Advantage CEO says the future looks brighter following the government’s roadmap announcement
Travel agents have a huge opportunity to offer a “balanced, honest perspective” as travel reopens, the CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, Julia Lo Bue-Said, has said.
It was announced last month that holidays could be taken as early as May 17, as the government laid out its roadmap for exiting lockdown. A Department for Transport (DfT) review into how to allow inbound and outbound travel to restart will report on April 12.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said the resumption of travel is “vital for many businesses which have been hardest hit, including retail, hospitality, tourism and aviation”, but would be subject to a review to resolve “key questions”. He said the DfT taskforce will enable Britons to “plan for summer”.
“At long last we have had some positive news for the industry and we welcome the fact that travel businesses are reporting a surge in bookings and enquiries after the PM’s announcement,” Lo Bue-Said said.
“While we are optimistic at the pent-up demand from consumers and the plan to get the UK out of lockdown, we need to be mindful that the dates outlined are not set in stone and there is a need to err on the side of caution for summer departures. Clarity is still needed from government on quarantine hotels, quarantine periods, testing and vaccine passports, and until further details have been received from the Global Travel Taskforce and we have a better understanding of the protocols that may be in place, it is highly probable that travel for this summer will be restricted in some way.
“Travel agents have a huge opportunity to offer that balanced, honest perspective, which is why we created our Keep Calm & Dream of Travel campaign, to highlight a customer commitment for agents to present to their customers for when the time is right to travel again. Travel agents have access to flexible booking options and, with the knowledge and guidance that a local travel agent can offer, there has never been a better time for consumers to book a holiday using an agent – but cautious optimism is needed.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The prime minister’s announcement sets an ambition to get people travelling before the summer – which will not only be crucial for travel businesses whose revenues have been wiped out, but also for the millions of people who are desperate to travel again, whether to see friends and relatives based overseas or for a much-needed holiday.
“We’re pleased to see the government has responded to our calls to engage with industry on a specific roadmap for travel, and we welcome that the Global Travel Taskforce will reconvene to work with ABTA and the wider travel industry on a plan for reopening travel.”
The announcement that travel could restart as soon as May prompted a huge increase in bookings
Travel businesses have been reporting a boom in sales following the government’s announcement that travel could restart from May 17.
The Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel, part of The Midcounties Co-operative, reported an increase in bookings of 293 per cent on February 23, compared with the same day the week before, and bookings were up 317 per cent compared with the same day in 2020, pre-pandemic. Jet2.com and Jet2holidays reported that summer 2021 bookings increased more than 1,000 per cent in the 24 hours following the announcement.
UKinbound’s CEO Joss Croft said: “We’re really pleased that the prime minister listened to the industry and included international inbound tourism in the country’s reopening roadmap. It is critical that dialogue continues and that government consults with the industry when preparing its review on reopening international travel, due on April 12.
“As part of its review, we would ask the UK government to work with the devolved nations, as a fragmented approach will hinder recovery. To save the summer business, government needs to move quickly as it will take time for consumers to regain confidence to book a holiday to the UK and for the industry to prepare.
“However, it’s very clear that we are still months away from restarting international travel, and many more months before we see a significant recovery, and the industry therefore needs continued support.”