Restrictions on non-essential overseas travel were scheduled to be eased this week. And if ever a people have indicated that they want to holiday, it has been the UK travelers who have been living under the shadow of COVID-19 and the global pandemic it has wrought.
While long-haul travel is another matter (see separate article on the move by British Airways to re-start routes to North America) holidaymakers are expected descend upon nearby and familiar destinations in Europe, including Spain, France, Greece and elsewhere.
The launch of this activity did not come too soon. In the past couple of weeks leading up to it, the travel trade and business news media in the UK was full of articles having to do with accounts of layoffs, downsizing, closures and turnover at travel businesses large and small. A sampler of the type of news items one was likely to see since the last issue of INBOUND was published included the following items.
• The government has confirmed it will relax quarantine measures on July 10 and remove its blanket advice against all non-essential travel from this Saturday. Passengers returning to or visiting England from destinations with a “reduced risk” of bringing Covid-19 to the UK will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days.
• Results of a PwC survey revealed late last week that Brits missed taking a holiday (86 percent) or having a meal in a restaurant (83 percent) as they did in spending time with friends and family (91 percent).
• TUI UK and Ireland—it is the largest tour operator in the UK/Ireland, has canceled all holidays to Florida due to depart up to and including November 30, 2020. In announcing the move, the company cited “the on-going uncertainty around international travel restrictions and the unprecedented impact of Covid-19.” TUI said the decision was made following new health and safety measures implemented at Walt Disney World to ensure the safety of its guests. TUI’s Florida program will re-launch using flights from flying partners on December 1 2020, and TUI Airways flights will resume in March 2021. At the same time TUI, reported an increase of 50 per cent in bookings the week of June 21-27.
• The package holiday firm On the Beach (It is the UK’s third-largest operator—Jet2Holidays is No. 2) reported that revenue had fallen two-thirds in the first half of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to the onset of the virus, the group said that it had been trading well, with summer bookings up 29 per cent. Due to a combination of cancellations and falling demand, revenue in the first half for On the Beach slipped 66 percent to £21.4 million ($26.7 million). In total, On the Beach estimated the cost of the pandemic as £34.7million ($43.3 million) for the half, primarily in the form of cancellations.
• The Eurotunnel website crashed and travel firms report their biggest Saturday (June 27) sales ever as people rushed to book before the “traffic light” system allowing Britons holiday without quarantine came into force on July 6th.
• Spain-holiday.com, the third biggest holiday rental site in Spain—it is the number one holiday destination for most Brits—said it had a record-breaking morning on June 30.
• Adventure travel specialist G Adventures has canceled all trips with departure date up to and including August 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The deposit of the affected customers of 20 percent remains and can be used for a future trip.
• Cox & Kings has reduced maximum group sizes and has dropped single supplements for the first three solo places booked on most of its tours. There will now be a maximum of 18 per group tour, down from 26, and an average of 14 per tour across its program.
• The Travel Network Group is acquiring rival travel agency consortium Global Travel Group from dnata Travel group. Global will remain as a separate entity within the Travel Network Group, alongside its other brands Travel Trust Association (TTA), Worldchoice and Independent Travel Experts (ITE). More than 200 Global members will become part of TTNG in addition to the existing network of more than 1,000 members including retail and homeworking travel agencies.
• Escorted touring specialist Leger Holidays has acquired the Shearings name, website and customer database for an undisclosed sum and plans to “bring the iconic brand back to life” sometime this month. The deal does not include the company’s coaches or hotels, or any of Shearings’ sister brands within the specialist operator, which went into administration on May 22nd.