The swift pace of vaccinations is buoying bookings for the domestic holiday sector, say agents and operators on a Travel Weekly webcast.
More than 13 million people – almost one in four adults in the UK – have received their first inoculation against Covid-19 since the vaccination programme began in early December.
Three-quarters (77%) of those aged between 70 and 74 – the most recent group to have been invited for the jabs – have had their first vaccination.
Andy Freeth, chief executive of coach tours and UK breaks specialist JG Travel Group, said: “There’s a lot of confidence, particularly the over-60s, all of which will have had a vaccine fairly soon.”
He admitted some consumers remain wary of booking but added: “There will also be thousands and thousands of people every week that are saying that ‘we’re going to be confident and comfortable to travel’.
“Our demographic is an older customer base and we’ve got big family products that are really popular with the trade. Once people have had a vaccine, everything changes.”
He said coach passengers will wear masks and vehicles will undergo deep cleaning.
There will be lower numbers onboard to allow solo travellers to sit alone, and hotels and attractions will also have social distancing and Covid protocols.
“There’s a big enough market for us to have confidence that this year will be good once we come out of this,” he said.
JG Travel Group – which owns Just Go! Holidays, National Holidays and Omega Breaks – is seeing demand for a wide range of holidays, from coastal breaks to special events such as the Chelsea Flower Show and Polar Express festive train trips.
Freeth said customers are booking slightly longer durations – more four and five-night stays instead of two and three-night breaks – from July onwards.
His brands have sent brochures to agencies and 180,000 households and the initial response from customers enables them to tailor their marketing to the more popular holidays.
He said Omega Breaks is the largest coach operator into London and expects theatre trips to resume in May – offering clients the chance to avoid travelling on buses or tubes in the capital.
“We’re going to take customers on the coach, to the hotel, to the show, back to the hotel and home,” he said.
“It’ll be a good way to experience London theatre when it’s up and running.”
Phil Nuttall, owner of the travel agencies Holiday Village and Travel Village, is seeing cottage holidays proving popular, as clients feel they have more control over their surroundings.
He also predicts there will be a pick-up in the coach tours sector and hopes more five-star boutique hotels attract domestic guests.
“I’m sure that there is a market for people to spend money, they want luxury,” he said.
Richard Singer, chief executive of price comparison website icelolly.com, has a database with more families and young couples.
Last summer it launched a range of UK breaks in addition to its traditional overseas beach holidays.
“We are seeing a lot more people searching for beach breaks, so Devon and Cornwall, rather than the Peak District. People genuinely just want to get to the beach,” he said.
“We’re making reasonable volumes of bookings each week, from people who are looking to travel near term, May to June.
“That’s completely opposite to what we’re seeing with our outbound holidays where it’s now September, October, wintersun 2021-22 and into the following year.”