Agents are increasingly optimistic about trading this autumn and winter as hopes grow of an expanded green list.
The trade said consumer confidence was already building, with shop footfall increasing and more clients interested in last-minute bookings ahead of the transport secretary’s expected traffic light announcement on Thursday.
Some travel agents now predict a “stronger than normal” winter, boosted by the government’s decision to abandon the amber watchlist and its pledge to simplify the traffic light system.
Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan said there was little doubt consumer sentiment was finally changing in the trade’s favour.
“The momentum and sentiment is possibly with us for the first time in a long time, and that’s pushing us on,” he said. “Everyone is saying enough is enough. Is it more risky to be on a sunbed in Majorca or a sweaty nightclub in Stockport?”
He forecast consumer confidence could “flood back into the market” in time for this winter depending on this Thursday’s announcement.
“We are booking lates, seacations and short-haul holidays, and that’s increasing and will continue to increase. The mood music is changing and it could come back quicker than we think,” he said, adding winter-sun holidays could be attractive as they provide a lower risk environment because holidaymakers will be outside rather than “inside with the heating on”.
Polka Dot Travel director Mark Johnson was also “hopeful of better news this week” following the government’s promise to make the traffic light system as “simple and user friendly as possible”.
He said: “I do believe we are on the home straight and I see brighter skies ahead. I am hopeful of a stronger than normal winter season, which will help agents with cashflow.”
He called for the traffic light system to be scrapped with just a red list left in place. “The rest of Europe is doing it, I am at a loss as to why the UK is not,” he added.
Spear Travels said the “promising” increase in consumer confidence had led to a decision to extend shop opening times.
Chairman Peter Cookson said: “We decided for the first two weeks of August to have a big push and open more days and longer hours at all shops and wave the flag. There hasn’t been a huge upturn in bookings but footfall is much stronger all round and people are asking for brochures, so there’s a bit more optimism out there.”
Advantage Travel Partnership head of business development David Moon said the traffic light update would be key and could “make or break” trading later this year.
“Autumn now comes down to what this week’s announcement looks like to some extent. If the government is genuine in wanting to make the traffic light system simpler and that translates into doing something proactive for the trade, then we will see this autumn take off,” he predicted.
He is already hopeful of a “strong” sales period from September to December based on current demand, with bookings “steadily increasing” week-on-week. Members’ revenue and bookings were 11.5% ahead last week on the previous week.
Moon said: “Last week was definitely stronger; the general feedback is there’s been some of the best bookings since March this year. If you look at the last four weeks compared with the previous four there has been a general increase.”
But he stressed there were large regional differences in sales depending on restrictions in England, Scotland and Wales.
“There is a very different regional experience because people are subject to different rules,” he said, adding: “It will still be a tough winter. We are really reliant on the government taking a more holistic view.”