Travel agents report sustained sales recovery

Travel agents have reported the start of a sustained sales recovery with many enjoying a bumper weekend for bookings.

A week on from confirmation all tests for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK will be dropped from February 11, firms said the easing of rules had been key to boosting and maintaining consumer confidence and sales.

Premier Travel reported sales at a “high level constantly since mid-January”, with 44% of bookings last week for departures up to May. Sales on Monday this week exceeded the equivalent day in 2019 by 19%.

Director Paul Waters said: “We believe these [volumes] will continue and if so this would put February ahead of where we were in 2019. We’re feeling very positive for February.”

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The Advantage Travel Partnership said trading was back to 2019 levels, with sales boosted further by clients receiving January pay packets.

Leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “Revenue continues to climb on a weekly basis. Pay day helped and the variety of destinations being booked is increasing each week.”

Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson reported “some of the best days we’ve seen since pre‑pandemic”, with customers “booking multiple trips in one go” and one “returning to store straight from the airport to book holidays for the rest of the year”.

But she warned Spain’s entry rules were one of the “challenges ahead”. From this week, visitors aged 12 and over must show proof of a second Covid-19 vaccination received within 270 days of travel or a booster jab administered more than 14 days before entering Spain.

Dobson said Spain’s rules “don’t make things easy ahead of half-term, but we’ve been communicating all changes to affected customers”.

Designer Travel managing director Amanda Matthews said the agency was ensuring customers booking late Spain deals had the necessary vaccinations, but said a “large chunk” of bookings had rolled over from previous years due to Covid.

Matthews also warned of “little availability” to move families who can’t go to the Canaries for half-term to other sunshine destinations if the vaccine rules affect them, which “will lead to amendments or cancellations”.

Advantage also expects Spanish entry rules to cause cancellations over the coming months.

Chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “Spain not recognising proof of recovery will cause issues for imminent half term departures.

“As well as family bookings, we also need to consider that for those who have recently recovered from Covid, and may have had to delay a booster or second jab due to the illness, now must wait 90 days until they are able to receive their next jab.

“This could therefore take us into the start of the summer period, meaning that this could very well cause cancellation issues over the next few months for agents and tour operators alike.”

Lo Bue-Said said the changes demonstrated the importance of travel professionals’ advice at this time.

“It has never been so important to book with a travel agent who will be able to guide travellers through the various requirements,” she said.

Picture credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock 

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