Travel firms have reported a surge in demand for the Canary Islands and Maldives.
Jet2holidays had booked more than 29,600 holidays to the Canaries as of Tuesday afternoon, having sold 5,500 in within hours of the travel corridor announcement on Thursday.
Barrhead Travel said bookings over the weekend were “dominated” by winter sun in the Canaries, with Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria its top-three destinations respectively.
President Jacqueline Dobson said: “The lifting of quarantine from the likes of the Canary Islands is an extremely positive move for the travel industry as it gives businesses hope for a small yet significant recovery period this winter.
“We still need a more regional approach from the UK government and each administration to allow further travel corridors to safely reopen.”
Advantage Travel Partnership’s managed services division saw bookings to the Canaries double against last year between Thursday, when the destinations were the added to the UK’s travel corridor list, and Sunday. About three quarters are for travel between October and December 2020.
For the Maldives, it recorded a near 500% increase in bookings in the same period.
Advantage Travel Partnership’s leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “Since the announcement last week that UK travellers are able to visit the Canary Islands and the Maldives, this has provided a glimmer of hope to travel agents up and down the country and consumers in search of some winter sun.
“There is definitely pent-up demand from travellers and we are seeing a very late booking market because of the unpredictability of destinations being added and removed from the UK government’s quarantine list.
“We hope that this positive step forward for the industry continues throughout the winter season with the addition of more countries deemed safe for travel.”
Cookes told Travel Weekly that added complications around testing in both destinations, and in terms of restrictions on travel to the Maldives via airport hubs in countries not on the UK ‘safe lists’ were encouraging more people to seek the use of advice.
She said: “More people are looking to book with a travel agent because these things are so complex.”
But Lynne Kirby, director at Elite Travel Group, was less enthused about the opportunity for independent travel agents.
She said: “Tui and Jet2 offer the Canaries online for direct bookings, and they would have better offers online – we cannot match them online as they have discounts.
“The customers we are getting are not showing much inclination to go anywhere because of the concerns about quarantine being put back, and you’ve got about 48 hours to get back home.
“That is the biggest problem as those who are working cannot self-isolate for two weeks.
“If [the corridors announcement] had been two weeks ago more people would have been likely to book on the high street. This decision is not likely to open the floodgates and it has not really helped us, as the timing is not great – 4pm on a Thursday when half term starts on the Friday.”
However, Icelolly.com head of travel deals Chris Webber said: “The predicted surge in Canary Islands interest and bookings materialised from the minute the government added travel corridors on Thursday evening.
“We saw lifts in searches and bookings when Portugal was made quarantine-free and then the likes of Crete, but the reaction to these favours winter sun destinations has been something else.
“Two thirds of searches since Friday and 83% of bookings over the week were for the Canary Islands.”
He added: “Tier 3 restrictions don’t seem to be putting northerners off either, with searches for combinations of north-west and Yorkshire airports making the biggest share of search gains.”
The firm also reported a 61% week-on-week rise in searches for the Maldives.