Trade bosses reported no immediate boost to bookings after the report of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce last week.
On Friday (April 9), the taskforce outlined its framework for the restart of international travel, with an initial list of destinations under a ‘traffic light’ system set to be published by early May.
As well as PCR testing requirements, there will be a ‘green watchlist’ that will indicate which ‘green’ destinations may change to ‘amber’.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast on Friday, John Bevan, dnata B2B chief executive for Europe, said: “The consumers are obviously baffled, because there’s been no uptick.
“In February, when they gave us that more positive news, with the roadmap…there was an uptick, quite a considerable one. But at the moment, nothing’s moving.”
The dates for the roadmap out of lockdown were revealed in February, with May 17 given as the earliest possible date for the resumption of non-essential international travel.
Alistair Rowland, chief executive of Blue Bay Travel and chairman of Abta, said: “Since the slight uptick on the February 22 statement, it has been flat, no doubt and bookings generally and – certainly in the long-haul space – have been October onwards.
“Consumers are generally booking really considered trips and taking a very cautious approach.
“Last week, 85% of the business was for October onwards. That just shows that people just don’t really have faith in the short term.”
He also pointed to the cost of PCR tests which is further dampening demand.
“We all want international travel to resume, we all need to make the food chain work,” he said.
“The last thing we want is one step in the chain – private providers of testing – profiteering from the position to stop international travel resuming.
“We should be dealing with a significant uptick, like we all were on February 22.
“None of us are doing that and that just shows the nature of the statements this morning.”
Gemma Antrobus, Haslemere Travel owner and chair of Aito Specialist Agents, told the webcast: “I haven’t had any clients ring today and asked to move anything or do anything. I think they’re just as confused as we are.”
She emailed her clients on Friday with a Q&A to help them understand the implications of the taskforce report “in as manageable a format as possible”.
“There’s no reason to cancel anything, because we don’t know what can happen and what can’t happen,” she said.
“What I hope it does is make people realise that there is hope coming, and it’s not too far away. And we will update clients when we get to that point.
“But I had a new enquiry this morning for a summer holiday for a family to Europe, so not everybody feels the same way.
“Some people are more bullish about travel, and they’re less destination-specific.”
Clients are asking where they can go at a certain time with a certain budget, she added.
She is providing more quotes than normal and can offer advice about centres where customers can get their tests – but “thankfully, no cancellations” yet.
Commenting on the fact that the trade had hoped for more certainty to boost bookings, Bevan said: “My advice to everyone is, for the next three weeks, we’re all going to have to go dark – you’ve got to literally not spend a penny because you’re not going make anything, you’ve got no one departing.
“If no one’s travelling, you’re not making any money. If today carries on as it is, it’s going be very soft until those destinations are announced.”
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