April 2021

Britannia returns to the waves

April 2021

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Editor’s letter

Moving in the right direction

Last month, a raft of cruise lines announced their plans to embark on a short mini-season from the UK – the result of the continuing success of the UK’s vaccination programme and the easing of lockdown restrictions.

In this issue, we consider the options available to those keen to get back on the waves – something that seemed totally unthinkable just a few months ago. Cruise’s partial resumption is proof that the travel industry’s recovery will neither be predictable, nor equal.

Different sectors will return more slowly than others – and some will change for good. With Covid-19 leading to offices closing and meetings and conferences moving online, one severely disrupted area has been business travel. In this issue, Sam Ballard considers what the future holds for the sector.

The introduction of a traffic light system offers further hope for the industry in general: we now know travel will be possible this summer, although things may change quickly. Mark Tanzer says “the goal must be to have unrestricted travel to ‘green’ destinations”, but things are moving in the right direction – and that’s reason to celebrate.

We hope you enjoy reading.


Get in touch with the team

ABTA Magazine is produced by Waterfront Publishing on behalf of ABTA, The Travel Association.


Anthony Pearce, director

020 3865 9360

DJMWeb, The Studio

Nathaniel Cramp, Emily Eastman

Sales and partnerships
Sam Ballard, director

Bryan Johnson, senior sales manager
0203 865 9338
07532 709 734

About ABTA

Waterfront Publishing is an independent publisher based in central London. It has an in-house magazines, Cruise Adviser, which is aimed at the travel trade. It has also produced magazines on behalf of ABTATravelzoo; and Emerald Waterways. Its design agency The Studio by Waterfront offers copywriting, proofreading and design for print, digital, advertising and branding.

Get in touch

Waterfront Publishing
Hop Exchange,
Southwark Street,
London, SE1 1TY
020 3865 9360

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.

Read more

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.”


“Illogical” government grants criticised

ABTA highlights the industry’s growing frustration and anger in a new letter to BEIS

ABTA has written to officials at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to protest at levels of grant support being made available to the retail travel industry in England, which seem at odds with those provided to other business sectors.

Restart Grants, recently announced by the Chancellor, are to be allocated to businesses based on the category they are deemed to fall into, such as non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and personal care.

Retail travel agents fall into the first category, meaning that they are eligible for grants up to £6,000 depending on their rateable values.  However, as ABTA has pointed out to BEIS, while travel agents can open from Monday, April 12, they will not receive any new income for many weeks at least. Not only is it currently illegal to travel overseas, recent government guidance stated that customers should not book overseas holidays for the time being.

Other businesses are eligible to receive grants of up to £18,000, despite being able to welcome customers and generate new income from April 12. ABTA has made clear to the BEIS that this is a growing source of frustration and anger among its members and the wider travel industry, and has asked for an explanation of the rationale behind the decision.

Luke Petherbridge, ABTA’s Director of Public Affairs, said: “It seems illogical that financial support is being funnelled towards businesses that will not only be open from April 12, but, in the case of hairdressers for example, are likely to be in very high demand from the off, while travel businesses that will continue to have significant constraints on their trade are offered lower levels of support.

“Unlike in Scotland or Northern Ireland, travel businesses in England have not received any sector-specific support in recognition of the unique circumstances our sector is in. Meanwhile, the level of business support offered by the Welsh Government has been based on revenue-loss, which has meant better comparative outcomes for many businesses. ABTA is continuing to strongly press for tailored assistance for all businesses in the travel industry in England, not least in the light of further ‘don’t book a holiday’ messages from government. In addition, we are in contact with the devolved administrations around the need to keep financial support under review, and the importance of a four-nations approach to restart.”


ABTA announces 2021 and 2022 Travel Conventions

This year’s event will be the same online format as last year, but in 2022 it will be held in Marrakech

ABTA has announced its plans for its 2021 Travel Convention and confirmed that Marrakech will host the event in 2022.

Recognising that the travel and tourism sector will be continuing to deal with the impact of coronavirus, this year’s Convention will repeat the successful online format of last year}s, taking place in the week beginning October 11.

The 2022 Travel Convention will take place in Morocco next Spring, allowing the travel industry to experience the wonders of Marrakech, at a time when the recovery from the pandemic should be more advanced.

ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer said: “The pandemic, and its impact on travel, have both continued for longer than most people originally thought. We are eager to return to our usual Convention format overseas, but we have to recognise the economic environment the industry continues to work in. Making the decision now allows delegates and sponsors to plan accordingly.

“Feedback on last year’s extended reality Convention was overwhelmingly positive, and I am confident that this year’s event will be equally engaging and stimulating. At the same time, we look forward to the industry being able to gather in the beautiful and vibrant city of Marrakech in Spring 2022, hosted by our friends, the Moroccan National Tourist Office.”

Further details of both events will be revealed in due course.

Three new names added to the ABTA board of directors

ABTA has announced that it has appointed three new directors to the ABTA board. The new directors are:

  • Ruth Marshall – managing director, RCL Cruises Ltd
  • Garry Wilson – chief executive officer, easyJet holidays
  • Andrew Flintham – managing director – TUI Northern Region


ABTA chairman, Alistair Rowland, said: “We are delighted to welcome Ruth and Garry onto the ABTA board for the first time, and to welcome Andrew on his return to the board. All three individuals have outstanding backgrounds in travel. RCL, TUI and easyJet holidays demonstrate the wide range of businesses within ABTA membership, and are essential suppliers to many other ABTA members. There has never been a more important time for different parts of the travel industry to work together behind a single organisation to carry our case to government, and to shape the future of the industry as we emerge from the pandemic.”

Stuart Leven (RCL) and Richard Sofer (TUI) are stepping down from the ABTA board.

Alistair Rowland added: “I would like to thank Stuart and Richard for their invaluable contributions to our board discussions over the recent years, as we have worked to steer ABTA members, and ABTA itself, through the biggest crisis the industry has faced.”

Ruth Marshall, managing director, RCL Cruises Ltd said: “I am delighted to join the ABTA board at such a critical time for the industry to offer my advice and leadership as we navigate the reopening of travel ahead of us. With 14 years’ experience in cruise and 20 years in travel, I look forward to sharing my broad experience and knowledge with the board.”

Garry Wilson, CEO, easyJet holidays, said: “I’m really pleased to be joining the ABTA board, an organisation which carries out consistently brilliant work representing our industry and protecting our customers, which has been particularly recognised and appreciated over the past year.

“easyJet holidays has been an ABTA member since we launched our brand-new business, and despite the challenging circumstances the whole industry has faced, we’ve grown to be one of its biggest members. So I’m really looking forward to taking on the position and working even more closely with industry colleagues. It’s a really important time as we sharpen our focus on the future of travel, building confidence and starting to take people away on their well-earned holidays once again.”

Andrew Flintham, managing director for TUI Northern Region said: “I’m delighted to be re-joining the ABTA board of directors to continue the great work the team have delivered in recent months.

“ABTA has always played an important role within our industry and is highly valued by our customers. As we continue to navigate through the Covid-19 crisis for our industry, and start on our road to recovery, I’m looking forward to playing a vital role alongside Mark and other industry leaders.”


Ask the expert

Have a burning question you can’t find the answer to? Be it travel trends, a regulatory riddle or destination dilemmas, send us your query for an expert response

I am very aware of the damage that can be done so quickly on social media to my company’s reputation by disgruntled customers. Bearing in mind that I am a small tour operator with a limited number of staff, are there any tools we can use to keep an eye on what is being said about us, how best to deal with online criticism and, also, is there any help ABTA can give us? Anon

Normally customer complaints centre on unsatisfactory service or problems encountered on holiday, But the pandemic created an extremely difficult and largely uncharted range of problems for ABTA Members. Having to deal with customer repatriation, cancellations and refunds and promoting holiday bookings, while working against a background of lockdowns and changes to travel advice, has been incredibly challenging.

Lockdown has also left customers with much more time on their hands, and many have turned to social media to connect with other unhappy customers or complain, so it would be a mistake to not respond to your customers and develop a relationship with them. Having a social media response strategy is therefore a good step forward, so here are my suggestions.

There are many social media listening tools which are freely available or cost a relatively small sum. They will give you an insight into what people think of you and how your brand is viewed. If you are getting a lot of negative attention, it would be worthwhile investing in a social media monitoring platform or brand listening tool so you can analyse some of the key things being said about your business. This will help you make decisions on how you should respond to individuals and whether you should publish more detailed information elsewhere on your website, for example, as you can’t always explain things fully on social, this will also give you a steer on your more generic content you should be publishing.

We used Brand Mentions for a few months, before we invested in Hootsuite which helps us to better monitor all of our social channels and allows other departments to respond directly. For example, our customer support team can jump on and answer questions from customers. This has really helped us to work together better across the ABTA departments while we’ve been working from home.

Listening to customers on social media can also help you take an improved, customer first approach within your organisation. For example, if you see the words ‘delayed refund’ you can work on improving your processes, so they become more efficient in repaying customers. Or if you see negative keywords such as ‘never booking again’ you could offer some incentives to your customers and schedule social media posts advertising the promotions. Customers may also want reassurance about the support you can offer them. ABTA has a marketing toolkit with suggested social media content you can use to promote your company as an ABTA member and how customers can book with confidence. Find the resources here: abta.com/marketingtoolkit

It is a good idea to respond to negative customer feedback on social media in an apologetic way, so it shows you are human and understand your customer’s frustration. After all, they may be genuinely going through financial difficulty. One suggestion is to consider how you would like to be politely spoken to and use that language in your response. It’s also important to make your language consistent across all your customer communication channels, so they do not have another angle to complain about. Get organised and plan an FAQ word document so you can effectively and efficiently respond to customers. That way you’re not having to deal with each and every complaint in a new or different way.

Lastly, if I see that one of our members is getting a particularly hard time online, which they don’t seem to be responding to, I will often let them know in case they are not aware of what is being said about them.

Lizzie Andrews, Senior Digital Marketing Executive


Meet the team

Each issue we speak to a different ABTA employee about their work. This time: Hugh Felton, senior sustainable tourism executive

I joined ABTA in 2011, since then I have been busy supporting members’ sustainability approaches.

I have been working in the travel industry since 2000 after completing an MSc in tourism, conservation and sustainable development. You could say my roles have been varied, but every day I use my studies, my overseas roles and the commercial experience I gained selling holidays to support our members on their sustainability ambitions alongside the commercial realities.

My travel career started when I set up a gap year company for the American Institute for Foreign Study and I also volunteered for Raleigh International as a programme manager, leading young people on treks through Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I then lived and worked in Madagascar where I was the country coordinator for Frontier, a conservation expedition organisation.

Before joining ABTA, I gained valuable experience working in TUI Group’s education division. Most of the tours we organised went to Europe, but I remember selling one school trip that went to the Galápagos Islands, which, for those students, must have been a trip of a lifetime.

I am part of the sustainable tourism team at ABTA and work closely with Clare Jenkinson, head of sustainability. My role as senior sustainability executive is primarily to support our members with their sustainability ambitions. This means answering questions from members on issues such as how to manage carbon emissions, animal welfare queries and human rights. I draft guidance and develop other resources, as well as representing ABTA at conferences and events. I helped review the ABTA animal welfare guidelines in 2019 and, more recently, worked with members to develop amazing case studies for the ABTA Tourism for Good report, published in 2020.

I help to organise the sustainable tourism committee and the animal welfare working group. I also coordinate our internal sustainability work at ABTA in order to ‘walk the walk’, as they say, and to demonstrate to our staff that ABTA is a leading employer in sustainability. For example, we have an active local volunteering scheme for staff and we host fun and engaging charity activities to support causes that link to travel industry, the local community or destination communities.

Over the years, I have gained perspective and have a first-hand account of how sustainability has risen from a topic that was often seen as something abstract, or on the periphery, to a key pillar of corporate strategies. I enjoy the challenges the role brings and keeping abreast of the latest scientific findings which determine policy and trends further down the line. There are some big issues to contend with – for example, understanding the impacts of climate change and equipping ABTA and our members on how best to deal with these changes. Although I have been working in the industry for the best part of 20 years, its protean and dynamic nature never ceases to impress me.

My other role is in crisis management, where I am part of a team that supports members and their customers through these trickier times. Despite all the flooding and earthquakes, nothing has been quite like the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. This role gives me a different perspective and allows me to work with a brilliant team and helps me feel close to members during difficult and challenging times.

The Covid-19 crisis has presented challenges for everyone and I continue to work remotely to support members to equip them with the tools to take on the brave new world when travel takes off again. It is incredibly difficult time for everybody in the industry and members are understandably concerned about what the future will look like for their businesses. Despite the uncertainty, many of the members I speak to tell me how sustainability is essential for the survival of their businesses.

ABTA’s virtual conferences, training and webinars

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ABTA has postponed its normal events schedule and is running a series of free webinars, new practical training events and one-day conferences virtually. These virtual events are designed to help travel businesses navigate the challenges of the coronavirus crisis and be prepared for the restart of travel.

Visit abta.com/abtaevents to find out more and register.


New training days

ABTA has launched a series of new virtual training days offering practical guidance in key areas for travel businesses of all sizes. ABTA members and partners benefit from discounted rates.

Travel VAT Training

May 5
ABTA’s new training day offers practical guidance and interactive sessions on VAT in travel, with a focus on travel VAT post-Brexit. Travel tax specialists will guide you through changes to TOMS, the EU VAT scheme, VAT registration requirements and the launch of the One-Stop-Shop EU VAT return. Take part in practical exercises to put your learning into practice, get your questions answered and discuss key issues with VAT experts Elman Wall Bennett and MacIntyre Hudson. Find out more

Social Media Training for Travel

May 12
Now is the time to shift your social media strategy from inspiration and dreaming, to content that generates leads and converts bookings. ABTA’s new introductory-level training day, led by travel social media expert Bruce Martin, will equip you with the skills you need to create effective content and stand out against your competitors. Take part in interactive exercises and get practical guidance on advertising, selling, content creation and measuring performance on a variety of social channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Find out more

Data and Cyber Protection Training for Travel

June 8
This online training day provides an essential guide to data protection and cyber security in travel, including an update on the key regulations – GDPR, DPA and PECR. Learn how to legally process data and transfer data to the EU and the rest of the world. Get the latest cyber security guidance for remote working and learn how to respond to a data breach. Find out more


Virtual conferences with practical workshops

ABTA’s one-day conferences are brought to you virtually, streamed live via a custom event platform. Combining keynote conference sessions and interactive workshops with online networking, hear from a line-up of expert speakers who will provide the latest insights, guidance and advice in key areas for travel businesses. Early bird discounts and business rates are available.

The Travel Law Seminar

May 19
The Travel Law Seminar is the industry’s major legal update, attended by over 150 business leaders and legal professionals from travel companies of all sizes. This year, legal experts, regulators and industry representatives will share vital guidance on how to remain legally compliant in an ever-changing world. Learn how to manage traveller, contract and business risk as the industry starts to recover. Find out more

Health, Safety and Security in Travel

June 16
After a year of unprecedented change, equip your operational teams with the knowledge and skills they need in preparation for travel restarting. Get practical guidance from leading health and safety experts and industry representatives on how to manage the balance between business as usual and Covid-safe protocols. Take part in training workshops to help you manage your travel business’ health, safety and security risks. Find out more

Conferences on demand: Access ABTA’s previous virtual conferences in areas including customer service, travel finance and marketing and PR on demand here.


Free webinars

ABTA’s webinars are delivered in collaboration with trusted ABTA partners and offer business support, advice and guidance to help travel businesses through the Coronavirus crisis. Free for ABTA members and partners, upcoming webinars include:

Reinventing the Travel Customer Journey

April 14
Ahead of travel unlocking, and with travellers starting to plan and book holidays, join this ABTA webinar to learn how you can use technology to improve the customer journey and boost confidence, from booking through to post-trip. Discover how to make the most out of your data and insights, improve conversion rates and streamline the reservation process. Find out more

Careers in Travel

April 22
This webinar is designed for students who are studying travel and tourism, tourism apprentices and those new to travel or in their early travel careers. It will provide insights and the latest updates on challenges, issues and opportunities facing the travel industry. Topics include a public affairs update, recovery insights and changes to travel recruitment and careers within the industry. Find out more

Webinars on demand: Access recordings of ABTA’s previous webinars here.



Britannia returns to the waves

The cruise industry is finally gearing up to restart with a number of lines announcing a mini-season of ex-UK itineraries. Sam Ballard looks at the options, including vaccination policies

It’s been a long, long year for those of us who love life on the ocean wave. A blanket ban on cruise holidays – bolstered by FCO advice – left us in a position that few would have thought possible: cruises were illegal. However, we are hopefully (hopefully) on the verge of sailing out of this mess. Last month, a raft of cruise lines announced their plans to embark on a short mini-season from the UK. These cruises, precipitated by the UK’s successful vaccination programme, mean that you are likely being inundated with the latest news and offers as cruise lines pile in to save their summers. We’ve rounded up all of the launch dates, vaccination policies and itinerary information below.

Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises has confirmed a series of staycations on board Celebrity Silhouette this summer. The ship has recently undergone an extensive renovation and now boasts new staterooms, public areas and a Retreat for suite guests.

The programme of six to eight-night cruises will begin on July 3, with calls at destinations including Portland, Liverpool and Glasgow. All cruises will also benefit from Celebrity’s new Always Included policy – with tips, drinks and wi-fi included within the cruise fare. Prices start from £1,099 per person.

Vaccination policy: All guests aged 18 and over must be vaccinated against Covid-19, and those under the age of 18 must have a negative PCR test result
Restart date: July 3

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”.

Four of the voyages will make various port calls, including Liverpool, Greenock, Invergordon, Belfast and Newcastle, as well as a maiden call for Cunard’s fleet at the Welsh port of Holyhead.

Four-night scenic British Isles Voyages are priced from £599 per person for a Balcony Stateroom, while a 10-night British Isles Voyage will start at £1,299 per person for a Balcony Stateroom. Seven-night Sun Voyages are priced from £899 per person for a Balcony Stateroom.

Vaccination policy: All guests must be vaccinated
Restart date: July 19

Disney Cruise Line
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. The cruises will operate from London Tilbury, Newcastle, Liverpool and Southampton and are expected to go on sale this month with more details released soon.

Vaccination policy: No vaccination required
Restart date: This summer (TBC)

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has unveiled a Welcome Back programme of British Isles cruises that include both scenic voyages and those calling at ports. The programme is made up of 11 cruises, including regional departures from Dover and Liverpool.

Vaccination policy: Not mandatory, but waiting on Global Travel Taskforce to report back
Restart date: July 5

MSC Cruises
MSC Cruises has announced a new programme of British Isles cruises that will be available to both families and non-vaccinated guests on board its new flagship, MSC Virtuosa. The cruises, which begin on May 20, will depart from MSC’s new terminal in Southampton and are available to British guests only. A series of short sailings will be followed by a seven-night British Isles cruise.

Vaccination policy: No vaccination necessary, but guests will need to have had a negative test 72 hours before boarding
Restart date: May 20

P&O Cruises
P&O Cruises will offer a series of short break and week-long UK cruises this summer. The sailings, which are on sale now, will be on board Britannia and new ship Iona, including the latter’s maiden call at her namesake island.

Britannia will offer three and four-night breaks and one six-night holiday running from June 27 to September 19. Iona will offer seven-night itineraries running from August 7 to September 18. Prices start from £449 per person for a three night break on BritanniaIona’s seven-night maiden voyage starts from £1,199 per person.

Vaccination policy: All guests must be vaccinated
Restart date: June 27

Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises is to offer ‘Seacations’ from Southampton this summer. The cruises, which will be on board MedallionClass ships, Regal Princess and Sky Princess, will sail from July through to late September.

Regal Princess will offer 14 UK voyages running from July 31 to September 23. Sky Princess will offer eight UK cruises, running from August 30 to September 28.

All guests will have the opportunity to make their cruise all-inclusive by selecting the Princess Plus fare, which includes the line’s premium drinks package, unlimited MedallionNet wi-fi and gratuities for £30 per person per day.

All-inclusive fares for a balcony stateroom start from £539pp for a three-night scenic voyage; £599pp for a four-night cruise with up to one port; and £999pp for a seven-night cruise with up to three ports-of-call. Guests can book with a £50 deposit if booked before May 3.

Riviera Travel
Riviera Travel has announced to the trade that places are available for guests to join its British Isles cruises on new ship Seaventure in July. The cruises mark the first time that Riviera has offered Britain and Ireland-based voyages. The seven-night sailings run between Edinburgh and Glasgow and call at Balmoral Castle, Loch Ness, the Orkney Islands, the Outer Hebrides and Belfast.

Vaccination policy: Guests must either be vaccinated or produce a negative test result
Restart date: July 5

Vaccination policy: All guests must be vaccinated
Restart date: July 31

Royal Caribbean International
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.

The cruise line will be running four-night Ocean Getaway cruises in early July, followed by five and eight-night British Isles cruises from July 15.

Vaccination policy: All guests aged 18 and over must be vaccinated against Covid-19, and those under the age of 18 must have a negative PCR test result
Restart date: July 7

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 – including a 14-night departure on July 11 – and a voyage to the Norwegian fjords.

Vaccination policy: All guests must be vaccinated
Restart date: June 27

Viking Cruises
Viking has announced that it will restart limited operations in May, with three sailings along the coast of England. The new eight-day itinerary, called England’s Scenic Shores, will sail round-trip from Portsmouth and be exclusively for UK residents.

The sailings, on May 22, 29 and June 5 will be on Viking’s newest ocean ship, Viking Venus, which will be delivered this month. Viking added two further dates after the first three sold out.

Vaccination policy: All guests must be vaccinated
Restart date: May 22

Virgin Voyages
Virgin Voyages will embark on a short mini-season of cruises from Portsmouth this August. The Summer Soiree Series will consist of three- and four-night sailings from August 6, giving UK passengers the chance to be among the first to get on board the new vessel.

Vaccination policy: All guests must be vaccinated
Restart date: August 6


Back to business?

With Covid-19 leading to offices closing and meetings and conferences moving online, Sam Ballard asks what the future holds for the business travel industry

Covid-19 has affected every facet of society – but it hasn’t affected every facet equally. From stopping us seeing our families in person, to closing down the pubs, life over the past 12 months has been like something out of a disaster movie – a really long, repetitive disaster movie. If travel is one of the economy’s worst affected sectors – with little to no government support – then business travel is at the sharp end of that downturn, with many companies not even able to benefit from the grants or business rate relief offered to traditional leisure travel agencies. Add to this the proliferation of tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, as well as the closure of offices around the world, and you are looking at a series of fundamental societal changes that strike at the heart of the business travel industry. While you can’t recreate a holiday as a virtual experience, the same can’t be said of all meetings. What does all of this mean for the future of the business travel industry?

“We do believe that business travel will resume before the end of this year, but it won’t be until 2022 that we see significant numbers,” explains Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA). “Much depends on the Global Travel Taskforce’s report. For business travel to resume in any capacity, corporates need to have confidence that borders aren’t going to close at a moment’s notice and that testing will be preferred to quarantine.”

Wratten’s BTA submitted a list of proposals to the Global Travel Taskforce that it says would help the business travel sector’s recovery. These include the removal of quarantine requirements for business travellers, the implementation of global standards for testing and health certification and the creation of business travel bilateral corridors. They have also requested that there is a 72-hour window before a country is added to any red list under a traffic light system. These changes will undoubtedly aid the sector’s recovery. However, when it comes to building back better, what do the Travel Management Companies (TMCs) of the future look like?

For Leigh Cowlishaw, global supplier partnership director at The Advantage Travel Partnership, TMCs are seen as a trusted partner during one of the most unstable periods in business travel history. They have an all important duty of care to clients wanting to get back in the air – especially those that are suffering from “employee fatigue” after a year of working from their spare rooms.

She says: “Back in August 2020, market and consumer data company Statista, predicted that as a result of Covid-19 pandemic the global business travel market would see a loss 810.7 billion US dollars, with second and third waves of the virus I suspect this could now be higher, unfortunately.

“Whether a post-Covid world, or we coexist alongside Covid, TMCs are working on delivery of competitive fares and savings, value and assurances aligned to duty of care, coupled with flexible terms, mirroring corporate values. TMCs also have opportunities to reinforce their overall service around travel restrictions, which are likely to remain complex.”

While there is little doubt about the effects of the pandemic on business travel, the question remains about what TMCs can do to bring their businesses back to pre-pandemic levels. Cowlishaw’s reference to “employee fatigue” is a key factor here, with many people longing for the human-to-human contact of actual meetings or the chance encounters at a late-night conference bar that can lead to your next big client.

“Business travel is a broad church and I think the recovery rates will differ enormously for different industrial sectors and use cases,” explains Martin Alcock, owner and director of the Travel Trade Consultancy. “For example, trips related to business-critical functions have generally continued. New business and client meetings are likely to recover much more quickly than travel for internal meetings. Conferences and exhibitions are likely to take much longer given the planning lead times involved.

“Taken together, though, I think you could make a case for an overall structural reduction in business travel of between a fifth and a third as a result of economic contraction and adoption of digital alternatives.”

And this is the crux of the point. The death of business travel has been exaggerated but, perhaps to a greater degree than any other part of travel, it will be forever altered. Why ask your whole sales team to travel 200 miles for a weekly sales meeting if It can be done on Zoom and they don’t have to spend hours on the road? Is your BDM of more use to you in the office rather than on a plane?

While the overall business travel pie may get smaller, there is no doubt that those trips that businesses do elect to take will be seen as far more important. If a trip is seen as a worthwhile investment then firms will want partners who they know and trust with their employees’ welfare. These decisions are unlikely to be taken based on factors like price alone. Personal service, tailored to the needs of each corporate, will be seen as far more important. And that might just be one of the longest lasting legacies of the pandemic.