Trade switch-selling customers amid ever-changing restrictions

Agents and operators are switch-selling customers to different destinations to salvage bookings amid ever-changing travel restrictions overseas.

Trade attention turned to specific destinations’ rules following the relaxation of the UK’s testing policy for vaccinated holidaymakers returning from overseas last week.

Some countries have relaxed entry rules. Ireland removed its quarantine requirement for the fully vaccinated, Israel removed the UK from its red list and France is to end its requirement for Britons to have ‘compelling reasons’ to enter from tomorrow.

Other destinations tightened restrictions. Tenerife introduced a midnight curfew on pubs and restaurants and capacity limits on public transport, Cyprus insisted on pre-departure PCR tests while Italy mandated vaccination certification for transport, including ski lifts, hotels and restaurants – and made winter sports insurance mandatory.

Garry Butcher, operations manager of Caribbean Dreams parent Merlin Travel Group, said in-destination restrictions were “one of the biggest issues” and expected changes to continue. “We’ve been switching clients to other destinations where we can,” he said. “The reassurance their holiday funds are always fully protected has helped.”

Butcher noted long-haul destinations such as Bali, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand were “still an issue” and said the operator was “worried about [entry to] Spain and its islands for families with kids who aren’t vaccinated”.

Richard Sinclair, chief executive of ski specialist agency Sno, said: “Skiers normally loyal to France are exploring Austria, Switzerland and Italy in large numbers. We’ve lost about a fifth of the winter to cancellations and the ongoing ban in France, but most holidays are going ahead in the rest of the Alps.”

Deben Travel owner Lee Hunt added: “We are having to be proactive around promoting destinations that are easy to get to and don’t have lots of restrictions.”

He explained how a family booking had to be cancelled due to Spanish entry rules requiring children aged 12 and over to be double-vaccinated.

Abta said demand was “generally heading in a positive direction” and reported “a big increase in business” after the relaxation of pre-departure tests for UK arrivals was announced.

A spokesman advised agents to promote the protection of package holidays and urged members to sign up to Abta’s destination updates to track countries’ latest entry requirement changes.

He added: “We expect to see further increases in demand, especially if restrictions for individual countries lift.”

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