A new alliance of 120+ UK travel companies – called Save Our Summer – is urging the government to allow overseas holidays to restart on May 1.
Members of the group have combined pre-Covid annual revenues of more than £11 billion and include Trailfinders, easyJet Holidays, Travelopia and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
They are urging consumers to ignore ministers’ “don’t book” travel advice and guarantee that anyone booking through them will be entitled to either a refund or a change of date if travel is cancelled or not possible due to government Covid-19 restrictions*.
The members argue that vulnerable groups in the UK should have been vaccinated twice by mid-May, leading to reduced Covid pressure on the NHS.
The UK government said it hit its target of giving the first four priority groups their first jab on Sunday, and confirmed 15 million jabs had been given out so far.
Without a target date for the re-opening of overseas travel, the group fears consumers will delay booking due to lack of confidence. They point to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which suggests up to 2.4 million travel and tourism jobs in the UK could be lost as a result.
Tui chief executive Fritz Joussen last week hailed the UK’s ‘amazing’ vaccination progress, and said “there is no reason to be pessimistic” about the summer.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren called for a UK government plan to lift restrictions on travel.
But Emirates president and chief executive Sir Tim Clark warned summer may be “too soon” for a “meaningful restart” of international travel.
Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency and co-founder of Save Our Summer, said: “Give us all a break, Boris. The industry is united in outrage.
“Senior government ministers have done a good job of torpedoing recovery in the travel sector and threatening jobs across travel and tourism.
“UK citizens should ignore their conflicting advice and book summer trips with confidence, knowing that they can get a refund or refix their travel dates if booking through a reputable travel provider signed up to SOS.”
Henry Morley, chief executive of True Travel and co-founder of Save Our Summer, said: “The travel industry stands on the edge of a precipice today. A minister’s job is to protect our industry, not destroy it.
“There must now be a clear roadmap set out from May 1 onwards specifically for travel, in order to reinstate consumer confidence and protect millions of jobs which hang in the balance.”
Save Our Summer is also calling for quarantine measures to be lifted by May 1 and replaced with a more extensive testing programme.
Travel firms can register to join Save Our Summer by visiting sostravel.uk.
Other members of Save Our Summer – also known as SOS Travel – include Mr & Mrs Smith, DialAFlight, Audley Travel, True Travel, Wild Frontiers, &Beyond Group, Elegant Resorts, Campbell Gray Hotels, Celebrity Cruises, Steppes Travel, YourGolfTravel, Ski Solutions, The Turquoise Holiday Company, Teletext Holidays, Plan South America, Oxford Ski, The Thinking Traveller, Bellini Travel, True Luxury Sport, Chef Jason Atherton of The Social Company and Kevin Pietersen, former cricketer and safari lodge owner.
*Travel providers that sign-up to the SOS guarantee that a customer will be offered a refund or be able to change their travel dates if travel is cancelled or not possible due to government Covid-19 restrictions, save in the circumstances where an airline has not refunded the travel provider.