Travel companies see surge in summer bookings from Brits hankering for a holiday

Travel companies are seeing a surge in bookings for late summer, winter and next year from stay-at-home Brits
hankering for a holiday. With foreign travel severely curtailed, enquiries for UK breaks and staycations have sky-rocketed - with tourism chiefs saying they have hit a "record high". Travellers looking to venture further afield have also been putting their plans back until later.

One company has even reported doing six months' business in the space of last month as the crippled sector vowed to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic. Business chiefs say that, with government help and the ramping-up of testing, the industry can see a way through the worst crisis many can ever recall.

The travel industry has been hit hard by the crisis
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was "just a reality of life" that breaks abroad are off limits after the Government announced a 14-day quarantine for international arrivals into Britain. Package holiday giant Tui laid bare the scale of the crisis yesterday as it announced 8,000 job losses.

Days earlier, P&O Ferries unveiled 1,100 job cuts and British Airways is proposing up to 12,000 redundancies - more than a quarter of its workforce. Experts predict UK package holiday firms could lose up to GBP5billion worth of sales this year. Research out yesterday from website GoCompare found nearly 14.5 million Britons have cancelled holiday plans because of Covid-19.Tourism body VisitBritain forecasts visitor numbers from abroad will be down 54% this year, with a GBP15.1billon slump in spending.

Travel companies see surge in summer bookings from Brits hankering for a holidayJohn Hays, founder and chief executive of Sunderland-based Hays Travel, says the industry is 'in the eye of the storm'
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John Hays, founder and chief executive of Sunderland-based Hays Travel, which bought collapsed Thomas Cook's 550 shops last year, saving more than 2,000 jobs, said: "The whole travel industry is in absolute crisis.

It is in the eye of the storm." But wife Irene, who chairs the business, is adamant the industry can "absolutely" recover. The chain, which has not made any redundancies during the crisis, says around 70% of existing customers are deferring their bookings to later this summer, rebooking or getting credit notes.

Around 3,000 furloughed staff are back working on full pay dealing with refunds - Irene says some travel operators are "dragging their heels" - or handling a rush of new bookings. John said: "Some of our agents did in April what they would do in six months. We are seeing people wanting overseas holidays and even cruises, which is really strong."

The couple said their "peace of mind" guarantee - allowing customers to cancel or amend their holiday for free up to six weeks before departure - has helped. The couple, who have reduced their pay to minimum wage to cut costs, have no regrets about buying Thomas Cook's retail arm.

Travel companies see surge in summer bookings from Brits hankering for a holidayHealth Secretary Matt Hancock said it is "just a reality of life" that breaks abroad are off limits
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Irene said they have an 18-month business plan that "doesn't make for pretty reading," but adds that no redundancies are planned. John says the one single thing that could help restore confidence is testing for the virus: "People could be tested before they got on the aircraft.

"If there were good, reliable tests, it would reassure people. It could make a big difference." Tui said it is ready to resume providing holidays this year, using new social distancing and cleaning measures.

Chief executive Fritz Joussen said: "Demand for holidays is still very high. People want to travel." Steven Freudmann, chairman of the Institute of Travel and Tourism, said: "Enquiries for staycations are at a record high.

"People are getting frustrated and are making plans for summer holidays even though the two metre rule applies. They want to get out of their homes." Dr Freudmann said government advice to the industry and to travellers has been "extremely vague" with "no detail".

It has led to confusion among tourists hotspots, many of which have urged visitors to stay away. Many pubs and restaurants still do not know when and how they can begin operating. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said: "We need continued and flexible support on furlough, rents and insurance, so that businesses can plan ahead, save livelihoods and help to drive economic recovery."

Getting to and from Europe

France

  • Borders closed to all but residents.

    Restrictions expected to remain until at least mid-June.

  • No plan to quarantine UK arrivals by land, air, sea or train.
  • Hotels, restaurants, bars, and cafes could begin reopening from early June.
  • Quarantine not required on return to UK.

Spain

  • Air borders open, but arrivals must justify visiting. Land borders shut until May 24.
  • All foreign visitors from this Friday will have to quarantine for 14 days.
  • Hotels on some Balearic and Canary Islands reopened last week, more following this week.
  • Beaches have reopened along with outside terraces at bars and restaurants.
  • Quarantine required on return to UK.

Italy

  • Only travel in case of absolute necessity.
  • Arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days, and carry a form self-certifying reason for travel.
  • All hotels and bars are currently closed.
  • Quarantine required on return to UK.

Greece

  • No flights from UK, but several airlines plans to resume services in the coming weeks.
  • 14 days' self-isolation on arrival.
  • Shops open with social distancing. Hotels open in June.

    Quarantine on return to UK.

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