Impact of new travel restrictions ‘nothing compared to previous shocks’

Tour operators and travel agents are hopeful new Covid measures will not significantly dampen consumer confidence and that demand will remain through winter.

Speaking during a Travel Weekly webcast on Monday, Caribtours managing director Paul Cleary said the “number one priority” of the long-haul specialist was to keep bookings safe and customers travelling.

Jet2holidays’ head of trade Alan Cross said the latest travel rules were “nothing compared to some of the shocks we’ve had in the past 20 months”.

Although Designer Travel owner Amanda Matthews expressed concerns about “a domino effect”, with borders being closed across the globe, she added: “It’s likely that in the next few weeks, keeping everything crossed, the vaccines will work and we’ll go back to a little bit more of normal.”

In response to the new Omicron variant, the government has introduced several measures – including mandatory PCR tests for arrivals into the UK with self-isolation until a negative result is produced. Ten countries have been added to the red list.

Cleary said the switch from lateral flow to PCR tests for UK arrivals was “not welcome” and red list additions were “inconvenient and sorrowful for those destinations”.

But he added: “Other destinations remain open and my number one priority for Caribtours and the agents that we work with is to keep people travelling, and to help them navigate their way through this extra layer.”

Cleary said the recent changes are “a hassle” but believes things will “almost certainly be OK” following an “absolute surge” in demand and bookings for October, November, December, January and February.

Caribtours will be “holding the line”, he said, meaning customers’ holidays will go ahead where they can and the operator collecting balances “in the usual way”.

Cross said there was a “real opportunity” for agents to play the expert card to reassure customers which can “defuse the situation”.

Explaining how Designer Travel had become more “resilient” during the pandemic, Matthews added: “We’ve now got relationships with our clients and new clients like we’ve never had before.

“We’ve got really loyal clients who recommend to their friends and family. When this all does become more normal, I cannot wait to see our full year impact of the work that we’ve had to do.”

More: Trade slams government over ‘unacceptable’ messaging

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