A Covid-19 testing regime backed by track and trace is essential if holidaymakers are to have the reassurance to book 2021 trips in time for this January’s peaks.
Industry veterans Steve Endacott and Ian Brooks said in a latest ‘pubcast’ discussion posted online that the aviation sector needs to act to counter the fear of quarantine.
Industry entrepreneur Endacott, a former managing director of retail and tour operating at MyTravel, said test, track and trace could eliminate the need for quarantine.
“Where is the sensible, tactical, justifiable, reasonable reaction? Basically, I don’t think we’re going to get that from this government.
“The airports and the airlines need to get together, implement the track and trace and say to the public ‘ignore quarantine if you’ve had these tests’.”
Endacott dismissed the theory that the UK government is trying to force people to holiday in the UK, saying quarantine was more to do with getting schools back open in September.
“It’s a big visible action to take to basically say you are banned from going on holiday. It’s very visible, very political,” he said.
“Of course, we all want to stop a second wave, but that can be done by regional corridors and testing.”
Brooks and Endacott agreed that it is critical for firms’ cashflow to persuade the government to allow the Canaries to come back on sale for the forthcoming winter season.
Brooks said many travel firms he speaks to are focused on selling 2021 and are running at 30% to 50% of bookings compared to this time last year.
The issue for these firms is that they are only taking deposits and will not earn commissions until later next year as clients pay balances.
“What’s going to be critical is January. Is January going to be a peak booking month? At the moment a lot of people are saying I’m going to leave it until last minute,” he said.
Endacott said summer trading had been going well until the UK government decided to close down the whole of Spain even though parts of the country had lower infection rates than the UK.
He said 2020 was always going to be a write-off and the key is to have a new set of rules in place to give people the reassurance they can go on holiday.
“The worst thing, for me, that’s happened this year is to open up and shut down again because that’s created the quarantine fear that will affect January sales,” he said.
That will require airlines and agents to allow customers to make changes to their plans at no cost and for insurance to cover for Covid-19.
The fear of quarantine is more damaging than quarantine itself and blanket measures need to be replaced ahead of January to help the industry, Endacott said.
Brooks said he did not think Abta has a strong enough voice to lobby for this change and that the airlines are going to have to do it.
“They are the guys who are more powerful. They are the ones that are going to have to drive this. They are the ones who are going to have the empty planes.
“They have got to set up a system, in conjunction with the airports and just say to customers this is what you do and ignore the quarantine. That’s the only way to do it.”
Airlines have continued flying to destinations despite Foreign Office advice not to, Brooks added.
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