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‘Trade’s job to explain travel rule changes to customers’

The trade has been urged to take responsibility to clearly communicate recent travel rule changes to customers and dampen their concerns in order to maintain confidence.

Paul Cleary, managing director of Caribtours, said the government’s decision to reintroduce PCR tests and ask UK arrivals to isolate until they get a negative test had had a knock-on effect on bookings over the weekend.

Cleary said the long-haul operator made fewer bookings on Saturday and Sunday than across weekends over the last four months.

He told a Travel Weekly webcast: “It’s on us [the trade] to communicate the sensible, clear messaging to our clients. It’s our job is to keep this in perspective for them, because they’re not going to get that from any of the [national] media outlets or from government announcements.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the testing requirements on Saturday, but the DfT only confirmed it would come into place at 4am on Tuesday by Sunday.

Jet2holidays’ head of trade Alan Cross agreed it is crucial for agents to remind customers that “helpers” are on hand in resorts to assist in case their holiday was disrupted.

He said it was “more relevant now than ever before for customers to know that there’s a team [in resort], waiting for them to help if anything happens”.

Cross said the entire travel industry was “feeling it” following Saturday’s announcement but that the sector had to explain to customers that restrictions on travel are not as prohibitive as other rules over the course of Covid. “When people stand back and look at the facts, it’s not as bad as it seems at first,” he said.

Cross outlined how Jet2holidays would help customers understand the rules, which will be reviewed after three weeks, and said: “Things are going to change. Things are going to evolve and we need appreciate that this is the world we live in.

“The initial shock from customers is ‘I’m going away at Christmas,’ ‘I’m going away in January,’ I’m going to be in February,’ what’s going to happen? It’s really what’s going to happen within the next two and a half weeks.”

Designer Travel owner Amanda Matthews said last week’s booking levels were the highest in the past two and a half months, making it “a lot easier for us to recover” from the setback than at other times in the pandemic.

“We been up against 2019, for six out of the last 10 months,” she added. “We will carry on doing what we’ve done.

“We might not sell what’s going in the next three weeks now, we’ll move it further out. But we’re always looking for the opportunities.”

Matthews said she was taking 68 employers to Fuerteventura next week for a three-day conference. “I’m going until they tell me I cannot go. We will be on that plane.”

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