Covid-19 will not trigger the end of demand for mass-market holidays, agreed tour operators speaking as part of Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Week.
Asked if rising concerns about travel’s impact on the climate may effect demand, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies, Alan Bowen, said there will still be customers looking for good deals.
He said: “There will always be a large number of people looking for a relatively affordable holiday, and they are not the people asking the green questions. They are not going to ask if Greta Thunberg has approved what you’re selling.
“We are foolish if we don’t recognise we need to improve our profit margin, because the assumption is we’re making this huge profit like everybody else and therefore we can afford to discount. We’ve all learnt that if we don’t have some money in the bank we don’t know what’s around the corner.”
But he added: “If we think the £299 week to Benidorm is going to disappear, it won’t. The consumer would be very unhappy if it did. But I do think we need to think about how we calculate the price. We shouldn’t be going down to the bottom price, we should be looking at what a reasonable price is. Competition can still allow that to happen. But the end of cheap holidays? No.
“There are some operators who book every type of customer and I think that will continue. I think there will be fewer of them, and hopefully better.”
Lisa McAuely, managing director of dnata UK’s B2B operations, predicted that “a proportion” of people will believe travel “is responsible” for the global spread of the pandemic, and that “a section of society” will be “risk averse and don’t want to travel overseas”.
“We all have to accept that,” she said. “But I know plenty of people who just don’t want to fly because of a fear of flying or don’t want to cruise be they don’t like cruise ships.”
She added: “When it comes back, those customers that want that cheap getaway will continue to be there.”
She highlighted that the Covid-induced recession would be “more of a problem” because people have less disposable income as a result of mass redundancies.
McAuley said she did not expect overtourism to be solved by Covid. “People will travel to wherever they can get to. If more destinations don’t open up, we could be making the [overtourism] issue more obvious”
Josephides said mass market operators have “too many aeroplanes” and will look to fill them without government regulation.
“If we are left to our own devices, we will trash everything we do,” he said.
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