Tourist boards from countries coming off the UK’s red list are ramping up marketing and travel trade campaigns to capitalise on demand for their destinations.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced on Thursday evening (October 7) that the red list will be slashed from 54 to seven countries, with changes coming into effect at 4am on Monday October 11.
Popular long-haul destinations such as Thailand, Japan and South Africa are now back on the radar for holidaymakers as they will not require hotel quarantine upon their return to England.
Ian Utermohlen, South African Tourism’s regional general manager for Europe, said the tourist board is working with the travel trade to instil confidence in the destination.
“With the travel restrictions being lifted, we will resume the hosting of agent fams in the destination and re-establish ‘SAT School’, our trade training roadshow, along with our annual product workshop,” he said.
“South African Tourism will continue to reinforce the positive impact tourism has on jobs, communities and the economy in South Africa; the importance the sector will play in recovery cannot be overstated.”
He said training events are planned such as virtual wine-tasting and the tourist board will interact with agents and operators via its trade social channels, dedicated webpage and email marketing campaigns.
South Africa moved to ‘alert level one’ at the end of September, which reduced the hours of curfew, increased the numbers permitted at gatherings and extended hours when alcohol can be purchased.
The UK is the biggest source market for tourism arrivals into South Africa, which welcomed 467,000 British travellers in 2019 – up by 1.4% year-on-year.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) also welcomed the news from the Department of Transport, which followed a week of speculation about the destination’s removal from the red list.
About one million Brits a year visited the Far East destination before Covid-19.
The tourist board is relaunching a trade promotion to win a place on an agent fam trip, travelling in the first week of December 2021, and it will be at World Travel Market London (November 1-3) with 13 Thai industry partners, to meet agents.
TAT has also restarted 14 tour operator joint marketing campaigns including Gold Medal and Premier Holidays, promoting immediate winter sun getaways and 2022 travel.
A a series of virtual fam trips, including Phuket, Khao Lak, Koh Yao and Koh Samui, has just ended and agents can catch up on these webinars at www.thailandexpert.co.uk.
Chiravadee Khunsub, UK and Ireland director of Tourism Authority of Thailand, said: “We’re heading into peak season, with our best weather ahead. Insights from our UK tour operators tell us there is huge interest in travel to Thailand and thousands of postponed holidays set to be rebooked both for immediate winter sun getaways and departures in 2022.
“[The] announcement gives travellers the much-needed confidence to (re)make travel plans.
“This is really positive new for the Thai tourism industry and has given us much hope for a positive end to the year.”
Thailand has been open to international travellers since July 1 thanks to a ‘Sandbox’ programme.
All arrivals to Thailand must start their itinerary in a ‘Sandbox’ location – such as Phuket (pictured), Surat Thani, Phang-Nga or Krabi – for a minimum of seven nights before being able to visit any other part of the country.
A total of 41,000 travellers have arrived in Phuket, with 135 positive Covid-19 cases detected.
“It is now possible for travellers to enjoy classic Thailand itineraries again such as Phuket-Bangkok-Chiang Mai and experience beaches, the capital city and the mountainous and rural north,” said Khunsub.
“This gives tour operators and British travellers much more choice and flexibility now and opens up island-hopping opportunities and multi-centre itineraries again.”
The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) has launched a campaign to showcase the diversity of the destination, with a video entitled The moments that make Japan.
Jun Jinushi, executive director of the JNTO London office, said: “With the prior successes of the Rugby World Cup and Abta Tokyo, we look forward to welcoming international travellers back as soon as we can.”
Borders are currently shut but the JNTO has been working with key partners, providing Japan travel updates, webinars and workshops. The London team hosted a luxury travel workshop showcasing accommodation and train services, and are promoting their new OTT training platform.
Chris Crampton, UK and Ireland chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, welcomed the update as “finally a positive step in the right direction” with all destinations in the Asia Pacific region now removed from the red list.
“However welcome the progress is, we remain under restrictions without any support. We should not have to feel grateful,” he commented.
“We have had no sector support from the government and have been considered acceptable collateral damage throughout.
“Unlike, for example Germany with no travel list, the red list threat still remains every review period which leaves a sense of uncertainty.
“Yesterday’s announcement isn’t a return to normality and there is still the issue of testing on return to resolve, which also continues to put our colleagues in the UK inbound sector who remain at a major disadvantage to other European countries.
“We must remain passionate in keeping the pressure on the government. We’ve got to keep making the arguments, we’ve got to keep shouting about our fight for sector-specific support. There’s still some way to go.”
Alastair Donnelly, co-founder of Inside Travel Group, which owns InsideAsia and InsideJapan, said it was “positive news” for specialists that no Asia destinations remained on the UK’s red list despite travel still restricted by entry rules imposed by the destinations themselves.
He said : “Although the doors to travel at the other end are still largely shut, the move from the UK government will have a positive effect on consumer travel sentiment to Asia and our specialist destinations.”
The remaining red list countries are all in Latin America: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Danny Callaghan, chief executive of the Latin American Travel Association, welcomed news that some countries in the region were removed from the list but was “at an utter loss” to understand the treatment of the region, and particularly the rationale for retaining Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Panama.
Picture of Phuket by saiko3p/Shutterstock.