than £50,000 will still pay 19 per cent.

However, leading figures in the travel industry said that the measures do not go far enough to support travel and tourism businesses.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “We’re pleased to see the government has responded to many of our calls to extend furlough, business rates relief and VAT reductions. This will help to support jobs and businesses over the coming months. However, the chancellor must move beyond the government’s blind-spot concerning the impacts of international travel restrictions, and make support available to all travel companies whose business has been effectively closed by public health policy.

“The chancellor said there are extra grants for struggling businesses, yet many travel companies remain excluded from this critical support, despite not being able to generate income over the last 12 months. By focusing the grants on retail outlets, businesses including tour operators, online travel companies and home-based workers remain shut out of this much needed support. It is also worth remembering that, with overseas travel still closed, in the short to medium term, the income retail travel agents can generate will still be limited. As such, it’s important they qualify for higher levels of support.

“We urge the government to reconsider this approach by making grants available to all travel businesses, not just those with retail premises, recognising that the reopening of overseas travel will come later than the other sectors and will likely to be gradual. The chancellor has said he will do all that is necessary to support struggling businesses and these words should be matched with action to support the whole travel sector.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “While the extension of the furlough scheme will be positive news for many sectors, travel businesses continue to be unable to take full advantage of the support package in its current form. Travel agencies do not make any money until their clients travel, but they still have to employ people to facilitate bookings and amend cancellations and refunds when required. Therefore, even while there is no money physically coming through the door, furlough simply doesn’t work for employers in this sector by the very nature of the business.

“The criteria that needs to be met by businesses to be entitled to the government grants means that 50 per cent of our members do not qualify because they work from home or an office and do not operate from a retail premises. Support with deferral of business rates and grants for all travel agents, regardless of their operating environment, are what we need to help travel agents survive. There is an immediate pressure on these businesses because they have been unable to earn any income due to government-imposed restrictions for 12 months now.

“While the plan to ease lockdown has initiated some positive signs of recovery in terms of enquiries and bookings, travel agents are in a state of financial limbo because the details of how and when we will travel is still fuelled with uncertainty and restrictions. We know testing is critical to the recovery of travel, and we need government to take a lead on bringing down the cost of testing so that a future holiday is still affordable for families. The media focus to date has been on leisure travel, however the government must not forget the lucrative business travel sector which will be intrinsic to the recovery of many other important sectors to the economy.”

Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said: “The extension of furlough is very welcome news for our industry, as is the business rates holiday and its further cut. We’re also pleased that leisure grants of up to £18k will be available for businesses that need to stay closed for longer, but we urgently need confirmation from government that tour operators, coach operators, language schools and event organisers will be eligible for these grants, having been unfairly excluded to date.

“It was however disappointing and a huge missed opportunity to hear that sector-specific support, which has been rolled out in Scotland, will not be provided. The VAT cut will be beneficial to hospitality and domestic tourism businesses, but its impact on inbound tourism, and the export value it delivers that will take longer to restart, will be minimal.

“The inbound tourism industry still has a long road to recovery and the government needs to recognise this. International inbound tourism to the UK can play a crucial role in supporting the country’s economic recovery and its levelling-up and Global Britain agenda, but this will only be possible when it’s safe to travel again. Until then we need government to continue its dialogue with the industry and understand that further support is urgently required.”


Read our guide to Tokyo


‘Huge opportunity’ for agents

Advantage CEO says the future looks brighter following the government’s roadmap announcement


Travel agents have a huge opportunity to offer a “balanced, honest perspective” as travel reopens, the CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, Julia Lo Bue-Said, has said.

It was announced last month that holidays could be taken as early as May 17, as the government laid out its roadmap for exiting lockdown. A Department for Transport (DfT) review into how to allow inbound and outbound travel to restart will report on April 12.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the resumption of travel is “vital for many businesses which have been hardest hit, including retail, hospitality, tourism and aviation”, but would be subject to a review to resolve “key questions”. He said the DfT taskforce will enable Britons to “plan for summer”.

“At long last we have had some positive news for the industry and we welcome the fact that travel businesses are reporting a surge in bookings and enquiries after the PM’s announcement,” Lo Bue-Said said.

“While we are optimistic at the pent-up demand from consumers and the plan to get the UK out of lockdown, we need to be mindful that the dates outlined are not set in stone and there is a need to err on the side of caution for summer departures. Clarity is still needed from government on quarantine hotels, quarantine periods, testing and vaccine passports, and until further details have been received from the Global Travel Taskforce and we have a better understanding of the protocols that may be in place, it is highly probable that travel for this summer will be restricted in some way.

“Travel agents have a huge opportunity to offer that balanced, honest perspective, which is why we created our Keep Calm & Dream of Travel campaign, to highlight a customer commitment for agents to present to their customers for when the time is right to travel again. Travel agents have access to flexible booking options and, with the knowledge and guidance that a local travel agent can offer, there has never been a better time for consumers to book a holiday using an agent – but cautious optimism is needed.”

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The prime minister’s announcement sets an ambition to get people travelling before the summer – which will not only be crucial for travel businesses whose revenues have been wiped out, but also for the millions of people who are desperate to travel again, whether to see friends and relatives based overseas or for a much-needed holiday.

“We’re pleased to see the government has responded to our calls to engage with industry on a specific roadmap for travel, and we welcome that the Global Travel Taskforce will reconvene to work with ABTA and the wider travel industry on a plan for reopening travel.”


Bookings spike as roadmap is revealed

The announcement that travel could restart as soon as May prompted a huge increase in bookings

Travel businesses have been reporting a boom in sales following the government’s announcement that travel could restart from May 17.

The Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel, part of The Midcounties Co-operative, reported an increase in bookings of 293 per cent on February 23, compared with the same day the week before, and bookings were up 317 per cent compared with the same day in 2020, pre-pandemic. and Jet2holidays reported that summer 2021 bookings increased more than 1,000 per cent in the 24 hours following the announcement.

UKinbound’s CEO Joss Croft said: “We’re really pleased that the prime minister listened to the industry and included international inbound tourism in the country’s reopening roadmap. It is critical that dialogue continues and that government consults with the industry when preparing its review on reopening international travel, due on April 12.

“As part of its review, we would ask the UK government to work with the devolved nations, as a fragmented approach will hinder recovery. To save the summer business, government needs to move quickly as it will take time for consumers to regain confidence to book a holiday to the UK and for the industry to prepare.

“However, it’s very clear that we are still months away from restarting international travel, and many more months before we see a significant recovery, and the industry therefore needs continued support.”


Greece considers vaccination certificates

The Greek tourism minister said that they could mean the country will be able to enjoy a “semi-normal summer”

The government of Greece is in talks with the UK to see if vaccination certificates could be introduced, the country’s tourism minister has said.

Tourism minister Harry Theoharis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are in very preliminary discussions. I’m very hopeful we can reach some sort of solution.

“We certainly hope that with the vaccination programmes under way, and the UK is one of the leading countries in that respect […] we can have a semi-normal summer,” he said, adding: “We could recognise they have chosen to get vaccinated so there is no need to test them again and again.”

Greece is one of the most popular destinations for Britons, with more than four millions visits each year.

“The vaccination certificates are issued by governments, by single authorities, not by various labs in various countries, so again it’s a step forward, that is why we are starting these discussions early in order to be able to solve any technical issues,” Theoharis said.

It follows comments by ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer about the possibility of vaccination certificates.

“Having the option to obtain some sort of vaccine certificate will be important because this evidence, alongside testing, is likely to be part of the way to reopen travel,” he said.

“We would like to see the government work with the industry on how we can have a voluntary certificate that will be able to demonstrate that you’ve been vaccinated, meaning you don’t have to test or quarantine. That would be a real incentive to get people travelling again. We already know that some overseas governments such as Greece and Cyprus are looking at proof of vaccination as a way for travellers to avoid testing and quarantine requirements.”

“We should also remember that having a vaccine certificate isn’t a new idea. There are examples that already exist for viral diseases, such as yellow fever, where there is an internationally recognised standard of certification that you have been vaccinated,” Tanzer added.

In a blog, he wrote: “I understand concerns around discrimination and data privacy, which is why any vaccine certificate should be optional. The government has asked people to participate in the vaccination scheme and in the test and trace programme; people who have done so have the right to their personal data.

“While I strongly believe that being vaccinated, and having evidence of it that is recognised internationally, must be part of the solution to reopening travel – it cannot be the only route. There need to be other ways, such as a practical and cost-effective testing regimes, to allow those who are yet to be vaccinated to travel.”


More cruise lines make vaccinations mandatory

Ultra-luxury line Crystal joins the likes of Swan Hellenic and Saga in asking for proof of vaccination before sailing

Crystal has announced that it will now require all guests to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days prior to embarkation.

Guests will need to provide proof of vaccination before sailing and must have received both doses of the vaccine if recommended by the manufacturer. The ultra-luxury line joins the likes of Swan Hellenic and Saga in making the measure mandatory.

The vaccine requirement is part the company’s comprehensive Crystal Clean+ 4.0 measures, including negative Covid-19 tests for guests and crew, temperature checks at the terminal prior to boarding, a “nimble” mask policy, social distancing guidelines, enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures, reduced capacity and more.

“We are encouraged by the progress being made with the Covid-19 vaccines and what this means for our Crystal Family and the travel industry as a whole as we eagerly look forward to exploring the world again,” said Crystal’s interim president and CEO, Jack Anderson.

“We know that peace of mind is the greatest luxury; and the vaccine requirement is simply the best way to ensure the safest possible Crystal Experience for all on board. This sentiment is underscored by conversations with our guests and travel partners and a recent Cruise Critic survey of cruisers that revealed more than 80 per cent of respondents would cruise if a vaccine were required.

“As part of the company’s Crystal Clean+ 4.0 measures, crew members will be tested for Covid-19 prior to leaving their home location to join the ship and must receive a negative result. They also will take a Covid-19 test at embarkation; quarantine for seven days upon arrival; be tested again at the end of that seven-day period and must receive a negative result before beginning their duties,” Anderson said.

“When vaccines are widely available, they will be a requirement of employment for crew which must be completed at least 14 days prior to service.”

In addition to providing verified documentation of their Covid-19 vaccine at the time of boarding, guests will complete an online form acknowledging this requirement before their cruise tickets will be issued. Crystal has published a frequently asked questions document on the advisory alert section of its website for further reference.

Crystal said it will continue to evaluate and update its Crystal Clean+ 4.0 health and safety protocols for its luxury brand experiences – Crystal Cruises, Crystal River Cruises, Crystal Yacht Cruises and the upcoming Crystal Expedition Cruises – according to the latest scientific data and expert guidance.


Older travellers lead recovery of travel

The Covid-19 vaccines have restored confidence in older travellers to book and travel again in the next six months

Seventy-seven per cent of older travellers say that receiving the Covid-19 vaccine will provide them with the confidence to book and travel again within the next six months, according to a new survey.

The Advantage Travel Partnership and Silver Travel Advisor found that 46 per cent of respondents said that they planned to make the most of their re-established freedom and travel as much as possible once they have been vaccinated.

The companies said the response demonstrated that it’s clearly this demographic which will be leading the recovery of travel this year.

The research, which was completed by respondents over the age of 50 from across the UK, found that 94 per cent of people planned to have the Covid-19 vaccine once they have been contacted by the NHS for their appointment.

The survey also examined spending habits for future trips, to see what impact the pandemic may have had on travellers’ budgets.

Sixty per cent of respondents said that their budget would remain unchanged, while 26 per cent of people intend to spend more to make up for holidays that have been missed while travel restrictions have been in place.

When consumers were asked about the reasons why they use a travel agent, almost half (49 per cent) of respondents said that they booked with an agent because of the advice and expertise that they offer. Another contributing factor was having the reassurance of someone who could help if needed (42 per cent), and 38 per cent of those surveyed referenced that financial security was another key reason. When asked what type of travel agent they were more likely to book with, 46 per cent answered that they would opt for an independent travel agent.

Debbie Marshall, managing director at Silver Travel Advisor, said, “We are really pleased to see from the survey that the Covid-19 vaccine is creating confidence among the 50-plus market to plan and book future travel, both in the UK and abroad. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, even the savviest silver traveller may be more hesitant when it comes to travel and, now more than ever, it’s clear that the advice and reassurance a travel agent can bring is invaluable. Through our partnership with Advantage, their members have exclusive access to the Silver Travel Advisor accreditation training which will help agents understand the mature market and the different segments. Upon completion of the course, accredited agents will be featured on the Silver Travel Advisor website, which is a great opportunity for agents to promote their services and grow its customer base.”

Kelly Cookes, leisure director at Advantage Travel Partnership said, “We know that consumer confidence has been severely affected throughout the pandemic, so it’s reassuring that the vaccine is giving three-quarters of mature travellers the hope that they can and will travel again. To ensure our members have all the tools available to convert enquiries from into bookings, our agent members also have access to our own digital version of the customer magazine The Silver Traveller, to help them market effectively to the over 50s [the next issue is out mid-February].”


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ABTA calls on the government for clarity

The problems facing the industry have been compounded by the introduction of ‘red list’ countries and quarantine hotels

The introduction of quarantine hotels for ‘red list’ countries builds on a “mountain of existing measures for travel”, ABTA has said.

The travel association said that the industry needs to “see a clear plan for how [restrictions] will be lifted” after the government said it was attempting to stop mutant Covid strains from reaching the UK.

“In order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in government provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception,” the prime minister Boris Johnson said.

He said the government would “enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel”. There are 30 countries on the “red list”, including all of South America, as well as large parts of Southern Africa and Portugal.

An ABTA spokesperson said: “We understand the government’s need to introduce temporary additional restrictions in response to emerging new strains of the virus, but this needs to come with support for the jobs and businesses affected and a clear roadmap forward for travel.

“It is now 12 months since the travel industry started to be affected by coronavirus, yet the government has still not provided any tailored financial support to the sector. Jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and longstanding businesses have gone to the wall.

“The lack of financial support targeted at addressing the consequences for businesses of international travel restrictions needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The government needs to work with the industry to develop a route forward for reopening travel, reviewing all of the existing measures and coordinating with overseas governments.

“While the vaccine rollout is positive, the industry cannot wait for the whole UK adult population to be vaccinated before travel restarts – and businesses cannot afford to lose another summer.

“We also know that many people have a desire to get back to experiences that they value highly and have missed dearly, including travel to visit family and friends abroad.”

Zina Bencheikh, managing director EMEA at Intrepid Travel, said: “It’s absolutely right that the government does what’s necessary for public safety in light of the global pandemic. However, further restrictions on international travel will of course have an impact on how confident people feel to book holidays for this summer and beyond.

“We need more clarity on an end date and pathway out of the current restrictions to give customers and the industry a chance to plan ahead. The impact of this on the travel industry means that it’s now essential that bespoke financial support is provided – not just for aviation, but for the wider industry which is directly impacted by these measures.”


Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA

We speak to Mark Tanzer about why the future of travel remains positive, but the government needs to do a lot more to help the industry see out the pandemic

ABTA Magazine: The Save Future Travel Coalition has said that the government must ensure that travel can operate in a risk-controlled manner. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Mark Tanzer: Last month, we saw the further tightening of travel restrictions. With the introduction of ‘red’ countries, the hotel quarantine [plan] and the home secretary standing up saying ‘holidays are illegal’, we have this extraordinary situation. It’s the latest level of restrictions added to those the travel industry has been facing since last March. It affects the here and now, but also potentially the desire to book holidays for later in the year.

So, we’re saying that we understand the priority the government is giving to getting the infection rate down and preventing variants of the virus coming into the country until we’re further advanced with the vaccination programme, but we need a clear way out. Does vaccination, testing, plus more selective quarantine requirements for countries add up to allowing people to travel again? We are working together to put something together that allows that to happen.

Obviously, we want people back travelling in the summer, by which stage not everyone in all countries will have been vaccinated, but people who have been vaccinated will want to travel. If you open up the borders then there is an increased risk that someone could come into the country with [Covid], but if we don’t want anyone coming in, then you’re not going to get the travel industry moving. So, we have to move away from a categorical shutdown, which is where we are at the moment, to easing those restrictions and finding a certain risk level we are able to tolerate.

How has the travel industry had to change its messaging in light of recent developments?
The vaccine program is obviously further advanced, which is good news. But what we need to know is do the vaccines work against different variants? [The most recent reports] seem to be saying they do. That’s important, because it becomes a question of whether or not you’ve been successfully vaccinated [against all strains], and that can change the attitudes about letting people into the country. So, there are medical and testing developments that need to be decided upon in order to get us moving.

Do Matt Hancock’s comments about having a “great British summer” suggest to you that it’s going to be a difficult summer ahead for the travel industry?
Those comments don’t help at all. No politician knows exactly when people will be able to travel internationally again, so to say you shouldn’t be booking a summer holiday, that’s the wrong thing to say. If people don’t book holidays companies will struggle, but also, it’s too early to say [something like that], because they don’t know the answer to those medical questions. So, I think we’re very keen that the entire travel industry – and that includes domestic holidays as well – is able to have a good summer, and we’re going to be pushing to get a plan in place from the government as quickly as possible.

If the government does extend or expand support, as the Save Future Travel Coalition is pushing for, but waits until the Budget to do it, would that be too late for a lot of travel companies?Certainly [travel companies] have been living off thin air for a year now, in terms of sales and having to make refunds and so forth. So, the industry is in a cash crunch. Some of the things that the government has done, like furlough, has been positive, but of course for travel businesses, they’ve got to have staff in the office because they’re doing bookings and refunds and so, although they’re not generating revenue they’re also not eligible for furlough. So, we’re not only calling for the scheme to be extended beyond March, but for it to be more flexible and recognise that kind of pattern of work.

The travel industry has not received the same level of direct support that others have – hospitality, for instance. I think the government saw [things through the prism of] the physical inability of people to go into premises because of social distancing. What we’ve been arguing, and now it’s even more the case, is that it’s stopping bookings and demand and therefore travel businesses should be, and must be, supported by the government [with targeted measures]. The government needs to look at all aspects of the industry, including operations and travel agents, as well airlines and airports.

We’ve gone from having travel corridors opening and closing to a new ‘red’ list, with Test to Release and the plan for hotel quarantine in the background. Will these confusing and overlapping measures have a residual impact on people’s appetite for travel even after restrictions are lifted?
Our customer research has found that people are 20 per cent more likely to use travel advisers than before Covid, and that’s for a number of reasons, but partially so they can tread their way through this very complicated set restrictions. It’s a moving target. What we have at the moment is belts and braces, but they are actually quite distinct non-pharmaceutical interventions. What we need is to really organise things so it’s much easier for a customer to understand what the deal is: whether they need to get tested before they travel, when they come back, how that’s going work and where they’re going to get it done. And, if they’ve been vaccinated, how does that change the picture? But, at the moment, we haven’t got the ability to put that clear proposition to customers. Clearly, that affects confidence.

Ultimately, was the travel corridor system worth it, with many changes that ultimately led to refunds being needed?
Anything that that allows us to travel, I think, without quarantine restrictions is good. You don’t want the chopping and changing, and the way you’re having to react to what happens with the virus. But any mechanism that means once infection rates drop in a particular place, and that destination represents a lower risk and therefore people can travel with fewer obstacles, I think that should be welcomed.

In a parallel world where the government embraced Covid Zero, totally closed borders and banned travel for the entire year, but said they would provide the necessary support, would the travel industry would have supported it?
It’s hard to say. I think when we started out, we didn’t know how long it would last, or whether we’d have a summer 2020, or summer 2021. Some countries – New Zealand, France, Italy among them – have had packages specifically for tour operators and the travel industry. We look at them with envy, because their governments have seen them as being significant and put in the infrastructure. However, the UK is a global economy on a different scale to the likes of New Zealand and locking everything down early was a big political decision to make. According to the current medical view, it seems going harder earlier would have helped us not be in this situation now.

Have you been surprised by the unwillingness of the government to properly engage with the industry and its demands, given how important travel and tourism is to the UK economy?
I’m disappointed, not surprised. They haven’t really shown much interest to engage in the past. We’re split between so many different government departments, because of [tourism’s] very nature. So, we’re dealing with the Treasury and dealing with the Department for Transport, we’re dealing with BEIS [Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy], the Foreign Office, all of which have a piece of the picture, but not all of it. And I think maybe that is one of the reasons why no particular department feels, from a budget or policy point of view, that it owns the problem.

We’ve be trying to join the dots and get other departments to talk to each other; organising the roundtables and workshops, bringing the government departments together with the industry, to be able to put that picture across. I think, stepping back, they’ve got a lot of competing claims – we’re not the only sector saying we need support – and there’s a limited amount of money to go around. I don’t think we should be given it by right, but by the strength of the arguments, and I think we’ve made those.

What gives you confidence in the future of travel?

There is big pent-up demand. When we conducted research at the turn of the year, before the last restrictions were introduced, we found that 60 per cent of people said that they are hopeful they would be able to take a European holiday this year. The whole experience of lockdown has reminded people of how important travel is, and their desire is still very strong – to go to places they might not have gone to before or return to places that they’re familiar with. What gives me confidence is there is a lot of demand for when [restrictions] are eased and the industry is able to move again.

Another point is that it’s given us time to think about how we want to balance tourism with the interests of [the environment]. Although I would never wish the pandemic on anyone, let alone the travel industry, I think there are some good things that we can take from it and build on as we go forward. I have absolutely no doubt that the underlying demand is strong – and that it may even been stronger than before.


WTTC: Prioritise return of business travel

The trade body has called on the UK government to “show that they really means business”

The World Travel & Tourism Council has called on the UK government to prioritise the return of international business travel

Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO, said: “The WTTC today calls on the UK government to prioritise the urgent resumption of international business travel – in line with the reopening of mobility and the easing of restrictions to domestic travel from the beginning of April.

“We need to capitalise on the huge success of the vaccine rollout and unblock the myriad of confusing rules and regulations, which has stalled essential business travel. Now is the time to show that the UK government really means business.

“The resumption of safe international business travel will generate a much-needed revenue boost for businesses up and down the country and provide a critical economic lifeline to the government and enable the chancellor to begin balancing the books.

“The UK is the fourth biggest G20 economy in terms of international travel and tourism spend from business travel, contributing £7.5 billion to UK PLC in 2019, and will be vital to kickstarting the country’s recovery.

“Resuming international travel also means the country’s economy can reopen more quickly, giving the UK a distinct competitive advantage as the globe slowly recovers and emerges from the ravages of the pandemic.”


G Adventures launches new ‘Active’ travel campaign

With more demand for active travel, the adventure travel company is helping agents cater to this growing market

G Adventures has launched a month-long ‘Active’ travel campaign to help agents cater to the shift in demand towards active travel.

A recent survey by G Adventures showed that 28 per cent of British travellers plan to take an active trip as part of their next international holiday, with 12 per cent saying they would take a more active break and 27 per cent saying they’re more likely to try a new style of holiday than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The campaign offers a 15 per cent discount on ‘Active’ tours, as well as training, webinars and four trip giveaways for agents throughout this month.

The weekly webinars will focus on educating agents on the best active experiences by region. Each week, agents attending the webinar will be eligible to win a spot on one of G Adventures’ European adventures, including river cruising in Burgundy, hiking the Corfu Trail and sailing the Croatian coastline. Other methods of prize-draw entry can be found on the Agents of Change Facebook page.

To register for the webinars, follow the links below:

Helping agents to encourage travellers to book now for travel later, 15 per cent discount on ‘Active’ tours applies to bookings made before March 31, 2021 and departing up to June 30, 2022. The sale includes the new collection of Active Europe tours, as well as hiking and trekking trips further afield, from South America to Africa.


Italy offers trip for agents

ENIT is offering a getaway along with hampers filled with Italian goodies to agents who complete its online training programme 

The National Italian Tourist Office in London (ENIT) is offering travel agents the chance to win prizes, including a trip to Italy.

Agents who complete the Italy online training programme can win a getaway to one of its famous art cities, or hampers filled with Italian goodies and Apple tablets.

To be in with a chance of winning, agents must simply complete all four training modules and download their Italy Specialist Certificate by May 31, 2021.

The Italy online training course provides agents with the knowledge and confidence to sell and up-sell their clients trips to the country.

Below are the four modules agents can complete:

  1. What Makes Italy a Unique Destination
  2. Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  3. Italy’s Art Cities
  4. Food and Wine

For more information, agents can visit:


Midcounties appoints Sara Dunham as chief officer for travel and leisure services

The former British Airways executive will be responsible for growing the Co-op Travel and Co-op Holidays businesses

The Midcounties Co-operative has appointed former British Airways executive Sara Dunham as its chief officer for travel and leisure services.

Dunham joins the executive team at Midcounties and takes responsibility for the Co-operative Travel business, including Co-op Holidays.

The business operates 78 branches, has a strong digital presence, and covers 165 Personal Travel Agents as well as more than 140 members of the Co-operative Travel Consortium.

Dunham joins Midcounties with close to 20 years’ experience in the travel industry. She spent almost 15 years in a variety of senior roles at British Airways, across the airline and tour operating divisions.

In her new role, Dunham will be responsible for further growing the Co-op Travel and Co-op Holidays businesses. Phil Ponsonby, chief executive at The Midcounties Co-operative said: “Travel and leisure services are an important part of our long-term strategy and we are thrilled to be welcoming Sara to drive the next stage of growth across our travel and leisure offering. In these particularly challenging times for the sector, delivering the best possible customer experience will be crucial and Sara’s experience will help us to further develop our offering across all channels and in particular to strengthen the relationship with our 700,000 members and support their needs across a broader range of travel and leisure services.”

Sara Dunham said: “Co-operative Travel has an incredibly strong reputation in the market and I am delighted to be joining such a purpose-led organisation. Being member-owned provides a unique point of difference for the Society and I look forward to working with the board and Phil, as well as the Executive team, to deepen the experience we offer to members and customers. I am really excited to meet what I know are brilliant Co-op travel and Co-op Holidays teams in addition to our really important consortium partners and personal travel agents.”

Dunham replaces Alistair Rowland, who left Midcounties last year to head up Blue Bay travel, which continues to be a member of the Co-operative Travel Consortium.


P&O introduces short-break UK cruises

The ‘ultimate escape’ staycation breaks go on sale this month, but the line has cancelled other cruises until the autumn

P&O Cruises is to offer a series of short-break and week-long UK cruises this summer. They will go on sale this month.

However, the line also announced that cruises on Arcadia, Aurora, Azura and Ventura have been cancelled until the end of August and on Britannia and Iona until the end of September.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: “Following recent government announcements and as the vaccine programme is rolled out across the globe, we can all begin to feel a sense of reassurance and hope that this current lockdown period in the UK will come to an end. Life can, we hope, slowly return to some semblance of our previous normality as hospitality opens up and summer holidays can be booked with confidence.

“While holidays here in the UK will be the first to become a reality, we will, of course, gradually see the return of international travel, but first we want guests to be able to enjoy a proper summer holiday at sea with the best in relaxation, entertainment and dining choice.

“These sailings will leave from our home port in Southampton and sail around UK coastal waters enjoying the summer sunshine. More details of dates, prices and the experience on board will be announced later this month, but they will, of course, all have flexibility, so guests can book with confidence.

“We hope that the UK ‘ultimate escape’ staycation option will have wide appeal and we will do our utmost to make it a very special time. There really will be something for everyone and the opportunity to spend precious and much longed-for time with family and friends.

“In order to offer these UK breaks it does mean that, unfortunately, we need to cancel some of our current published programme of holidays this summer.

“We remain in very close contact with the UK government and associated bodies as we monitor the latest situation and guidance on travel. From the moment we see travel restrictions lifting we will begin the significant logistical task to restart our operations. It will take some time for the first ship to return to service, followed by the phased return of the remaining fleet. We cannot wait to welcome everyone back on board with the protection of effective protocols to safeguard the health and well-being of all crew and guests.

“I really am so sorry for the disappointment these cancellations will cause, but hope that the new UK cruises will enable everyone to enjoy a wonderful holiday this summer.”

All guests whose cruises have been cancelled will automatically receive a future cruise credit (FCC) worth 125 per cent of what they paid. This can be redeemed against any new booking made by the end of December 2021, on any cruise on sale at the time of booking.

Alternatively, a 100 per cent refund is available through the form on and may be requested until December 2021.


Take me to the river

Linda Reynolds, a Personal Travel Agent at Co-operative Travel, enjoyed a fabulous self-drive river boat holiday on the Thames in 2020. This is her snapshot of some of the areas you can visit while “messing about on the river”

Leisurely and lovely
Imagine having your own river boat cruiser and regally sailing along the River Thames. Bliss! Cruising from Benson in Oxfordshire showcases the best of the great British countryside. This UK break will bring tranquillity, pretty stretches of water, and acres of open fields, hills and farmland.

Boating holidays offer families, multigenerations, groups and couples the opportunity to enjoy the UK’s beautiful riverbanks, as the ever-changing views continuously glide past. Activities to enjoy along the way include swimming, fishing, bird-watching, riverside pubs and historic sights, as well as the relaxing experience of being on the river. Dogs are welcome, too. This really is a holiday for all the family.

Le Boat
The staff at Le Boat are excellent. As well as explaining the steering and safety manuals, they provide maps, lock information, tips and pub recommendations! Many of the locks are electronically operated – help is available, during summer months, from lock keepers, and fellow cruisers are happy to advise. You will get the hang of it in no time.

Groups and families can hire a self-drive cruiser to accommodate between two and ten people, which features en-suite cabins, galley kitchen, seating and upper steering and seating deck, plus areas to sunbathe and view the river.

The three-night route would allow you to cruise and easily stop at four of the following areas – Benson, Wallingford, Moulsford, Goring, Pangbourne-on-Thames, Reading, Sonning and Henley-on-Thames.

You can also pick a seven-night boating holiday to take in the Historic Royal Palaces of Windsor and Hampton Court, or pick up a boat at Chertsey depot.

While near the village of Benson, I recommend enjoying a long lunch at the pretty riverside Waterfront Café. From Benson you can also visit the Aston Martin Heritage Museum.

This historic market town has independent shops, cafes, restaurants and a market. The Castle Gardens are a great place for a picnic. Wallingford is perhaps most famous for being the home of Agatha Christie and the setting of many of her stories.

The Swan Pub offers a sunny terrace overlooking the Thames and, with a dock for boats, it’s a perfect location to enjoy drinks and the all-day food menu. There are local shops and the village to explore, and Beale Wildlife Park is a must-visit for children, offering paddling pools, play areas and train rides alongside the monkeys and meerkats.

Caversham and Reading
It’s easy to find a dock in this area to visit one of the UK’s largest retail shopping centres. Cycling makes this area accessible along tow paths – you may bring your own bikes or hire from Le Boat. The village of Caversham was voted one of the best places to live in the UK in 2020. I recommend checking out the local family bakery, Warings, which does a marvellous selection of savouries and takeaway afternoon teas.

Henley is synonymous with the Henley Royal Regatta, an annual four-day series of rowing races, normally held in the first week of July. Visit the River & Rowing Museum and find the time to explore the many pubs and eateries of this picturesque town.

Linda uses her 32 years of experience and expertise to create the perfect holidays for her clients. She works to take away all the stress when it comes to travel booking, and the service provided is personal, tailored and complimentary. See 


UAE, Burundi and Rwanda added to ‘red list’

Passengers who have been in or transited through the countries in the last 10 days will no longer be granted access to the UK

Visitors from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Burundi and Rwanda have been banned from entering the UK as the government extended its ‘red list’.

Passengers who have been in or transited through the countries in the last 10 days will no longer be granted access to the UK. The measure came into force at 1pm on January 29, but British, Irish and third-country nationals with residence rights in the UK are still allowed to enter.

However, they are required to self-isolate for 10 days at home, along with their household. Passengers returning from these countries cannot be released from self-isolation through Test to Release.

There will also be a flight ban on direct passenger flights from the UAE, which includes the popular winter sun destination, Dubai. The decision to ban travel from these destinations follows the discovery of a new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa that may have spread to other countries, the government said. Any exemptions usually in place will not apply, including for business travel.

It follows new measures announced by the government to minimise travel across international borders, including managed isolation in hotels and the need to declare a reason for travel.

More details on these measures will be set out soon. There were an initial 30 countries on the ‘red list’, which include all those in South America, as well as large parts of southern Africa and Portugal.

ABTA said it added to a “mountain of existing measures for travel”.

Read more

The ABTA Magazine Guide to Sapporo

A closer look at the Japanese city that mixes the metropolitan with the great outdoors

A major city rich in culture, first-class cuisine and multifunctional facilities that is also a stone’s throw from lush nature where a myriad of activities are possible all year long – you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere that balances the metropolitan and the great outdoors the way Sapporo does.

In Japan’s northern capital, you do not have to choose between urban excitement and a relaxing natural getaway on your holiday.

Read the guide in full here.


£4.6bn relief package for businesses

The latest government bailout explicitly references travel agents, following lobbying by ABTA

The government has published amended regulations that explicitly reference retail travel agents as businesses that are required to legally close in Tier 4 areas within England.

ABTA says that this confirmation from government is a welcome step in ensuring agents in England are eligible for grant support under the Localised Restrictions Support Grants (closed) regime.

The previous exclusion of travel agents from the regulations had resulted in them being denied much needed funding from local authorities under the LRSG scheme.

Following lobbying from ABTA, the devolved nations had already clarified that support for businesses in the highest levels of restrictions would be extended to retail travel agents, but the government had previously failed to provide this clarity for businesses in England.

The chancellor announced a £4.6bn relief package for retail, leisure and hospitality sectors in the UK after new lockdowns were announced in England and Scotland.

Rishi Sunak said that UK businesses in these sectors are to be given one-off grants worth up to £9,000, and expected to support 600,000 business properties across the UK.

A further £594m will be made available to councils and devolved nations to support businesses not covered by the new grants.

Sunak said: “The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge – and, while the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further.

“Throughout the pandemic we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the spring.

“This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.”

ABTA has been having ongoing discussions with officials in Westminster to argue that this approach must be matched in England. As part of this effort, they recently surveyed travel agent members, working with their partners in the Save Future Travel Coalition, to produce the evidence required to demonstrate that retail travel agents are dependent on in-person trade.

Luke Petherbridge, ABTA’s director of public affairs, said: “Securing grant funding for travel businesses has been a key focus of ABTA’s work in recent months. The confirmation from the UK government today builds on actions by the Devolved Administrations on this matter and should bring an end to the postcode lottery of grants experienced by agents. We are pleased to see the government has listened to our calls for clarification and acted on it today. We also believe it should mean that travel agents are eligible for the retail, hospitality and leisure businesses grants, although we are still awaiting the specific government guidance on this.

“While accessing the grant schemes will provide some help to struggling businesses, these are related to the lockdown and stay at home orders. We have not yet seen sector-specific support to take account of the unique challenges that the travel industry has faced throughout the last 10 months, including frequent changes to travel corridors, and restrictions on many destinations across the globe through FCDO Travel Advice, which have seriously affected the ability of businesses to trade. ABTA will continue to push for tailored support, including the urgency of getting financial help to those who have not been able to access existing support mechanisms, such as directors of limited companies, and the many travel businesses that do not have rateable values.”

Read more

The ABTA Magazine Guide to Sapporo

A closer look at the Japanese city that mixes the metropolitan with the great outdoors

A major city rich in culture, first-class cuisine and multifunctional facilities that is also a stone’s throw from lush nature where a myriad of activities are possible all year long – you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere that balances the metropolitan and the great outdoors the way Sapporo does.

In Japan’s northern capital, you do not have to choose between urban excitement and a relaxing natural getaway on your holiday.

Read the guide in full here.


Tributes paid to Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart

The chairman and founder of Sandals has died aged 79

Tributes have been paid to Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, the chairman and founder of Sandals, who has died aged 79.

His son, Adam, said his father, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica and is credited with popularising all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, was a “singular personality and an unstoppable force”.

“Together, we have all been part of something bigger than ourselves, led by a man who believed in us and who gave us opportunities to learn, grow and the tools to make dreams real.

“For him, and because of him, we will continue to dream big and deliver on his certainty that true luxury is always best enjoyed by the sea.

“My dad lived a big life – husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather entrepreneur, statesman, dreamer.

“A singular personality and an unstoppable force who revelled in defying the odds, exceeding expectations and whose passion for his family was matched only by the people and possibility of the Caribbean, for whom he was a fierce champion. There will never be another quite like him, and we will miss him for ever.”

Karl Thompson, managing director of Unique Vacations UK Ltd, said: “On behalf of myself and my team in the UK and Europe, some of whom have worked for him for more than 25 years, we are deeply saddened by the death of our chairman and founder, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart. Not only was Mr Stewart a true visionary for the travel industry, but he was also like family to many of us. He had a fabulous sense of humour, was constantly there for support and always encouraged us to strive for excellence.

“Those who knew him well will know him for his larger than life personality and his pioneering ideas. Nothing was ever impossible. His determination knew no bounds and he was always striving for bigger and better things. Echoing the sentiments of his son, Adam Stewart, he was an inspiration to all of us and I can say with certainty that there will never be anyone else like him.

“Mr Stewart was so proud of what we achieved over the years and his encouragement and support was always a real source of motivation for us. He allowed us to pursue our dreams and for that, as well as so many other things, we thank him. We will keep his legacy alive as best we can, and I hope that we can continue to do him proud.

“The messages of condolence from industry friends has been truly humbling and I know he would be wishing everybody all the very best while we pull together to beat this pandemic.”


New testing measures for international arrivals

Measures to protect against new strains of Covid-19

Passengers arriving from all international destinations will be required to present a negative Covid-19 test result before departing for England, the government has announced.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced that from next week inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing the country they are in.

He said it was to help protect against the new strains of coronavirus such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa.

Shapps said: We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of Covid-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions.

“Taken together with the existing mandatory self-isolation period for passengers returning from high-risk countries, pre-departure tests will provide a further line of defence – helping us control the virus as we roll out the vaccine at pace over the coming weeks.”