Short-haul destinations, high-value ‘bucket-list’ trips and tours for solo travellers are among the biggest sellers for the touring sector in 2021, according to operators.

Representatives from Newmarket Holidays, Riviera Travel and Intrepid Travel – which were the first operators to restart their touring programmes this year – joined a session at touring and adventure association Atas’ Virtual Week focusing on the return to touring.

Ian Dines, chief people and customer officer at Newmarket Holidays, said: “[We’re seeing] British Isles tours selling really well for early spring, Europe is selling well for peak summer as expected, and long-haul is starting to come back in terms of bookings. We’re starting to see some great high-value, long-haul bookings for the latter part of 2021 and into the early part of 2022.

“We’ve seen an increase in single travellers and solos and we’ve had to respond to that by opening up more single occupancy.”

Riviera Travel also reported strong bookings from March 2021 onwards, with most travellers having switched departures to next year across both cruise and touring programmes.

Tom Morgan, head of agency sales for UK and Ireland, said: “Long-haul, we’re seeing pockets selling pretty well. Canada and New Zealand have sold really strongly over the last few months, but we’re still getting some good bookings to our usual destinations, for example, South Africa.

“We’ll be reviewing the situation constantly over winter, seeing what opens up again and we’re hoping to be back out in March as strongly as possible.”

Intrepid Travel reported more than £1 million of new bookings in September – its best month for sales since February – including £200,000 of bookings to Antarctica, and has also seen increased interest among solo travellers and for big-ticket trips such as the Inca Trail or Everest base camp.

Partnership growth manager Matt Eadie said: “Solo passengers have always been a growing market for us and that’s still doing really well, but we are also seeing a lot of high-value bookings – Antarctica and the Galápagos are selling really well.

“There are a lot of customers out there who have travel funds burning in their pockets and I think people are reassessing – do I want a resort holiday after lockdown or do I want to go out and do that bucket-list trip I’ve always wanted to do?”

Eadie added that agents should also target mainstream travellers looking for adventurous destinations but with the security of a tour leader and a group.