Saga has received positive feedback from travel agents and customers about its new policy requiring customers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The over-50s specialist announced on Wednesday it would require all customers travelling on holidays and cruises in 2021 to be protected from the virus.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast about mature travellers, Iain Powell, head of trade sales and third-party cruise at Saga, said: “It has been an incredibly busy day, since the announcement, and overwhelmingly positive feedback from both guests and travel agents.”
He said research among customers showed that more than 95% would agree with making vaccines mandatory because that would make them feel comfortable about travelling.
“This is really about listening to our customers,” he said.
“We feel hugely positive about the impact it’s going to have on new bookings.”
He said the resumption dates of holidays and cruises have been pushed back to allow for customers to get their second vaccination in time for departure.
“We’re confident that the timeline fits in with the government’s vaccination programme,” he said.
“We’re seeing a lot more positive talk in the media around the government’s vaccination timeline.”
Paul Hardwick, head of commercial at Fred Olsen Travel, said his chain of agencies have a high proportion of mature customers, and they are increasingly keen to book holidays.
“We’re also getting feedback from the shops and our homeworkers that customers are actually ringing us to say they’ve had that letter, that the vaccine is on its way, and they can now start thinking about travel again,” he told the webcast.
“Having some positive news is going to help with consumer confidence…[it] will flow through to more bookings. They are desperate to book.”
However, webcast panellists stressed that vaccination progresss won’t mean that Covid restrictions can be lifted yet.
Stuart Milan, channel director at Riviera Travel, said his company will still require negative tests before passengers board their ship.
“We still haven’t got that data from the government, or whatever source we can, around the transmission of Covid from a vaccinated customer,” he said.
“Destinations are going to be one of the driving factors…we’ve got to stick by their rules and guidelines.”
Powell said the vaccination requirement does not replace the other Covid protocols that are in place for holidays and cruises.
“Some people looked at vaccination as the silver bullet [but] for a period of time, there will be a requirement for us to still operate in a Covid-secure way,” he said.
“A vaccination offers an additional level of reassurance for guests.”
Debbie Marshall, Silver Travel Advisor managing director, said her website’s research showed that 95% of respondents want to have the vaccine, and more than 75% say the vaccine is going to give them the confidence to travel within six months, or to book travel within six months.
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