Spain quarantine ‘handbrake’ dents overall confidence

The “handbrake” put on holidays to Spain by the government will have a knock-on effect on consumer confidence about all overseas travel, according to the boss of

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, chief executive Richard Singer said: “This is not just about Spain, it will have an impact on other destinations.

“If I’m due to travel in to Greece, and I read a headline from that interview with [foreign secretary] Dominic Raab that the government can put a handbrake on at any time, then regardless of which destination you’re going to, you’re going to think ‘I’m not sure this is a particularly good idea’.

“People will think ‘I don’t want quarantine restrictions to happen to me’ or they will be thinking ‘my employer won’t pay for me if I have to quarantine’.”

Singer said the impact of the government’s clampdown on travel to Spain was immediately evident in metasearch figures.

“Sunday is always our biggest day in terms of traffic: we have a lot of activity going out and a lot of advertising happening. And you look at Google Analytics on an hour-by-hour basis and you could see in the morning, it was really pretty good. There was no impact.

“But as the news stories started trickling through, and people would see each other in the street and say ‘Have you heard what’s happened about Spain?’, and you could really see the activity tail off.

“We don’t sell holidays, but I think the interesting discussion will be when somebody calls up and says ‘I’m going to Greece but I don’t want to go anymore because I’m concerned’. How do we handle things like that? I’m afraid that’s absolutely inevitable.”

Singer said demand for summer 2020 had been building strongly in recent weeks before the government’s clampdown on Spain.

“A lot of customers were rebooking into 2021; for the last few months, you could really see that 2021 was the key period. But in the last four weeks, it was bookings for late summer that were coming through. It was previously July and August; now it’s August and September 2020 that were flying and far exceeding 2021 bookings,” he said.

“And the interesting thing was people were only looking for seven days. So the sentiment is that they just want to get away, even if it’s for a short break. But if you add quarantine on to the end of that, one week becomes three weeks of no activity, which makes it difficult.”

Singer added: “Demand is certainly there. We did a big survey a few weeks ago and over 60% of respondents said they wanted to travel this year and 90% said they wanted to travel within the next 12 months.

“So customers will always want to get away; they are still pretty resilient. But clearly, we are having to deal with these obstacles that are put in our way and that’s probably going to be the nature of it for probably the next few months.

“There will be good periods and then there will be very challenging periods. And I think unfortunately, the decision on Saturday is going to mean another challenging period. It’s going to be another tricky week to deal with.”

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