Travel agents and tour operators are reporting a “marked increase” in demand for domestic breaks as the UK holiday industry prepares to reopen.
It follows the government’s announcement this week allowing hotels, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses to reopen from July 4.
The reopening of the sector will come as social distancing rules are relaxed from two metres to ‘one metre plus’.
Agents said they were working with more suppliers to ensure they could meet the extra demand.
Travel Counsellors said more than half of its enquiries in the last week had been for UK breaks, while 70% of new bookings were sourced from personalised marketing content created in partnership with UK suppliers.
UK managing director, Kirsten Hughes, said: “We’re seeing positive signs that, as lockdown eases in the UK, customers are considering the staycation opportunities available, with many craving something to look forward to and the chance to spend time with extended family and friends on short breaks.
“We’ve been speaking in depth to our current UK product partners, as well as reaching out to new suppliers to boost the breaks available to customers and support our business owners in making the very most of the opportunity to turn enquiries into bookings at this time.”
Barrhead Travel has put together a new programme of UK breaks. President Jacqueline Dobson said the agency had been “scaling up” its UK product offering and launched a programme of UK breaks featuring “some really different itineraries” and “spanning all corners of the UK”.
Dobson said: “Since the Scottish government announced that the domestic tourism market could expect to restart from July 15 onwards, and now the UK has announced that tourism in England can recommence from July 4, there has definitely been a marked increase in demand for late breaks away – for both domestic and trips abroad. In the future, we may see holidaymakers regularly enjoying a UK break as well as their holidays abroad.”
Operators said they were gearing up for the reopening of the UK holiday sector by increasing product ranges.
Great Little Breaks, which only started to work with the trade earlier this year, has seen a spike in demand from the trade in the last week. Agent followers on the short break specialist’s Facebook page rose from 1,800 to 3,200 in the last week while more than 700 agents have registered for its e-news.
Director of trade sales Chris Cundall said: “We’ve had a massive influx of interest to a level none of us anticipated. We are getting bookings for July and August and are now seeing more agent bookings than direct.”
Cundall said the operator was working with hotels which are ‘Covid-19-ready’ and can offer cancellations up to seven days before arrival with free amendments.
He added: “We have had to understand from our hotel partners exactly how they going to do the social distancing; it’s quite difficult for some of them. More are coming back [on sale] every day.”
Prestige Holidays reported a “noticeable increase” in calls from agents for domestic breaks, has added two new Scottish breaks and reintroduced Flora and Wildlife breaks to the Isles of Scilly (pictured).
General sales manager Lee Hamilton said: “There is a definite interest in breaks that enable people to connect with the natural world. We are optimistic that now the prime minister has given the green light for British breaks, people will be confident to book their summer getaways, and holidays closer to home will be the top choice for those looking to get away in the next month or two.”
Premier Holidays has added a selection of UK hotels for the first time. It said the Scilly Isles was getting the most interest but the Channel Islands were expected to be the “biggest draw” once open to tourists.
Debbie Goffin, head of sales and marketing, said: “Rebookings to the Channel Islands have been strong, plus we are getting new bookings for 2021 and later this year and we are starting to see handful of bookings for August and September in anticipation of Jersey opening.”
Guernsey is not due to reopen before September 1 but an announcement on Jersey reopening its borders is expected “imminently”, she said.
Goffin added: “We are working very closely with hoteliers, the tourist board and State of Jersey on reopening and have plans in place to get it on sale for the remainder of summer as soon as borders open. We know from customer feedback and social media engagement there is pent up demand for Jersey and have been contacted by so many agents wanting to get on board and start selling that we have launched a webinar in conjunction with Visit Jersey.”
The webinar will be at 1.30pm on July 2 to update agents, with a link available via Facebook and Twitter.
Other operators not known for UK breaks, including Kuoni and Intrepid Travel, have begun offering domestic holidays to tap into current demand.
Intrepid has introduced a range of ‘closer to home’ tours which aims to support local communities striving to recover from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kuoni is working in partnership with UK operator McKinlay Kidd to produce a bespoke collection for Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland.
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