Some agents might not make it through the winter … and travel wholesalers gathering in Tampa and Las Vegas within the next month will tell us what they expect the business climate to be for 2022 and 2023. But, for the travel agent sector of the UK travel and tourism industry—it’s the segment that is the industry’s public face and voice for the British consumer and it’s the same segment that furnishes the UK travel trade publications with a reliable supply of gloom-and-doom headlines—this year is over.
“The summer has already been lost and any attempt to save summer is over,” Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of the Advantage Travel Group, the UK’s largest independent travel agent group, said last week.
In a statement that was sharply critical of the British government’s traffic light system* of allowing travel to holiday destinations, Blue-Said lamented the shift that left some key markets in red (Turkey, in particular, stood out) and did not move enough countries into green. It has been difficult for agents to keep current on what the traffic lights say on a day-to-day basis.
*(In the government’s traffic light system, red is the strictest designation, with travelers to these countries required to quarantine upon their return—among other restrictions—and amber and green the less restrictive color.)
The outlook was further muddied with the release of the results of a snap poll conducted among agents by TIPTO (Truly Independent Professional Travel Organization), a membership group of tour operators that supports UK travel agents with training and marketing support.
In the poll of 77 agents following the government’s latest traffic light update, 88 percent said they did not think the current level of sales is enough to sustain their business in the winter months. Also, as reported by Travel Weekly UK:
—Just nine percent of respondents believed they could survive without extra government help based on current trading.
—More than two thirds of agents said they did not feel confident about trading over the next six months.
—Sixty-six percent said they were not confident about business in the short term.
—Twenty-six percent, meanwhile, said they did feel confident.
—Some agents responded to the survey by indicating that customers still lacked confidence in travelling but said they were hopeful business would improve in 2022. And, as expected, some blamed the complicated and ever-changing traffic light system and testing requirements and costs for denting consumer confidence while other respondents said the lack of government understanding in the sector was the main problem.
No families and their students: Last week’s developments essentially ended any possibility that a hoped-for, last-minute infusion of visitor traffic to Florida—especially Orlando—by families. In England, the UK school year starts in the begins with its Autumn term, which runs from early September to mid-December, with a half term break in late October that usually attracts some families with students, but not enough to make a difference. (There are stiff financial penalties for families who do not get approval—which they don’t usually get— to take their children on holiday during the school term.)
Toward the future: U.S. inbound tourism industry insiders will be looking toward two events within the next month that should be a “shopping center” for both business, information and intelligence. First is Connect Travel’s RTO Summit South on August 29-30 in Tampa. The event regularly attracts a large showing of receptive tour operators, many of whom are headquartered in nearby Orlando. As a part of their business operations, receptives are usually the first to pick up gossip, information and intelligence. In Tampa, there should be a good showing of companies that do business in South America and parts of Europe.
And then, IPW convenes in Las Vegas on September 18-22. Some 700 exhibitors are registered and eager to meet with the more than 1,000 buyers and press who are signed up to attend.
Look for an interesting business environment in Las Vegas, as there are three other events co-located with IPW, including Connect Travel’s TOUR (Sept. 20-22) THRIVE (Sept. 18-19) and eTourism Summit (Sept. 20-22). For mor information, visit https://connecttravel.com/
The latest quarterly UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) showed a flicker of upbeat information, noting that more than six million passengers flew in and out of the UK in Q2 of 2021—an 85 percent increase over the first quarter of the year. Still, this was down 92 percent vs. the same period in 2019.
As for the future, a CAA spokesperson said, “We expect further recovery of the number of flights and passengers in quarter three of 2021.”