Comment: Sentiment is key to travel’s recovery

They say a lot can change in a week. That saying certainly fits what we have experienced over these past seven days or so.

First up, we had Grant Shapps’ saying the government will be announcing a ‘test and release’ system to reduce the required quarantine for travellers returning to the UK from 14 days to seven, with the potential for it to be reduced further to five days.

No sooner had he announced this than we read further reports in the mainstream media of a ‘test and release’ system which allows for accurate results within an hour, which could remove the need for quarantine at all if travellers tested negative. Some clarity would be nice.

While progress on testing is incredibly encouraging news, the tests will still come at a cost to the customer. I hope, as the tests are rolled out, that these costs are reduced to avoid them becoming a deterrent to bookings.

With travellers having to pay anything from £120-150 for PCR test, it’s crucial that the industry pushes for these costs to be reduced on what will be a breakthrough tool to facilitate travel. I commend my old business partner, Steve Endacott for the work he is doing to champion these cost reductions.

Next, Grant Shapps shared that the Government is looking at international negotiations to create travel agreements based on the test and release system, which is paramount to supporting the opening of global travel and stimulating the economy.

However, the news that trumped even the US election was the announcement that Pfizer and BioNTech have developed a vaccine that they believe to be 90% effective against Covid-19, which saw the need for the government to call a news conference to calm the nation.

The announcement alone was enough to see the stock market around the globe soar and airline shares rocket, with a potential solution to living with the virus in sight. Then the American version, from Moderna, followed suit – claiming a 95% success rate.

Across the travel industry, these announcements have propelled a change in sentiment. Suddenly, from what has been a period of navigating ever-changing challenges, there is some hope.

For our customers, there is reassurance that travel will get back to some semblance of normality in the not-so-distant-future, and this has affected travellers’ attitudes towards booking.

Companies are already reporting increases in enquiries for 2021 holidays following the vaccine news, showing there is pent-up demand among travellers and, as that customer confidence grows, we can begin to look forward to a steady uplift in bookings.

We still have a way to go, however. A recent report from Abta suggests that the number of jobs lost, or at risk of being lost, has almost doubled in the past three months, which reinforces the need for sector-specific support from the government to help businesses survive and give the industry a chance to rebuild.

It’s down to us all to fight and lobby as hard as we can to get the support that’s needed so that when the desire to travel shifts to bookings, we have an industry there to deliver those holiday dreams for our customers.

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