On the Beach is extending free Covid-19 tests to cover the 2022 holiday season.
The deal covers new bookings made before October 31 this year and covers the cost of tests required for fully-vaccinated holidaymakers to travel to Spain, Greece, the Spanish and Greek islands, and Cyprus until the end of October next year.
The offer, bringing estimated savings of up to £200 for a group of four, also extends to people in Wales, following changes to testing requirements by the Welsh government, in addition to those living in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The move is a continuation of a bid to help rebuild consumer confidence in travel, with the OTA having announced earlier this month that it had created a £1.5 million fund dedicated to supporting the long-term and sustained return of tourism.
For fully-vaccinated travellers, regulations in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales currently require an antigen pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day two of returning to the UK.
On the Beach said that it seems that testing in order to travel will remain a requirement for the foreseeable future, bringing additional costs for holidaymakers, despite changes announced a week ago for those in England.
Day two PCR tests are required for all adults and children aged 5 and over and cost from £50 up to £200 per person.
Pre-departure antigen tests currently cost more than £25 per person and are required for all adults and children aged 11 and over – meaning that a family or group of four or more would make savings of more than £200 per booking.
The need for a pre-departure test will end on October 4 for those living in England, though a day two PCR test will still be required.
Changes to testing requirements have not been announced for Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
The OTA’s offer will provide free tests based on the country-specific requirements for double-vaccinated holidaymakers, with tests automatically ordered following a holiday booking and delivered a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure.
Holiday bookers will be provided with one antigen test and one PCR test until October 4. This will change from October 5 to meet government testing requirements of one PCR test.
Company research found that a third (32%) of people cited the cost and inconvenience of PCR tests as one of the main reasons why they had not booked a holiday for 2021, second only to concerns that the holiday would not go ahead as planned.
A quarter (25%) of people who are not currently planning holidays this year said that free Covid-19 tests would make them more likely to book for 2021.
On the Beach has partnered with travel testing provider Collinson to send test kits via tracked delivery.
The offer eases the financial and administrative burden of testing “and making the decision to go – and process of going – on holiday that bit easier,” said On the Beach chief executive Simon Cooper.
He added: “We’ve seen an incredible initial uptake of our free testing offer, so we know that it is in line with what consumers are looking for – it feels right to extend this and help people plan for holidays further ahead into next year as well.
“Our data tells us that for the majority, the additional cost of tests as well as the hassle and inconvenience of arranging them is a significant barrier to booking a trip to the beach so it gives us great pleasure to bring this offer to more people for a longer period of time.
“It’s true that testing is getting a little simpler, but we believe the need for testing to travel won’t disappear for some time yet. It’s important to us that we stand alongside customers and support them by making holidaying more affordable and easier for all.”
The company stopped selling holidays in May for this year’s peak summer season as uncertainty and confusion around international leisure travel grew, and the likelihood of disruption for holidaymakers mounted.
Cooper said: “Slowly but surely confidence in the travel industry is returning, but we still have a long way to go. Being transparent, responding to the latest government guidance and making holidays as simple and as clear as we can remains the responsibility of every retailer in the travel industry.”
A ‘New Normal Booking Pledge’ has also been introduced which aims to reassure customers should their booking be impacted by Covid-19.
- A full cash refund if a holiday is cancelled due to Covid-19 or changes to regulations for the destination, in line with consumer law- 27% of those surveyed stated a guaranteed cash refund if their holiday was cancelled would make them more likely to book a holiday for 2021.
- Free cancellation costs should a member of the travelling party contract Covid-19 or be forced to isolate before travelling.
- No amendment fees from On the Beach should the chosen destination become Covid-19-affected.