Jet2holidays booked more than 5,500 holidays to the Canaries within hours of the government granting a travel corridor to the islands on Thursday evening.
Head of trade Alan Cross said the addition of the archipelago to the UK’s list of travel corridors was “great news” as a “confidence builder” for the travel industry.
“We very quickly got it turned around,” he said during a Travel Weekly webcast. “As soon as we put the availability on last night, consumers responded to it. To back up the other destinations like Madeira, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey that we’re offering, the Canaries burst into life and we’ve seen over 5,500 holidays booked for the Canaries alone.”
Cross added: “It’s not only great news, it’s a great confidence-builder, both for the industry and for the consumers. The demand is there; and the consumers want to travel, it’s now time for the travel agents to do their bit and get their fair share of those bookings. “
Derek Jones, chief executive of Der Touristik UK, which owns long-haul specialist Kuoni, said demand had surged for the Maldives the moment the travel corridor to the Indian Ocean islands was confirmed.
Having previously said he was expecting barely any business in 2021, Jones said the news changed everything.
“We had pretty much written off the rest of this year for most long-haul destinations. So it’s a billy bonus for us,” he said. “We’re very happy the Maldives has come back on. It is important because while there have been some short-haul destinations come in and out of quarantine, and in and out of restrictions, we haven’t really had a major long-haul destination available to book for the six months; pretty much from the start of this crisis.
“To have a major holiday long-haul destination back in play is a real move as far as we’re concerned, and we saw huge interest last night – our social media exploded. Overnight we had well over 200 emails – enquiries just for the Maldives. And this morning, we’re swamped with new customers coming in and trying to get their last-minute getaways booked to the Maldives. It’s a really good, timely fillip and a positive mood-lifter for all of us. It’s really good.”
Miles Morgan, chairman of Miles Morgan Travel, said his team had sprung into action promoting both the Canaries and the Maldives immediately, and said the announcement could be “game-changing for the whole industry”.
“It is brilliant news,” he said. “The opportunity for travel agents to actually make some money for the first time, almost since March, is just wonderful. Doing bookings is great but when they’re all for 2022 and 2023 there is no revenue for a travel agent. So it’s a fantastic opportunity.
“We like everybody, were on social media very quickly posting stuff, about the Canaries and Maldives immediately.”
But Morgan warned the islands must all stay on the corridor list and not be removed in a couple of weeks, as had happened with Spain in the summer.
“I don’t want to be the doom-meister at all because it is great news,” he added. “But I guess my nervousness is when you look back to what happened back in July when Spain came on but went off after two weeks. If anything, it made things worse.
“If they can stay on for a sustained period, that will be absolutely brilliant. So while it’s fantastic news, it’s just tempered a bit.”
But he said: “These are scale destinations which just haven’t happened for ages, so this is brilliant.”
Despite his concerns, Morgan said he both destinations were selling well. “We’re pressing ahead with no caution whatsoever,” he said. “When you haven’t had income since March, you’ve got to go for it. And if subsequently you end up changing some, that’s what you do.
“We’re pretty used to changing bookings now, having done it for seven months. So a few more is not a problem. It’s just the sales opportunity that is brilliant.”