The boss of the Advantage Travel Partnership has sounded a note of caution about the surge in holiday bookings, as many restrictions look likely to remain into the summer.

Agents, operators and airlines have reported a huge spike in inquiries and sales after the government announced its lockdown exit strategy – but the consortium’s chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said highlighted that those increases in bookings come after almost a year of very little income.

She welcomed the surge, but added: “While we are optimistic at the pent-up demand from consumers and the plan to get the UK out of lockdown, we need to be mindful that the dates outlined are not set in stone and there is a need to err on the side of caution for summer departures.

“Clarity is still needed from government on quarantine hotels, quarantine periods, testing and vaccine passports and until further details have been received from the Global Travel Taskforce and we have a better understanding of the protocols that may be in place, it is highly probable that travel for this summer will be restricted in some way.”

Commenting on the financial challenges facing travel agents, she said: “Following a year that has shaken the industry to its core, many travel agents are still working really hard to rebook their customers who have bookings with departures up to May 17.

“Things are certainly looking better than they were this time last week but there are still a significant number of challenges to overcome.

She said it was “critical” that the chancellor recognises the impact of the pandemic on travel agents in next week’s Budget, adding that agents “have received virtually no income for over a year now with the majority trading -90%.”

“Travel agents have a huge opportunity to offer that balanced, honest perspective which is why we created our Keep Calm & Dream of Travel campaign, to highlight a customer commitment for agents to present to their customers for when the time is right to travel again.

“Travel agents have access to flexible booking options and with the knowledge and guidance that a local travel agent can offer, there has never been a better time for consumers to book a holiday using an agent – but cautious optimism is needed.”

Gemma Antrobus, owner of Haslemere Travel and chair of Aito Agents, tweeted in a similar vein: “I feel it’s really important to say this… there has definitely been an upturn/uptick in enquires and bookings in the past 2 days BUT that does not make up for 13 + months of NO revenue. We STILL need to government to step up and support the industry until we can earn again!”

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