Domestic breaks offer hope while we await go-ahead for international travel, but margins are thin, says Spear Travel’s Kim Kent.

It’s great to be welcoming customers back into our shops. I only wish we knew where and when we can travel abroad! Trouble is, until the government details its traffic light lists confirming which destinations will or won’t require hotel quarantine on return, customers are very reluctant to commit, which is understandable.

It’s fair to say we are all hoping for a late booking market to at least cover our costs. The million dollar question is, when will it start? It’s clear the government doesn’t understand the intricacies of our sector and our reliance on cash for this summer – it’s very frustrating.

On top of that, the restart will be further hindered by the huge costs of testing, which will prevent many customers, especially families, from travelling. This needs addressing urgently. Hopefully, it will have been by the time the green list is issued.

Many questions 

So many people are desperate to go on holiday, and constantly ask questions about international travel – I only wish I had a crystal ball!

What I do know is that Jet2holidays has suspended all operations up to June 23, while Tui and easyJet holidays say they are still hoping to restart from May 17. I wonder what Jet2 knows that we don’t? It’s all very confusing for everyone and does not give customers confidence to book.

“On the upside, our filing cabinets are looking very healthy for 2022‑23, with some great bookings sitting alongside all the rebooks.”

There is also still uncertainty about vaccine certificates. When will they roll out and in what form?

We know some cruise companies have said you need to have had both vaccines, but people are asking if this applies to all travel. On the upside, our filing cabinets are looking very healthy for 2022‑23, with some great bookings sitting alongside all the rebooks. The business is there, but we won’t see the income on them for a long time.

Domestic dividend 

As questions remain over holidays abroad, we’ve been turning our
minds to the domestic sector, which has a lot more clarity.

Cruise lines’ plans for UK sailings have been a real positive. Even if you can’t get off the ship, the value is amazing. Seven nights in a balcony cabin on Britannia over the August bank holiday for £649 per person? I appreciate cruise is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you would be hard‑pushed to find a four‑star hotel, full board with entertainment, in the UK for this price.

But the UK market can be challenging, as many customers don’t think about using a travel agent for hotel breaks, although we advertise them on social media and window cards. Recently I had two enquiries for hotels in Newquay and Wales. By booking direct, it was £500 cheaper than I needed to charge. That’s our commission!

“Cruise is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you would be hard‑pushed to find a four‑star hotel, full board with entertainment, in the UK for this price.”

The Channel Islands are due to open for travel on April 26. But we still don’t know about testing and the traffic light system, so I can’t see us getting many bookings until more clarity is given. Various other companies offer self‑catering, hotel and tours in the UK, but with limited locations. And the revenue generated on domestic bookings is a fraction of our normal earnings.

So, all in all, it’s difficult to see a way forward until the government publishes its guidelines. Come on, Boris, give us a break!


Spear-Travels

It’s good to be back

Opening the shop after so long has been amazing, and we have had very kind and supportive messages from our clients, which is so encouraging. I like to keep a bright and airy feel to the place, so when you walk it appears welcoming and safe. Although we still have our screens in place, and have to limit the amount of people in the shop, I genuinely believe our customers prefer a face‑to‑face consultation.

“Opening the shop after so long has been amazing, and we have had very kind and supportive messages from our clients, which is so encouraging.”

We’re opening for four hours a day to see how it goes, so I have set up a rota for when the girls can come back in. Customers can see them and they can catch up with what’s new.