Travel firms expect bookings ‘surge’ as day two tests scrapped

Travel companies expect to see a surge in bookings in response to the government removing all Covid testing requirements for vaccinated arrivals into England.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the need to take a lateral flow test by day two will be removed by 4am on February 11.

Jet2holidays, the UK’s second largest Atol holder, said it has already seen an “immediate and dramatic” increase in searches and bookings.

Chief executive Steve Heapy said: “This travel update is a real game-changer for the millions of people who simply want to get away to enjoy their well-deserved holidays.

“Today’s announcement means vaccinated customers can once again book and travel on the normal, hassle-free holidays that they know and love. We applaud the government for taking meaningful action to end a set of measures which were not only unnecessary but also ineffective in tackling the spread of the Omicron variant.

“This should now represent a permanent end to such restrictions, and we know customers and independent travel agents will celebrate that news.”

Jet2 bookings at “pre-pandemic levels”

Jet2 said bookings had returned to “pre-pandemic levels” since the announcement earlier this month that pre-departure tests before travel to the UK and PCR tests for the vaccinated were to be scrapped.

The operator said destinations including the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, mainland Spain, Italy and Portugal are “selling strongly” while Greece, Turkey and Cyprus are “seeing enormous growth” in bookings.

Following the further easing announced today, Heapy added: “With international travel once again starting to look like it did before the pandemic, customers are really jumping at the chance to make that booking, whether it is seeing friends and family, taking a holiday in the sunshine, a city break or a ski break. In response, we are geared up and ready to support our independent travel agency partners with bespoke campaigns and training materials so that they can capitalise on this demand.”

By Tuesday morning (January 25), the operator said bookings had jumped by another 30% when compared with the previous week.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, said the announcement “is without a doubt going to stimulate the industry even further”.

She said: “We now expect to see a further increase in bookings for the half-term holiday in February, the Easter break and the summer holidays.”

Advantage reported “strong demand” for the Canary Islands, with Tenerife its top-selling destination and Spain, Dubai and the Caribbean remaining popular in recent weeks.

Lo Bue-Said added: “Consumer confidence is rising incrementally with every relaxation of the rules. Tests have been the bane of the industry adding confusion, added stress and of course additional cost for travellers.”

However, she warned: “Destination protocols and entry restrictions make travelling incredibly complicated in particular for non-vaccinated travellers.”

Blue Bay Travel also expects to see a bookings boost following the announcement.

Chief executive Alistair Rowland, who is also chairman of Abta, said the change “is positive news for the travel industry” and “will further increase consumer confidence around international travel”.

He noted that “many countries are still requiring travellers to be fully vaccinated” but that “destinations including Mexico, Dubai and the Dominican Republic will accept non-vaccinated holidaymakers”.

Rowland also reported the removal of pre-departure testing in early January led to “a surge in bookings”, and added: “We expect [today’s] news to give bookings a further boost.”

‘Home straight’

Flight Centre UK’ general manager Liz Mathews, said the government’s decision to scrap all UK travel testing requirements “feels like we’re on the home straight, as the travel industry recovers from the impacts of the Omicron variant”.

She added: “We have already seen a huge surge in enquiries in 2022” noting that Flight Centre UK saw its biggest day of bookings since the start of the pandemic on Friday (January 21), which she said was “a direct reflection of the continuous growth in consumer confidence”.

Popular destinations include the US, South Africa and UAE, she said.

Mathews added: “We strongly urge holiday makers to avoid last minute bookings, as pent-up demand is predicted to affect hotel and flight offerings later in the year, as the UK rushes to book holidays.”

And OTA eDreams ODIGEO said the easing of restrictions is “another positive step forward for the travel industry”.

Chief executive Dana Dunne said: “From past experiences, we know the removal of restrictions acts as a booster for consumer confidence. We also know that when consumers have been allowed to travel previously, they have decided to do so with force, this is apparent when reviewing the growth we saw in bookings throughout September, October and November in 2021.

“More recently, in the week after the UK government announced the removal of pre-departure testing, we saw UK flight bookings increase by 35%.

“This news has come at the opportune time, with ski season still in full flow and families looking ahead to Easter and summer holiday breaks.”

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