Travel bookings ‘bounce’ continues for the trade

The bookings ‘bounce’ has continued as the UK became the first country worldwide to start the rollout of an effective Covid-19 vaccine.

The trade reported two noticeable spikes in demand, for December, and for 2021 and 2022, particularly for high value cruise holidays.

Agents reported further week-on-week sales growth thanks to the vaccine news.

Barrhead Travel’s sales were up 30% to 40% week on week. President Jacqueline Dobson said: “The vaccine has definitely brought hope to prospective holidaymakers. We hope that as details of the vaccine rollout become clearer, the pent-up demand for travel will follow.”

Advantage Travel Partnership reported demand for bucket list trips in 2021 and 2022 as well as for imminent travel. Sales have continued to rise since an initial 62% jump in week-on-week sales in the week after the vaccine announcement. In total, 84% of bookings were for 2021.

Leisure director Kelly Cookes cited the acceptance of antigen testing in the Canaries, new cruise travel protocols and vaccine news for giving people “the confidence to book further ahead”.

Hays Travel cautiously welcomed an increased interest in holidays at a traditionally quiet time for the industry. Chief operating officer Jonathon Woodall said: “Customers have been waiting for the chance to book a much-needed holiday at the end of what has been a very difficult year for us all.”

The agency chain said most bookings were for holidays that came with the Hays Travel Peace of Mind guarantee which allows clients to change or cancel their booking up to six weeks before departure free of charge.

“While bookings are not at the level of our performance during a normal year, it is a measure of optimism and signals the confidence our customers have to book their long overdue holiday with us,” added Woodall.

Individual agencies in Tier 3 areas said the market was tough because of tighter restrictions and difficulties getting Covid tests, but bookings were coming through.

Jill Waite, director of Pole Travel in Failsworth, said: “We’re not getting any walk-in business. We’ve done a couple of bookings but you can’t go anywhere without a test. People are nervous about booking.”

She cited particular difficulty in getting a Covid test 72 hours prior to travel on December 27 because of Christmas Day, a weekend and bank holiday in the days preceding departure.

But Oliver Broad, joint managing director of RB Collection in Lichfield, said: “We are feeling more positive this week.  We’ve had our best booking day for a long time.  In Tier 3 there is no legal basis to stop you going on holiday but it’s a sensitive subject. We have to be delicate with our marketing.”

He admitted: “Conversion rates are low but you have to deal with things in a positive way. It is just as much of a challenge to get a Covid test as to book a holiday. We are lucky we have a company we work with to do postal tests and we know which days the labs are open and the emergency phone numbers.”


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