Bucket-list destinations and the British Isles are proving popular as holidaymakers adapt to travelling during the pandemic, say escorted tour operators.
Intrepid Travel is seeing new bookings for longer durations than normal and exotic long-haul destinations such polar regions or the Inca Trail in Peru – while Newmarket Holidays reports success in the lates market for its new British Isles itineraries.
And Riviera Travel is seeing resilience among mature travellers, many of whom seem determined to travel despite concerns about Covid-19.
Bosses from the three operators – all members of the Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers (Atas) – spoke to Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley for a Travel Weekly webcast.
Intrepid Travel’s EMEA managing director Zina Bencheikh said the operator has seen demand for one-off, bucket list trips.
“You always thought you will do it one day, but maybe Covid has made people realise that you need to do it now,” she said.
“The UK market is trending much better than the others. British people are keen to explore the world.”
Niel Alobaidi, Newmarket’s chief executive, said his firm’s broad portfolio is a bonus because of the regular changes to travel advice and quarantine regulations in different countries – but sales of British Isles tours are growing consistently.
“On a week-to-week basis, we are seeing volume seriously increasing on lates to the British Isles,” he said.
“There’s a lot more confidence when there’s uncertainty in international travel.”
He is also seeing solo travellers moving from 10-15% of bookings to 30-40%.
“This is an opportunity to go away with like-minded individuals,” he said.
“There’s going to be a real opportunity in that segment.”
Phil Hullah, Riviera Travel chief executive, said his company has been liaising closely with agents and surveying customers to find out what the market wants in the post-lockdown environment.
About 40% of clients were keen to travel this year with the rest looking at 2021 departures.
“It was very encouraging,” he said.
Furthermore, many older clients are keen to book a holiday, he added.
“They’ve been travelling with us for years, they’ve had a miserable year and they’ve had to miss a couple of holidays,” he explained.
“There comes a point where they can say, ‘you know what, I’m going to get out there’.”
The operators said feedback from tours which have operated in August and September had been great, especially as many destinations are much quieter than normal.