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Editor’s letter; more on the new-look digital edition; plus, how to get in touch
£4.6bn relief package for businesses as England and Scotland enter strict lockdowns
Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was a “singular personality and an unstoppable force”
Plus, we chat to Brian Young, the MD of G Adventures, to hear about their tours in Corfu, Ibiza and more
Intrepid expands UK tours; plus, Sue Glen, a personal travel agent, explores the heart of Wales
Johan Lundgren of easyJet and Accor’s Marc Dardenne on their sectors’ plans
Julia Lo Bue-Said of Advantage and Intrepid’s Zina Bencheikh on the challenges of Covid and climate change
Rachel Coffey from TTC on the reasons to be optimistic
Tony Roberts from Princess Cruises and Hotelplan’s Joe Ponte navigate the changes ahead
See abta.com/travelwithconfidence for more information and advice.
Government must provide support; Travel with Confidence campaign continues
Diving in to claims documentation and Danny Waine, head of membership, talks about his role
ABTA launches new one-day virtual conferences
Anthony Pearce suggests that, with everything taken care of and no hidden costs, all-inclusive is well placed to take advantage of pent-up demand once travel opens up once again
When we last wrote to you, back at the start of November, a national lockdown loomed with a new ban on travel set to be introduced. Fast forward two months and things look rather similar, albeit with a new strain of Covid-19 spreading through the South East of England and even more stringent measures coming into force.
As ABTA has said, it’s right that the government is taking steps to control the spread of the virus, but this needs to come with the right measures to support travel businesses with little or no means of operating. The fact that the chancellor has announced a £4.6bn relief package for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors is incredibly welcome – but we await full details.
Things aren’t easy right now, but with vaccines having been approved (and administered to some), there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for both the country and travel industry. The road to recovery won’t be easy, or evenly spread – each sector faces its own challenges, but a world where we can travel freely again is closer now than it has been since the first lockdowns of March 2020. For this issue, we asked leading figures from across the industry to share their predictions – from travel agents to aviation, cruise to ski – for our Future of Travel series. We also consider the impact the pandemic has had on all-inclusive holidays, while there’s also all the latest news from ABTA and the industry.
Better times are around the corner – we hope you enjoy reading.
The January issue is the second in a new interactive digital format. Since (the first) lockdown began and offices shut, we dropped our print edition, leaving us with a digital version that didn’t quite bring our editorial to life. So, we went back to the drawing board. This new technology allows us to create something that combines the best of print with the best of online – that is, a sleek and minimalist design with interactivity and functionality. We are now able to utilise copy, images, video, audio and animations within the frame of individual issues, allowing us to present information in an easy-to-read, enjoyable and quite unique way. Take a look around – we’d love to hear your thoughts. You can get in touch with us at email@example.com.
Anthony Pearce, director
020 3865 9360
DJMWeb, The Studio
Sales and partnerships
Sam Ballard, director
Bryan Johnson, senior sales manager
0203 865 9338
075 3270 9734
Waterfront Publishing is an independent publisher based in central London. It has two in-house magazines, Cruise Adviser and Solus, both aimed at the travel trade. It has also produced magazines on behalf of ABTA; Travelzoo; and Emerald Waterways. Its design agency The Studio by Waterfront offers copywriting, proofreading and design for print, digital, advertising and branding.
Get in touch
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
Restart dates have been pushed back again to meet the new CDC rules
Cruise lines are continuing to extend suspensions in order to meet the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order issued by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Princess Cruises said that, in addition to the uncertainty around travel restrictions, the company is extending its pause of guest cruise holidays on ships sailing until May 14. This includes sailings in the Caribbean and the California Coast, along with early season Alaska and Europe cruises.
“We appreciate the patience from our loyal guests and travel agents as we work to meet the health and safety requirements for our return to service,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “We continue to prepare our ships for our return to service and we are eager to see our guests back on board to create summertime memories.”
Guests currently booked on these cancelled cruises will have the option to receive a refundable future cruise credit (FCC) equivalent to 100 per cent of the cruise fare paid, plus an additional non-refundable bonus FCC equal to 25 per cent of the cruise fare paid.
Sister company Holland America Line said that it is extending its pause of cruise operations for all departures until April 30. This includes Alaska, Mexican Riviera, Pacific Coast, Caribbean, Mediterranean and Canada/New England departures.
The line also will cancel all Alaska cruises until mid-May, Alaska departures on three ships up to early June, any Land+Sea Journeys connected with cancelled Alaska sailings, Mediterranean cruises until early June and Zaandam’s Canada/New England itineraries until August.
It comes as a survey found that, despite suspensions, about two-thirds of regular cruise passengers are willing to take a cruise in the next year while 58 per cent of non-cruisers would be willing to try it in the coming years.
Clia’s 2021 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report outlined that there is a positive story going into 2021 with 27 Clia member cruise ships due to launch next year – taking Clia’s global fleet to 270 vessels.
Kelly Craighead, Clia president and chief executive, said: “For the cruise community, there is no denying that 2020 was not the year we anticipated. Still, the industry wasted no time adjusting course to address the challenges before us.
“Clia’s 2021 report highlights the extraordinary steps the cruise community took to develop and implement enhanced public health protocols to keep putting people first, while continuing to focus on innovation and responsible tourism practices that make cruising the best way to experience the world.”
The report also found that passengers spent $385 in port cities before boarding a cruise and $100 in each port during a cruise.
The full 2021 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report can be viewed here.
We chat to Brian Young, managing director of G Adventures, to hear about the operator’s products in Corfu, Ibiza and more
Late last year, G Adventures launched seven new tours to some of Europe’s most popular destinations, with the company encouraging agents to consider what’s on offer beyond the mass market. The new tours cover Ibiza, Corfu, the Azores and Crete – albeit to lesser-known areas within those destinations and a focus on hiking. The tours have been created with UK and European travellers in mind, with the first tour due to depart in March. The collection was informed by research undertaken by G Adventures, which said that travellers from the UK and Europe were the most likely to travel internationally in the next six months. We spoke to managing director Brian Young to find out more.
ABTA Magazine: Can you tell us about the trends behind these tours?
Brian Young: “We surveyed our customers and asked them about their propensity to start travelling again, and we found two things: first, if the conditions are right, such as the travel corridors being open, then customers will travel – so there is demand. Second, we found that our customers want to travel much closer to home. Usually, at this time of year, when we ask for their top 10 destinations, Europe would be bottom of that pile or not in it at all, but this time it came out really high, because the reality is that it’s going to be the travel corridors that allow things to get going again. Another trend that we’ve seen is people wanting to do more hiking and more active type adventures. If you think about lockdown, you could only get out for a short space of time, so you suddenly had lots of people hiking and walking that would never have done it before, and then there’s Joe Wicks, who has galvanised the country to get out and get fit – these two things have collided to create this desire for hiking holidays. We looked at this and thought we should do this in mainstream destinations that are the bread and butter for travel agents. For customers, they can visit a destination that they love; they might be going back there to enjoy it in a different way.”
Most of these holidays are quite short. Do you have the city-break market in mind?
“Definitely. In Corfu, there is a trek that takes that you from the north of the island to the south and takes about two weeks. But the issue is you’re constantly backpacking and overnighting in different places – the beauty of this tour is you’re based out of Corfu Town, which is central and a great capital, and you hike in the day and then go back to the hotel at night, so you see the best of the trail but you’re based in one place. Plus, you get the chance to see Greece as it was 30 or 40 years ago. And because the tours are short, you can add a beach holiday on the end of it.”
Are lead in times going to be shorter or longer?
“I think you’ll see both. As soon as corridors open up, there is demand for sure. There will be an element of people getting away at the last minute, because it’s an opportunity to take – people are fed up and just want to get away. Then there will be people booking further away. We have a Book with Confidence policy that gives the customers the ability to change their booking for whatever reason. It will be influenced by the fact that these hiking tours are predominantly in the shoulder period [mostly spring] – you can’t get away from the fact that in the summer it’s way too hot to be hiking.”
What will be doing with the trade?
“Agents will know the destinations intrinsically, so it’s about product training. We’ve built a load of assets, so that agents can put them up on social media and in newsletters. In our Facebook group, Agents of Change, the amount of buzz the tours have created [is great]. Agents have been like, ‘This is amazing, we can definitely sell this’ and asking for more assets. A lot of them have said, ‘This is right up my alley, I’d love to do this’, so we want to get agents out to see this product. For example, everyone thinks about Ibiza being a party destination, but it’s grown up a lot of the last 10 years, and you get a very diverse mix travelling there; there’s an amazing side of this island that we want people to see.”
Walking and hiking form a key part of the new trips after an increase in demand for active holidays
Intrepid Travel has expanded its range of trips in the UK and Ireland, which it says are designed to support local communities and uncover the hidden spots away from the usual tourist trail.
Walking and hiking form a key part of the trips after Intrepid saw an increase in appetite for active holidays over recent months.
New experiences include trekking through Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains, hiking through forests and paddocks with reindeer in the Cairngorms and exploring Hadrian’s Wall with a local guide.
Families are also catered for with an active walking holiday through the Scottish Highlands. Zina Bencheikh, managing director EMEA at Intrepid Travel, said: “The response to our initial range of UK holidays back in June was very positive – clients told us they loved seeing their own country from a new perspective. I’m excited to be able to bring our UK customers even more ways to enjoy the Intrepid experience they love, but closer to home.
“These trips are all about supporting local communities, getting active and sampling the different food and drinks of the region.”
Intrepid said that as continues to reimagine its business for the post Covid-19 future, closer to home trips have been a global priority. In the UK, these trips also support the company’s wider mission of reducing global emissions and setting up Intrepid for a low-carbon future.
Globally, the operator will have more than 100 domestic holidays available in 2021 for its Australian, North American and UK customer base. As with all Intrepid trips, the range will be 100 per cent carbon offset and designed to have a low carbon footprint.
Each tour will operate under Intrepid’s new Safe Travels health protocols, developed in partnership with the WTTC. All travellers will complete a health screening at the start of the trip and be required to wear masks in certain settings, in line with local laws and regulations.
Groups are accompanied by a local leader who has received specific Covid-19 training, which covers hygiene, sanitation, physical distancing and PPE, as well as supplier monitoring. Intrepid recently introduced a new Flexible Booking policy, which permits changes to travel plans 21 days before a scheduled departure, allowing for new travel dates or an entirely different trip with no change fees.
Highlights include Scotland’s Orkney Islands (five days, from £1,015pp; Ring of Kerry & Dingle Peninsula (five days from £1,380pp); Kilkenny and Surrounds (five days, from £1,190); Walking in the Cairngorms (five days, from £830pp); Scotland Family Holiday (minimum age 10, six days, from £1,320).
Sue Glen, a personal travel agent at Co-operative Travel, shares her tips for a trio of small market towns: Builth Wells, Llandrindod Wells and Rhayader
Nestled between the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons to the south and the Cambrian Mountains to the north, lies the Heart of Wales. A trio of small market towns – Builth Wells, Llandrindod Wells and Rhayader – sit just 15 miles apart, yet each offers its own individual charm.
With a wealth of outdoor activities, stunning scenery, cosy eateries and an abundance of places to rest weary heads, it might be a small area on the map, but it has a big heart. There are outdoor activities and sports available in this beautiful area to suit everyone. Enjoy the slower pace of life with a spot of fishing on the River Wye or experience the wilds of the Radnor Hills on a riding holiday with guided breaks for beginners through to trail riding breaks for more experienced riders.
Adrenaline lovers can get their fix on the many mountain bike trails or try a range of Outdoor Activities from kayaking to gorge scrambling.
Rhayader & The Elan Valley
Arriving in Rhayader, the signposts welcome you with ‘Rhayader: Gateway to the Elan Valley Lakes’. An expansive, dramatic landscape featuring a series of dams and reservoirs, first built in the late 1800s, the Elan Valley is a haven for wildlife and offers amazing views, walking or mountain biking trails.
The Visitor Centre situated on the road from Rhayader is a hub for information. Look out for Ranger tours, crafts and kids’ activities and annual dam open days. Right in the heart of the Elan Valley sits the delightful Penbont House tearooms, open daily with a large conservatory, it’s the perfect place to enjoy refreshing break, while soaking up the stunning views. With five en-suite bedrooms, it is also a wonderful base from which to explore the area during the day and experience the breathtaking starry night skies.
The Elan Valley scenery will impress at any time of year, but the colours of the autumn woodland tumbling down into the reservoir reflections is a special treat.
Heading southwest from Rhayader, the Victorian theme continues as you arrive in Llandrindod Wells with its characteristic Victorian spa town architecture. The landscaped lake is ideal for a family day out, with picnic areas, woodland walks, large outdoor play areas and even paddle boats. The Lakeside Café is the perfect haven on days when the weather is more suited to ducks! For golfers, whether beginners or well-practised, the stunning 18-hole course overlooks the town and offers dramatic panoramic views. The clubhouse is an absolute must, offering beautiful views and delicious home-cooked meals. For an evening meal the boutique-style Drovers is just a mile from the town centre and serves authentic Thai dishes in a cosy, welcoming atmosphere with just a hint of quirkiness.
Builth wells is just seven miles from Llandrindod but quite different in character. Less of the grand Victorian features and much more of the rural market town, it exudes warmth and charm. The river Wye meanders through the town, so park your car in The Groe car park and take a stroll, seeking out lunch or an afternoon treat in one of the delightful eateries after.
Along the High Street is the fabulously colourful and welcoming Georgie Porgie’s Coffee Stop and Beautifully Bonkers clothes shop. Family owned and full of character, it offers a lovely menu of locally sourced, home-cooked food.
Enjoy a freshly brewed Black Mountain Roast coffee and pick up some beautiful hand-picked clothes, accessories, gifts and shoes. At the bottom of the High Street you’ll find The Market, a treasure trove of homewares, gifts and a wide range of gourmet foods and deli items that champion Welsh producers. Look out for the Wickedly Welsh Coffee & Biscuit Chocolate bar.
Just next door is the Cwtch Café with indoor and outdoor seating in the covered courtyard. The Cwtch Club Sandwich is a must and, if you can find space afterwards, there is a wonderfully tempting selection of cakes and sweet treats to choose from.
See more about Sue here.
By Johan Lundgren, CEO, easyJet
Last year was the toughest year the aviation and travel industry has ever faced – never before could we have imagined an 11-week grounding, or the travel restrictions imposed across Europe, but I am proud of the way easyJet has responded robustly and decisively to the challenges of the pandemic. We will emerge from this crisis leaner and more efficient so we are positioned to bounce back quickly when demand returns.
And it will return. People value their holiday, seeing their friends, exploring new places, or revisiting their favourite cities. We know there is huge pent-up demand for travel because we see that every time restrictions are lifted.
More than that, in 2021 there is an opportunity to build aviation back better. This means building back even better and stronger for our customers and our people and also building back more sustainably. We know from previous downturns that leisure travel will return first and this will start with short-haul leisure travel.
We launched easyJet holidays just months before the pandemic arrived and we started taking our first holiday customers away in January 2020. We then quickly found ourselves having to launch a major repatriation operation. As a new business with a small and lean team, easyJet holidays was able to adapt well and respond quickly. We were able to refund customers, put future seasons on sale early and support customers to rebook their holidays. We were also able to introduce new tools, such as a chatbot, to help customers with their many questions during this uncertain time. And we overhauled our standard booking terms with the launch of the easyJet holidays Protection Promise to offer customers even more flexibility and reassurance.
We’ve recently marked easyJet holidays’ first birthday in the same month that we celebrated easyJet’s 25th birthday. We have big ambitions for our holidays business, and while we may have had to put a temporary hold on some of our plans, such as expanding to other markets beyond the UK, we look forward to taking even more people away on well-deserved holidays in 2021 and beyond.
In terms of business travel, although it is predicted to take longer to recover, we know that business customers will gravitate towards value and so, with our network connecting Europe’s main business hubs, we are well placed to get a larger slice of the pie when business customers return to the skies.
We also know that consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact when they fly and so building back more sustainably is ever more important to our customers. We are the first and only major airline to operate fully carbon neutral flying on all flights through offsetting and a leading catalyst for technological change so we can start to move towards zero emissions technology.
It not only makes business sense with those customers aware of our offsetting showing increased levels of satisfaction, but it is the right thing to do. So, despite the pandemic, we remain absolutely committed to operating sustainably.
I am optimistic about 2021. The vaccine is the key and it will unlock our ability to travel. People had taken this for granted before the pandemic, but it will be valued and treasured once again.
Our core strengths remain unaffected by the crisis and in fact will be even more important in the months to come – passengers will travel with companies they trust where they get reliable service and great value to the places they want to go to.
The reasons that people travel have not changed – they want to see loved ones, take a holiday, explore somewhere new, enjoy some sunshine and we are ready and waiting to take them there in 2021.
By Marc Dardenne, COO, Accor Luxury Brands in Europe
The travel and hospitality industries have felt the impact of the coronavirus enormously. However, we have seen hoteliers across the spectrum, from budget to luxury, pivot effectively to adapt to this new way of being. So, what are some of the key themes that have been encouraging guests back to hotels during the pandemic and what is the outlook for the hospitality industry and luxury hotels? We believe more and more guests will return to luxury hotels in 2021.
One of the major themes that has arisen from this time of crisis is that nothing is more important than personal health and safety. We anticipate that health and safety across the board will continue to be a key driver in encouraging guests back to hotels.
In line with this theme, 75 per cent of consumers say they would feel comfortable staying in a hotel where they can rely on high standards of cleanliness and professional staff. Therefore, hoteliers must go above and beyond government guidelines for their health and safety offerings.
And many hotels have done just that, taking a further step in advancing their health and safety offering for guests. Accor responded quickly in the UK and across the globe, taking actions to support our partners, teams and communities. Accor developed some of the most stringent cleaning standards and operational protocols in the world of hospitality. The ALLSAFE global cleanliness and prevention standards were developed with and vetted by Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspections and certification.
Guests of Accor’s 5,000 hotels worldwide can also now access AXA’s telemedicine consultations and on the ground medical support when they travel. Other hotels have gone further to ensure travel confidence. For example, Sofitel London Heathrow offers a ‘Test & Rest’ package, meaning guests can take a self-administered COVID test during their stay included in the price.
Growth in Luxury and Lifestyle in 2021
During the latest coronavirus lockdown, the luxury segment suffered in line with the broader industry, however we think that the sector has a lot to look forward to in 2021. In the long term we expect to see it profit from travellers seeking excellent accommodation and experiences and for there to be a rise in guests overall.
A key feeder for the expected rise in travel numbers will be multiple short trips complimenting luxury long-haul. 2020 inspired travellers to embrace local and domestic travel and relish inter-regional experiences, crossing local borders. We have seen, and expect to see more, increased spend on high-end short breaks. While we expect long-haul to remain and regain its appeal, we expect 2021 will see a rise of multi-trip and multi-destination travel – shorter trips, but more of them.
Alongside this increased interest in high-end stays, we see the broader trend towards lifestyle-orientated hotels growing in 2021. While many cultural events such as concerts and nightlife events are not going to be able to take place, potentially even into 2022, hotels are increasingly becoming the lifestyle hub of travel, providing experiences, excellent culinary concepts and a buzz that reflects our guests’ personalities.
Workspitality has been a rising hotel and lifestyle trend in 2020 and one that will continue in 2021 and likely beyond. Millions of people are adapting to new ways of working. ‘Working from Home’ has long been considered a goal for businesses, but these last few months show that ‘Working From Anywhere’, including home and hotel working, is a more practical and mindful approach to flexible working. Workspitality or ‘Hotel Office’ offers a flexible way to help both employees and businesses start to create a ‘new normal’ and move forward positively.
The decisive factor in encouraging travel to return remains the provision of exceptional quality and service. Last year reminded us of the need for human interaction, for connections and experiences – true hospitality is all of these things. It is our people, our spaces and our experiences that define our industry and it is this that guests will return for.
By Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO, Advantage Travel Partnership
It seems that the catchphrase of 2020 was ‘two steps forward, one step back’. Following the most challenging year our industry has ever seen, we found ourselves snookered by the tier four announcements and more than 40 countries banning travellers from the UK, due to a new strain of Covid-19. However, if 2020 has taught us anything – aside from being unpredictable – it’s that our industry is resilient. We have collectively stepped up to the challenge and managed exceptionally well given the enormity of the situation with not only the emotional fallout of the pandemic, but the stress and strain of processing refunds, repatriating passengers, the yo-yo effect of the air corridor list, a testing regime that is not yet fit for purpose, as well as total lack of sector-specific support from our government.
For months we have called out to government alongside our coalition partners and stressed the importance of a robust pre-departure testing scheme in place to reduce quarantine, but we know that while test and release is a step forward, it’s not the solution. The news of the vaccine created a spike in sales across the industry, which demonstrates there is still the appetite to travel and we are confident that with the right testing regime things would look a lot brighter for travel agents and their customers, giving people the reassurance that they can travel safely in the knowledge that testing has been undertaken en masse.
While there have been some issues with the initial launch of the test and release scheme, as testing becomes more prevalent within the industry and with many destinations adding this to their entry requirements, it remains critical that agents and tour operators can recommend and have access to accredited testing providers. We are working closely with several companies so that our members can offer this as part of their service and provide peace of mind for their clients.
The travel landscape has changed considerably since the outbreak of the pandemic, and travellers want to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone that understands their needs and concerns. This is travel agents’ superpower which sets them apart from everyone else – their expertise and knowledge will be valued more than ever – the human agent. The travel industry will have to adapt its approach to dealing with clients and be more sensitive to the concerns they may have.
Many businesses have had to think creatively and pivot to meet the changing demands from customers and updates in government guidance. Flexibility will continue to be a deciding factor for many customers and travel businesses will need to cater to people’s needs, ranging from cancellation policies to developing new product. Last year many tour operators branched out and created new domestic product, and I think this trend of staying closer to home will continue in 2021, as customers regain their confidence to travel further afield.
Initially we thought that millennials would be first to start travelling again, but with many travel brands floating the idea of ‘immunity passports’, there is a chance that silver travellers will be eager to travel, particularly if they are one of the first groups of people to be vaccinated. We expect people may opt for familiarity and destinations they know and love as well as more isolated and ‘outdoor’ options. Equally, after a prolonged period of travel restrictions, many will be ticking those big bucket-list trips off their list – so travel agents can really take advantage of these trends when it comes to selling holidays.
Although we don’t know exactly what the future holds, the strength and determination that the industry has shown throughout 2020 will stand us in good stead. No one could have anticipated what has happened, but we have a vaccine, and we have the foundations of a testing system. At Advantage, we will be continuing to support our members and helping them to generate revenue so that they can begin to recover from the pandemic. We also intend to remain firmly focused on industry collaboration, further government lobbying and fighting the travel agents’ corner wherever possible. Our progress may not be linear, but even if we continue making two steps forward one step back, we will come out the other side stronger than ever.
By Zina Bencheikh, managing director EMEA, Intrepid Travel
As we enter 2021, there’s no doubt that people want to travel again, to visit their loved ones, immerse themselves in new cultures, meet new people and have unforgettable moments. As the travel industry, it’s our job to be there for them every step of the way. But travel has changed forever; and we must adapt to meet travellers’ new found needs.
Safety and flexibility will be key. More than ever, clients will want to know they are being looked after by their travel agent or tour operator, and that all Covid-19 health and safety procedures are in place. With more uncertainty ahead, flexible booking policies will be essential to give clients peace of mind that their hard-earned money is safe. For this reason, I see more consumers returning to their local travel agent seeking their trusted advice.
Of course, the industry has been turned upside down by Covid-19, but sadly, the long-term effects of climate change will prove to be far worse for the travel sector. As the world’s largest travel B Corp and a carbon-neutral travel company, we have focused our efforts on advocating for a responsible rebuild of the travel industry. We published a guide to decarbonising your travel business and created an animal welfare policy tool to help other travel companies operate more responsibly in future.
We also took the significant step of committing to Science Based Targets to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale that science says is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This will see emissions reduced across our operations and supply chains, including moving to lower carbon alternatives on our trips and adopting renewable energy in all our global offices by 2025. We’re proud to be the first global tour operator to achieve this – but we don’t want to be the only one. The whole industry needs to take meaningful action on climate as a critical priority in travel’s post-Covid recovery.
Closer to home travel is a trend we saw take off during the pandemic and we expect that to continue in 2021. We launched our first range of local trips in June 2020 and we have doubled it in size for this year. Clients told us they loved seeing their country from a new perspective and supporting local communities affected by the pandemic. Active travel is also one to watch for 2021. Walking and cycling were a lifeline for many of us last year and people want to continue their hobby on holiday. Many clients are also ready to tackle that challenge they’ve always dreamed of – Everest Base Camp trek and Peru’s Inca Trail have consistently been among our top-selling trips in recent months.
Wilderness may just be the new wellness for 2021. Our bookings show a strong demand for all of types of wilderness experiences. Time outdoors after a year defined by lockdowns and increased screen time is more important than ever. Of course, Antarctica is the ultimate wilderness experience and we’ve seen a fantastic response to our first season of Antarctica Expeditions launching at the end of this year.
Last but not least, private group and tailor-made travel is a stand-out opportunity for agents in 2021. Intrepid has seen a 120 per cent increase in global search traffic for its private groups web pages in the past six months. For example, extended families travelling together to celebrate a special occasion with a visit to the Galápagos Islands or the polar regions, or special interest groups planning their next adventure.
Last year was tough in so many ways. But one positive was that it highlighted the importance of relationships in our industry. I’d like to say a big thank you to our agent partners for all your support. We’re excited to work with you to help travellers explore the world once again.
By Rachel Coffey, director of sales and business development, The Travel Corporation
Borders will open and travel will return in 2021, it’s just a matter of when and how quickly, so there are lots of reasons to be optimistic about the year ahead. The roll-out of the vaccine, reduction in the length of quarantining and progress with rapid testing and digital health passports are combining to help restore confidence, and we are seeing the green shoots of travel plans and bookings being made. Before the end of the year I believe we’ll see something close to the freedoms we knew pre-Covid, and that we so desperately missed in 2020.
After the challenges of 2020, there are three things that are very clear to me:
From the touring perspective, I’m proud of how the industry has come together, for example in establishing collective health and safety protocols, and I think we need to work together even more in 2021 to better communicate the benefits of touring in a post-pandemic world.
Many operators, ourselves included, have introduced a number of innovations this year that will make touring an even more attractive option, from smaller group sizes, private bubble options and, in an industry-first from TTC, a Wellbeing Director who will travel with our groups (over a certain size) to ensure all the wellbeing needs of all our guests are looked after.
Reflecting the current mood for open spaces, we are seeing more interest in epic outdoors or more rural itineraries – for example National Parks in the USA or Insight Vacations’ off-the-beaten-track Country Roads series. And we are continuing to see the growth of our flexible touring model with Costsaver, which is launching in to Africa for the first time in 2021 and which hits that sweet spot for the typical FIT traveller that just wants to be taken care of a bit more in these unusual times.
We’re expecting the traditional ‘peaks’ season to happen a little later in 2021, so for the first quarter we are focusing our efforts on building awareness of the benefits of touring per se, working with our agent partners.
Above all, a guided group holiday is all about making connections, from the local families, artisans and experts you meet along the way to the fellow travellers that so often become lifelong friends. And if there’s one thing we have missed more than travel, it’s human connections. A tour can bring these two things together like no other holiday.
By Tony Roberts, vice president, Princess Cruises UK & Europe
The health and safety of guests, crew and the communities we visit has always been the number one priority for cruise lines. In fact, no other travel sector has anything near the level of screening protocols and stringent health measures that have been standard in the cruise industry for many years.
Nevertheless, the current global health crisis that our world is facing has meant that cruise lines have had to take the already rigorous protocols we have in place and further enhance them, without compromising on guest experience.
Because of this, in 2021, alongside the implementation of new health and safety measures, we will start to see what the future of cruise looks like, as lines take advantage of new technologies to change certain traditional aspects of a cruise holiday – once seen as the ‘norm’ – for the better.
For example, Princess is transforming embarkation day by staggering boarding and completely reinventing the traditional muster drill. By leveraging the Princess OceanMedallion technology, guests can select their preferred time to arrive at the port and, once onboard, can watch the important safety training video on their mobile device or stateroom TV, simply verifying their designated muster station with a quick and contactless check-in at their convenience anytime between boarding and sail away.
Travel agents and guests will already be well aware that when ships resume sailing, additional protocols will be in place across the entire sector. For Princess, the OceanMedallion wearable technology, which was designed to create seamless experiences for our guests, now lends itself well to travelling in a socially distanced world. We recently announced that, upon return to service in 2021, the Princess Cruises global fleet will feature the ‘MedallionClass Experience’, which means that our guests will be able to enjoy what we are calling a ‘Truly Touchless’ cruise holiday. From the aforementioned staggered boarding and transformed safety training, to contactless payments, keyless stateroom entry and the ability to order food and drink to anywhere on the ship, this innovative technology means that our guests can continue to enjoy next-level service while staying safe at sea.
Over the past year, cruise lines have worked tirelessly with global health leaders and medical experts to devise and implement best practices for when sailings resume. However, to be able to fully prepare for a return to service, the UK Foreign Office needs to remove its outdated travel advice on ocean cruising. To this end, Clia is continuing to play a key role in working with the UK government to secure this change and help inform cruise restart.
While news of the UK becoming the first country to kick off a mass vaccination programme is encouraging, the key to the safe resumption of operations is this continued collaboration between cruise lines, medical experts, national authorities and local ports.
We are now looking forward to the government removing its travel guidance and setting a timeline to safely start cruises, so agents and guests alike can feel confident that there is a path back to cruising in 2021.
Many will be relieved that 2020 is behind us. It is now time for us to focus on the future and to the day when cruise lines can get back to what they do best – providing guests with an extraordinary service and unrivalled experiences.
By Joe Ponte, UK CEO, Hotelplan
As a result of Covid-19, the entire travel industry has come to a standstill, as much, or arguably more than, any other industry in the UK. It has been devastating. We have seen previously well-run, profitable businesses go into administration simply because they have not had the backing to get them through. These are businesses full of passionate, talented people doing their best to help realise the travel dreams of their customers — it’s been really tough out there.
At Hotelplan UK, we have four specialist ski brands – Inghams, Ski Total, Esprit, and Flexiski – that are fortunate enough to have the support of Hotelplan’s Swiss owners, Migros. This makes theirs, and the rest of Hotelplan’s, long-term futures secure, but last year was still a challenging one.
The European ski sector was at the epicentre of Covid’s early impact on our industry when resorts in Austria, Italy and France quickly found themselves at the frontline. It is easy to say that some resorts were late to react, but in the face of such an unprecedented crisis, I feel that those early missteps were not entirely surprising, but still obviously regrettable.
Now, after a year like no-other, there is still so much that we don’t know, but there are signs that we should be optimistic. In the short-term ski holidays may involve limited numbers on lifts, a dialled down après scene and varied Covid-19 guidelines from one destination to the next. Nevertheless, skiers will still find their way back to the mountains – and when it’s as safe as possible, we will help them do that. Thankfully skiing is an activity that can be enjoyed outdoors at a distance from others, which is good news for many skiers who are itching to get back on the slopes. Skiing is more than just a holiday for a lot of people, it’s a passion, an obsession even – so we have every reason to feel optimistic about the ski industry bouncing back.
Where possible our industry should focus on the positives. I prefer to concentrate on the opportunities for recovery, ensuring we put our energies into this above anything else. We’re already thinking about our plans for when the vaccine will fulfil its potential and what we will deliver when, from spring onwards, we see the much-anticipated recovery in demand. Then, in the long-term, we will continue to review our proposition in line with what our customers want and what we are able to deliver in a post-Covid and post-Brexit world.
I also hope that this time of reflection and organisational introspection helps heighten the absolute need for all of us to ensure sustainability and responsible travel is at the heart of our business strategy. Not just because it is our moral obligation, but because it is becoming a customer acquisition and commercially imperative.
For businesses in the ski industry, the road to recovery is complex, but the green shoots of revival are clearly visible. At Inghams we have started to see demand slowly return, with web traffic up significantly and improvements in our booking numbers. We have suspended the season until the end of January, but we will do all we can to facilitate safe travel for skiers in the later part of the season, should conditions allow us to do so.
Our ski brands have been doing what they do for a long time. Inghams’ founder took his first group skiing over 85 years ago, and we wouldn’t still be doing what we do now if we didn’t continually move with the times, modify how we do things and change what we offer. Brexit, the impacts of Covid-19 and having the goal of being stronger when we come out of this crisis, than when we went into it, will mean we need to make some changes. Like ours, hopefully this crisis has offered many travel businesses the opportunity to rebuild and refocus, to get ready with a fresh outlook suited to the climate ahead. Travel will be back – and so will we.
ONS figures reveal that it is the sector worst hit by the pandemic
Travel agents and tour operators have been worst hit by the pandemic compared to any other services sector, according to recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, but the industry, unlike other sectors such as hospitality and the arts, has had no tailored support from the UK government.
The ONS figures about coronavirus and the impact on output in the UK economy for October 2020 show that travel agents and operators are 90 per cent down on where they were in February 2020, the worst of any of the services sectors. Travel companies have had very little trading opportunity since the start of the pandemic, with restrictions across the UK and internationally largely preventing travel.
ABTA has been arguing for tailored financial support for the sector throughout the crisis, both with the Westminster government and devolved administrations. The Scottish government has confirmed tailored support will be made available, but elsewhere the industry has been left wanting.
While travel companies have been able to access the furlough scheme, and it has served to save jobs, they are unable to take full advantage as travel staff need to be employed to deal with re-bookings and refunds, which have been a constant feature of the pandemic due to ever-changing travel advice.
ABTA is reiterating its calls to the government in Westminster, as well as the Welsh government, and Northern Ireland Executive, on the need to support the travel industry – not only to help preserve jobs and businesses, but also in recognition of the important role the travel industry will play in the economic recovery across the entire country.
ABTA also wants the Foreign Office to review its approach to travel advice, as the government is currently advising against all but essential travel to the majority of destinations. It is encouraging the government to allow for travel to countries where infection rates are comparable to or lower than the UK and where they have developed public health responses to the pandemic.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “While the recent developments around a vaccine and test to release have provided a boost to consumer confidence, with more enquiries and interest in booking holidays for next summer and into 2022, the start of 2021 will still be very challenging for the industry.
“All of the travel industry is struggling, but for some parts, like ski and long-haul operators, the coming months will be even more difficult. With the ONS now clearly showing we’ve been the hardest hit service sector in the UK, travel businesses need help to get through the difficult months ahead.
“The government also needs to ease its travel advice, allowing people to travel more freely. The Scottish Government led the way by introducing specific funding for the travel industry – the UK Government, as well as those in Wales and Northern Ireland, needs to follow suit.”
The campaign uses ABTA members’ videos on social media
The second stage of ABTA’s turn-of-year campaign has launched and features ABTA members’ videos on social media.
The campaign, entitled Travel with Confidence, features retail travel agents, homeworkers and tour operators talking about the “support, expertise and protection that comes from booking with an ABTA member”.
The videos will be on Facebook and Instagram until the end of February.
There are also six-second videos by ABTA which show the benefits, added value and peace of mind that ABTA members offer their customers – these videos will be on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
The social media videos represent the second stage of the Travel with Confidence campaign, the first being radio adverts on Capital and Heart which launched in December. ABTA has also launched a consumer competition.
Using the hashtag #MakeMoreMemories, consumers are encouraged to comment on ABTA’s social media posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with details of where they are planning to book a holiday to in 2021 to be in with a chance to win a pair of Apple AirPod Pros.
Graeme Buck, director of communications at ABTA, said: “After a tough 2020, many people are really looking forward to taking a break. Those thinking about their holiday plans for the year ahead will be keen to turn to travel professionals they can trust to help them find the best holiday for them.
“We wanted to invite our fantastic members to explain in their own words why their personal service, incredible breadth of knowledge and tireless support means their customers return to them each year to book their holidays.
“We’ll be reminding the public that they can book with confidence when they see the ABTA logo, knowing that they will have access to the support and expertise provided by ABTA Members.” For more information about the campaign, please visit abta.com/travelwithconfidence
Got a burning question? Put it to an expert at ABTA
Q: I am an ABTA retail agent and I recently had to assist customers with claims against failed ABTA and ATOL tour operators where we acted as their agent. This is not the first time I have had customers in this position, and I have often wondered why so much documentation is needed before claims are settled? Anon
This is a timely question. Due to the exceptionally difficult trading conditions the industry is currently experiencing, it is an unfortunate reality that you may well have to assist other customers with their claims.
The first point to bear in mind is that the funds used to refund customers can come from a number of different sources, even though the payment itself will originate from either ABTA or ATOL. These sources include bonds, insurance and the Air Travel Trust, all of these providers quite rightly have the expectation that claims will be properly investigated and substantiated before payment is made in accordance with what is covered under these schemes of financial protection.
The first requirement is to clarify what kind of booking is in place. If there is financial protection in place, is it provided by ATOL or ABTA? Documentation such as ATOL certificates or confirmation invoices are essential, they clearly indicate what kind of contract and therefore what form of cover the customer had with the failed company. Without this crucial piece of information it makes it very difficult for either body to pay out and it is extremely important that you always pass on this documentation to customers at the time of booking.
The next requirement will be clear and conclusive evidence of the money that the customer has paid for the booking. Proof of payment is fairly easy to provide; copies of customer’s bank and credit card statements to yourself and then evidence that you have passed the money over to the failed company, again generally bank statements with a breakdown of any bulk payments. Simply having an invoice showing amounts paid, would not be viewed as sufficient for auditing purposes.
Relatively few customers pay by cheque now, but they would have had get a copy of the cheque or letter from their bank to show that it had cleared, which is still a requirement for the few that choose to pay by this method.
Some customers will also pay by bank transfer and the required information is a mix of the two above and will usually require a bank statement showing the transaction, or a letter from the bank confirming the transaction details.
We try to make all documentation requirements very clear throughout the claims process and will endeavour to settle claims as quickly as possible, but this process will be delayed if either you or the customer has not followed the correct procedures. Where lengthy delays occur, they are nearly always caused by incorrect or incomplete documentation being submitted with a claim.
Having said that, on occasion with more complex cases, we may have to request some additional information about a booking, but we will only do so where it is not clear from the paperwork what the claim relates to.
Lastly, claims can also be a tempting target for fraudsters. The claims processes, which have been operating successfully for many years, make any such attempts much more difficult for unscrupulous types and our claims teams are adept at spotting and winnowing out suspicious applications through automated system checks and regular training of our claims teams.
– Steve Abrahamson, ABTA head of risk management
Each issue we speak to a different ABTA employee about their work. This time: Danny Waine, head of membership
Having worked in the industry for almost 20 years and for three different ABTA members myself, including running my own business, I approach each day through the lens of a member.
We have a wealth of knowledge and expertise across the ABTA team to support the diverse membership of large multinational brands, specialist tour operators, retail travel agents, managed branch businesses, OTAs, consortia, TMCs, cruise companies, single element components, hosted agents, homeworkers and the many other business models that now exist. The days of the binary travel agency versus tour operator model are long gone.
My team has regular discussions with potential new members about which model within the ABTA family would best support their business, from start-ups considering the managed branches, to those seeking an ABTA membership in their own right, through to well-established travel businesses craving more flexibility and freedom, or access to the many member benefits that ABTA has to offer.
It is important to me that members are aware of and fully utilising all the services and benefits they have access to through their membership.
There are services that members have used for years, including financial protection, legal, arbitration and member support. However, there are so many more that exist, from up-to-the-minute operational bulletins from the destinations team, industry affairs engagement opportunities and sustainability frameworks and tools, right through to practical, free business resilience webinars and events.
I often deliver training presentations to ABTA members and their teams to ensure that members are making the most of their membership. They can do this by harnessing the power of the ABTA brand in their own marketing to improve sales conversions, using materials from the ABTA communications team to better educate consumers and encouraging them to promote the ABTA ‘Travel With Confidence’ messaging.
I spend as much of my time as possible engaging with members, whether its face-to-face via Teams, telephone calls, email, or on social media. Listening to member challenges, working out ways that we can best help them and often giving one-to-one advice, as well as linking them up with ABTA’s 180 corporate partners, which provide essential business services.
Strategically, it’s about looking to the future and considering what will the travel industry of tomorrow look like? How can we ensure that we’re adding value for our members? What services do members want to best support their businesses through the challenges and help them grow their business sustainably long into the future? These conversations are happening daily within ABTA, and I would encourage members to contact me directly with their own ideas and suggestions.
With consumers 20 per cent more likely to book with a travel professional than before the pandemic, there has never been a better time for members to make the most of the ABTA brand and utilise ABTA membership to their advantage.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, ABTA has postponed its normal events schedule and is running a series of practical one-day events in key areas, including customer service and complaints handling, travel finance, travel marketing and PR and health and safety.
These events will be brought to you virtually, streamed live via a custom digital platform. Content will be made up of thought-provoking conference sessions and practical workshops.
Visit abta.com/events to find out more and register.
Early bird and team discounts
ABTA’s new business rate allows you to train your whole team digitally in a cost effective manner. It includes five digital log-ins and on-demand content can be shared among your team. Early bird discounts are also available.
Customer service and complaints teams will play a critical role in rebuilding confidence with customers as travel restarts. Following the largest period of digital transformation, this event will equip customer service teams of all levels with the practical skills, knowledge and insights to meet the needs of customers in 2021.
Find out more
This major industry event will bring together senior finance professionals from across the travel industry, along with suppliers, regulators, and experts to discuss and examine the key updates in travel finance. Get an essential update on all accounting, tax and regulatory issues, an update on the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU and guidance on the Government’s latest Covid-19 support.
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It is vital that you have the right marketing and communication strategies in place to proactively engage customers and convert bookings as travel restarts. Learn how to flex and adapt your marketing and PR plans to react to changing trends and circumstances in travel. Equip your teams with the practical skills and knowledge they need to react fast and adapt to changes in the travel market.
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After a year of unprecedented change, ABTA’s Health, Safety and Security in Travel conference will return virtually. It will bring together an audience of senior health and safety professionals from across travel and tourism to understand how to manage the balance between health and safety and Covid-safe protocols in restarting overseas travel programmes. The event will also provide essential guidance and practical workshops in other areas of travel health and safety.
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Despite its bookings and reputation taking a battering during the pandemic, Anthony Pearce suggests that, with everything taken care of and no hidden costs, all-inclusive is well placed to take advantage of pent-up demand once travel opens up once again
Since its early beginnings in the Caribbean, the all-inclusive holiday has redefined the way we travel. From the package resorts of Spain and Turkey to high-end escapes such as those in the Maldives, the holiday type has grown and diversified, becoming a model enjoyed by an ever-widening pool of holidaymakers with a range of budgets. But, like much of the industry, it has taken a beating because of Covid-19 – not just in terms of visitor numbers but reputationally. In November, prior the vaccine announcements, a survey by the UK Travel Intelligence Report found that a fifth of people would be less inclined to visit an all-inclusive resort in 2021.
However, with the harsh realities of Covid-19 through the winter bringing new restrictions, all-inclusive resorts – where everything is taken care of, there are no hidden costs and thus very little to stress about – seem well placed to take advantage of pent-up demand once travel opens up. As we have written before, after the recession in 2008, all-inclusive breaks were a natural fit for price-savvy holidaymakers, particularly families. Since then, the holiday type has found a sizeable market share: about 18 per cent of Britons took an all-inclusive holiday in 2019, rising by three per cent on 2018 numbers back to 2017 levels.
“We’re seeing all-inclusive as the holiday of choice for 2021 with over half of our bookings opting for this board basis,” says Garry Wilson, CEO of easyJet holidays. “This holiday type offers our customers quality and choice, but with the reassurance of knowing what their holiday will actually cost – something holidaymakers are wanting even more following the last few months’ events.” Wilson lists familiar favourites Spain, Turkey and Greece as the company’s most popular destinations, as well as Egypt, which they only launched in September. Although the most popular length of stay is seven nights, they are seeing an increase in longer stays of 10 and 14 night as families begin to book.
Karl Thompson, managing director of Unique Caribbean Holidays, says that all-inclusive resorts must offer reassurance and flexibility to attract customers back. “The travel sector undoubtedly still has a way to go in terms of recovery, but the demand is certainly there for clients looking forward. To help overcome the challenges that Covid has placed on holidays this year, we have brought in additional health and safety measures to heighten customer confidence,” he says. He notes the Sandals Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness at all Sandals and Beaches Resorts and its booking with confidence policy, in which it offers a low deposit of £175 with the remaining balance due 71 days before departure, plus all flight-inclusive packages.
Thompson also notes a trend of guests booking longer holidays as well as a rise in wedding bookings – in particular couples who had their wedding plans impacted last year. “We have noticed that several British guests have chosen to add on a wedding ceremony to their existing honeymoon booking with us – meaning that they can still have the wedding of their dreams in a beautiful destination, and then throw a bigger party for friends and family back at home at a later date,” he says.
EasyJet Holidays tells us it has been focusing heavily on all-inclusive for 2021, with a particular push for a number of hotels including the family friendly Paloma Grida in Antalya, the Los Zocos Club Resort, Lanzarote or the Stella Palace in Crete. Wilson says that the company recognises that there’s “still some nervousness around booking holidays for some, which is why we’re committed to continuing to work with ABTA and the wider industry to provide more certainty for our customers and get them travelling with confidence once again”. Testing, and later the vaccine, will of course be key, which is why its partnerships with testing firms, allowing customers to get access to convenient and affordable testing to help meet destination entry requirements, is a very welcome move.
According to ABTA, package holidays are expected to prove a popular choice in 2021, with the reassurances afforded by a package holiday becoming increasingly important to customers. Almost a quarter of people booking package holidays (23 per cent) say they chose them for the financial protection, up from 19 per cent, with almost one in five (19 per cent) saying they wanted to be looked after in case something goes wrong, up from 16 per cent. Its latest report notes that many ABTA members are offering additional benefits and flexibility beyond the existing protections of a package holiday.
The travel association also notes an unwavering enthusiasm for cruise holidays, despite the industry’s well-documented struggles this year. Although many lines have extended suspensions into spring, cruise guests are famously loyal. The sector has also somewhat reinvented the all-inclusive holiday, with every operator including accommodation and food as standard, but many including the likes of drinks, shore excursions and wi-fi, too. In fact, the trend is to include ever more, as Celebrity’s new Always Included concept proves. The line, part of the Royal Caribbean group, now has unlimited drinks (classic cocktails, wines by the glass, beer, sodas, specialty coffees and teas, juices and bottled water); wi-fi and daily gratuities in the price, while its Edge-class ships (Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Apex) are among the most innovative and exciting ships at sea.