Is dynamic packaging worth it post Covid-19?

Extra profit does not justify the risk, says Rebound Consulting’s Steve Endacott

Although the large majority of Atol applications were renewed on September 30, it is noteworthy that 176 companies, or 20%, did not renew this time.

The expected sharp decline in the use of retail consortia Atols will, however, be less visible.

Readers may remember that I fought hard against Abta’s acceptance that flight-plus Atols should be replaced with full Atols for agents as part of the implementation in the UK of the European Package Regulations. I argued that, unlike traditional tour operators, travel agents did not control the airline supply and should not be held liable for the airlines’ actions as the Atol ‘principal’, or organiser of the package.

My fear at the time was that the financial risk the agent was being forced to take on was unreasonable, as the new rules – in place since 2018 – make them responsible for the replacement of any flight element of a package if an airline failed.

I felt it was illogical for customers to be able to buy unbonded holidays on the same flights using Google and accommodation providers like Booking.com, but as soon as a travel agent or homeworker was involved the transaction needed to be bonded. The extra cost, and risk, of agents bonding would make agents less competitive on price compared to customers DIY booking themselves, creating an even bigger unprotected market.

This disadvantage, in recent years, has been exasperated by what is bordering on an abuse of power by low-cost airlines in terms of the point of sale booking fees they impose on travel agents, but not direct customers.

For example, EasyJet demand a whopping £12 per person per return flight to book over their API, which amounts to £48 for a family of four. There is no technical reason for this charge as the cost of the fare when booking over an XML API is exactly the same as customers booking on a website.

In reality, the charge is aimed at making sure the airlines get a large chunk of the agents’ DP profit and at the same time make their own in-house tour operations, who don’t pay this fee, look more competitive on price.

EasyJet are not alone in this behaviour, with Jet2.com constantly changing its point of sale fee, seemingly based on flight demand. Ironically, this pushed a lot of agents to book flights with Ryanair, which has not provided a chargeable access point because it doesn’t recognise agents’ right to book flights and knows agents can screen scrape or manually book on their site.

Heavy use of Ryanair has backfired on many agents during the massive disruption caused by Covid-19, with Ryanair making it as difficult as possible for agents to reclaim monies for cancelled flights.

Ryanair has clearly prioritised direct refunds over the claims of customers who have booked via agents because when the customer loses patience they will recharge the merchant who cleared their card, so the travel agent and not Ryanair.

Agents who operate trust funds are faced with another major issue as trust fund rules state that customer funds cannot be released until the customer returns from holiday.

Historically, agents have used a combination of low-cost insurance policies and virtual cards, which provide reclaim protection, in order to pay low-cost carriers on booking. However, the insurance markets are no longer willing to back the financial security of any of the major low-cost carriers, because they believe the bigger you are the harder you’ve been hit by Covid-19. This leaves agents reliant on virtual cards and the recharge route which, although highly effective in the case of airline collapses such as Monarch and Thomas Cook, has been much slower in forcing refunds for cancelled flights.

Given the constant chopping and changing of FCDO advice and quarantine restrictions in summer 2020, the extra profit available from dynamically packaging probably does not justify the extra risk of agents using their own Atols in 2021. So expect a large surge in bookings for Jet2holidays, EasyJet Holidays and companies like On the Beach, who provide a bonded dynamic packaging platform via trade brand Classic Package Holidays.

Ironically, this may come at the expense of Ryanair, which may yet regret trying to close down travel agent operations since its poor customer service record makes it unlikely that holidaymakers will trust the airline with their full holiday booking.

So having been at the forefront of the growth of dynamic packaging, I am now forced to advice that for anybody but a large online travel agency, the risk may now be too great to make it worthwhile.

Time for ‘deep hibernation’

The government confirmed the end of its ‘stay at home’ furlough scheme last week and the introduction from November 1 of a Job Retention Scheme aimed at saving “viable” jobs.

As long as you can provide staff productive work for 33% or 1.65 days a week and pay them “full salary for this time”, the government will help you retain staff by paying a further 22% of their salary as long as the employer matches this amount.

This is a good deal for employees as it means they get 77% of their normal salary for working a very short week, but at first glance may be less attractive to employers who are paying 55% of normal wages.

In the travel sector, ‘Quarantine fear’ will kill forward bookings for summer 2021 which, combined with airline capacity cuts of around 60% for winter, means travel companies will struggle through the winter with sales at around 30% of last year’s.

I am hopeful a rapidly expanding Covid-19 testing capability, driven by new low-cost saliva-based testing will allow the government to replace 14-day quarantine with two-stage Covid-19 testing.

However, this or a vaccine is unlikely to be in place until March-April, meaning Summer 21 will be an extremely late-booking market and survival until then becomes the absolute priority.

I, therefore, recommend travel companies go into a ‘deep hibernation’ and reduce costs as much as they possibly can, until demand returns hopefully from April 2021 onwards.

For online businesses, things are relatively simple as their platforms automatically scale down and then right size when demand returns. Life is much more complex for high street shops and homeworking networks.

The gamble is how many experienced sales staff can you afford to retain during the hibernation period in order to be ready for a surge when it comes?

This will vary depending on the financial health of travel companies and their attitude to risk.

The most conservative approach would be to cut staff by 70% to match demand and simply assume there will be plenty of unemployed staff waiting for jobs when demand comes back.

However, companies which value the expertise and loyalty of their staff will take advantage of the government scheme and rotate three staff to complete one full-time equivalent’s hours.

Yes, this will cost them 165% of a normal person’s salary, but it will give them an expandable, well-trained and loyal staff base to exploit the upturn.

 Unfortunately, to afford this extra expense, companies will have to cut elsewhere. The brunt of redundancies and cuts this time around will have to come from those closest to the people in charge i.e. directors and senior managers who may have been with the business for a long time.

These are the hardest people to let go. But, brutally, if you have fewer staff to manage, you need less management.

Travel Companies are also under a great deal of pressure to process remaining customer refunds, with most having received letters from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and heavy hints that the CAA will not be renewing licences unless refunds have been paid.

Unfortunately, these same bodies seem less able to pressure airlines like Ryanair which are clearly making agents lives a nightmare when trying to obtain clients’ refunds.

Given the high proportion of businesses backed by venture capital (VC) or private equity in the travel sector, it was great news that the government has extended access to the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) to VC-backed businesses.

It also extended repayment timescales to 10 years, dramatically reducing short-term payments.

It’s going to be a tough winter, but those companies which can go into deep hibernation will emerge to a travel sector with reduced competition and a large amount of pent-up consumer demand.

“Redundancy Day” Looms large for Travel Companies.

The end of Furlough is looming large and unless the Government announces a major job retention scheme in the next two weeks, at the beginning of October millions of people will be given one month’s notice to ensure the Government effectively subsidises notice periods with furlough pay and employers only have to pay statutory redundancy.

I fully accept that the Government does not have bottomless coffers and support the end of a “furlough” scheme, which effectively incentives staff to stay at home. However, for sectors like travel, which have been put on hold by Covid-19 for the foreseeable future, a scheme to allow employers to keep staff on their books until a rebound is essential.

Why not take the average cost of unemployment benefit and pay it to employers as long as they also contribute to top up staff salaries? To avoid abuse and the advent of artificially subsided wages, only staff currently on furlough should be considered for such a scheme, as it needs to be about retaining jobs and not creating new cheap labour for employers.

The % amount of a salary this represents will obviously vary between employee, but it is likely to be only 60% plus for lower-paid staff. However, I know plenty of travel agents who would love the opportunity to stay in the industry during this downturn, if they could get paid a sensible amount more than sitting on the dole.  

Some staff may be able to get better-paid work elsewhere, but post-November if nothing is done, many more will remain unemployed and unproductive.

When it comes to senior staff the subsidisation maths simply does not work and many employers are now faced with a second wave or redundancies where nobody is safe.

Senior staff who seemed indispensable at the start of Covid-19 are now expensive liabilities that many businesses can no longer afford. Too many businesses have got rid of the doers and are now far to top-heavy with managers.

As an industry, we have to face that fact that “Quarantine Fear” will cause January sales to be 40-50% of last years if we are lucky and an upturn will only come, when and if, two-stage airport Covid-19 is recognised by the Government as an alternative to 14-day Quarantine.

Many businesses if they are to survive, need to go into an even deeper hibernation in order to retain enough cash to survive until an upturn hopefully comes next summer, but also plan for a scenario where it does come for a further 18 months.

Firms need to follow the example of innovators like John and Irene Hays, who have secured lucrative Government contracts to operate Covid-19 testing hotlines and track/trace calls. Those contracts may now be tied up but turning your expensive staff into part-time consultants for non-travel sectors is a possibility, particular regards IT programmers and senior customer service managers used to driving efficiency in large call centres.

Also consider noncash mergers with rivals to combine overheads and customer bases or as a last resort a “pre-packing” the business to save as many jobs as possible, if you’re facing the precipice of bankruptcy.

It’s time for tough decisions and I know from personal experience that writing a blog is a lot easier than having to take the actions required.

I can only wish all of today’s industry leaders the best of luck, during these torrid times

Covid-19 Youth Rebellion is coming.

I remain amazed that young people, who have virtually nothing to fear from Covid-19 have allowed the older generation to disrupt their lives so greatly with Covid-19 restriction.

Firstly, we locked down the country entirely, with everybody confined to home for weeks with only essential shopping and limited exercise allowed and only gradually have we opened up restaurants, pubs and gyms, with nightclubs and Universities remaining in short term lockdown.

Away in Croatia last week, ahead of its imminent shut down I spoke to a group of 20-year olds, who seemed surprised at my questions about a youth rebellion.

One commented “Mate, why would we rebel when we’ve just had 4 months paid holiday to laze around the house. I’m back to work now, so all’s good”.

It will, however, be interesting to see if attitudes harden once Furlough ends, millions are added to the dole queue and the toughest economic recession of our life takes a grip. Unfortunately, it’s the less experienced younger workforce who are set to be hit hardest.

At the moment the government has been able to balance unpopular lockdown decisions with billions in giveaways, including CIBIL loans, rebound loans, eat out to help out schemes and tax cuts on housing stamp duty. But the “Cookie” jar is nearly empty and tougher days lay ahead.

The Travel Industry is also beginning to rebel, with holiday insurance being extended to allow travel “against FCO advice” for the first time ever to a mass-market holiday destination. Rock Insurance received numerous requests for such a product, but initially, the insurance underwriters were reluctant to go against the UK Governments clear desire to stop overseas holiday this year. However, Airlines continue to fly to destinations against FCO advice and there is clearly a need for customers to be insured.

Some OTA’s are also taking the stance that FCO’s advice is just that “Advisory” and continuing to operate holidays to destinations like the Balearics and Canaries, which statistically have lower R rates than many parts of the UK.

I understand the Governments desire to prevent the creations of a second Covid-19 spike in the UK from returning holidaymakers, but think it’s highly hypercritical to take a regional approach to lockdown measures in the UK, but insist on blanket 14-day Quarantines across the whole of Spain when the Balearics and Canaries as separate Islands clearly have Covid-19 under control.  Unfortunately, politicians don’t like admitting to having made mistakes and we will have to wait a few more weeks before the Government quietly adds these destinations back to the Green list, even though absolutely nothing will have changed.

It is the “Fear of Quarantine” that its likely to do the most damage to the UK travel industry, as I fear it will devastate forward bookings for Summer 21 in January.

If you’re a holidaymaker, why are you going to book early and take the risk that a destination will or will not be quarantined when your due to depart?

I think the best possible solution is for the Industry to implement a recognised and app certified “cross-industry” testing certificate that allows customers to leave quarantine after 5 days. This would require Airport testing, with a further test at home 4 days later. From my own investigations, it would appear that 30-minute airport testing is now available for as little as £15 per person and home testing or local pharmacy testing will shortly be rolled out. However, the scheme needs to be recognised by Government and therefore must be back by industry bodies like ABTA.

Instead of focusing on price this January, we need as an industry to focus on removing “Quarantine Fear” and providing booking flexibility that allows customers to move holiday destinations free of charge if they have any Covid-19 related fears.

Rather than wait for Government to act, we must apply self-help and move forward fast with a single industry solution that allows an effective alternative to the killer 14-day Quarantine.

Corona-19 arrival tests need to replace Quarantine

Having returned from Holiday in Ibiza on Saturday morning, I feel very lucky to have avoided the Government’s illogical 14-day Quarantine imposed as a blanket measure across the whole of Spain.

Having seen the figures relating to the spike in Corona-19 cases in regions of Mainland Spain, I can understand the need to change FCO advice,  to not to fly to airports near these locations and even the need for a Quarantine period, until a less “Crude” anti-transition mechanism is put in place.

However, telling holidaymakers that it is OK to travel to the Balearics and Canary Islands under FCO advice, but then imposing a 14-day Quarantine period on return defies logic and needs to be strongly challenged by the travel Industry.

I live in Rochdale which has been on the amber lockdown warning for weeks, due to the high number of local cases but I’m still being encouraged by the Government to go to work and to “Help out by Eating out”,  even though the infection rate is higher than in my holiday location of Ibiza. Where’s the logic?

The Government also does not understand the need to keep FCO Travel advice and Quarantine rules in sync.

FCO advice not to travel to a destination instantly invalidates Travel Insurance and forces airlines and tour operators to offer customers a full refund or free change of holiday date. However, advising customers they can travel to the Balearics and Canaries, but imposing 14-day Quarantine creates a massive conflict situation between travel agents and customers.

Some customers will still want to travel, but many will argue that they cannot afford to be off work for a further 14 days after they return from their 7-day holiday and will want to cancel or change dates.

However, low-cost carriers like Ryanair with no FCO advice not to travel will continue to operate their flights as the costs of “Stop-Start Flying” are very high. This means any agent who has dynamically packaged a holiday to that destination will not be able to claim a refund or change the flight without fees, which will need to be passed onto their customers. Many customers simply want to cancel and get their money back, causing conflict and reputational damage.

Unfortunately, even Insurance policies including Covid-19 cover do not provide cancellation cover for what is termed, a “Disinclination” to travel, caused by the 14-day return home Quarantine. This leaves holidaymakers who want to cancel completely out of pocket and unhappy.

The speed of the imposition and the blanket nature of the Quarantine across the whole of Spain will do massive damage to future holiday bookings.

Why would you book in January, if a second or third wave could occur in a holiday destination leaving you out of pocket?

The only solution is for the travel industry to take control of the situation and implement the more logical “Test, Track and Trace” methodology for any customers entering the UK.

Customers could then be given a choice of a 14-day Quarantine period or the option to pay for a Corona-19 test at their arrival airport. They would then need to travel directly home to isolate, operating a full track and trace of who they meet, until they can receive their test results, which can now be delivered by email or text alert within 7 hours.

This is a much more logical and focused procedure that delivers the same results. More importantly to the travel industry, it will increase confidence to book and allow Insurance policies to be created to cover the small risk of individuals returning home with Covid-19 and needing to isolate. What insurance will not cover is the economic cost of millions of people having to Quarantine for 14-days.

The only way to fight an illogical Government is with science and logic supported by customers. Just complaining will get the industry nowhere.

We’re entering a new chapter in the UK travel industry

The biggest impact of Covid-19 will be the post-lockdown recession we are about to enter, with large scale job losses and economic uncertainty set to hit demand hard.

Most airlines have already cut capacity by 30% next year, but with fuel prices low and aircraft on the ground, capacity could be added back.

Holiday demand will vary across age groups, with over 70s unlikely to travel anywhere in the next year and the 50-70 bracket more cautious, which will adversely impact the cruise and coach touring sectors most.

Cruise lines may be able to mothball some older ships, but any recently-launched and heavily-financed ships will need to operate, forcing a likely excess of supply over demand and amazing value for money, as cruise lines seek to entice younger clients on innovative new itineraries. Brits tend to bounce back fast when there is a bargain to be had!

Mass market beach holidays will also change, as the cost of delivering all-inclusive holidays in a socially distanced environment soar. Most Mediterranean all-inclusive hotels rely on buffet food delivery and low staff-to-guest ratios, however these costings go out the window when social distancing rules require large increases in staffing to deliver “table service” dinning.

A number of all-inclusive hotels will not open their doors this summer, even though holiday makers are now returning, as the cost of delivering the board basis sold exceeds the price it was sold at. Normality may return for summer 2021 but hotels may price cautiously until the know, forcing all-inclusive prices up.

Post Covid-19 customer demand will, naturally, move towards accommodation offering more isolation, boosting self-catering, villas and Airbnb-style private accommodationsales as customers steer away from crowded hotel pools and buffet dining.

Destination choice will be impacted massively by further Covid-19 flare ups and we are already seeing destinations and hotels moving to reassure customers with free medical insurance included as part of their holiday offering. Alternatively, destinations like Dubai are demanding evidence of Covid-19 medical insurance or personal guarantees before allowing tourists in.

The Covid-19 lockdown may boost activity and adventure holidays. Let’s face it, you’re either fatter or fitter after lockdown. Many people will have got used to taking long walks or bike rides during lock down and are likely to want more active holidays to replicate the feel-good factor this has given them.

Domestic and self-drive holidays are set to boom as cars provide sanitised travel for family bubbles. Having free access to the NHS and less distance to travel in the case of emergency will also be considerations.

How quickly parents are willing to take their children overseas again will be the key issue in January sales. If you’re transferring a summer 2020 booking you are likely to rebook early, but how many will commit early for a summer 2021 holiday with Covid-19 uncertainty still rife. The hangover of summer 2020 holidays being rebooked with no new cash or commission is going to hit profits and demand as most people are unlikely to book two holidays for summer 2021.

Traveling through airports will take longer while compulsory luggage check-in remains in place, and I’d expect airlines to increase the cost of carrying luggage and airports to charge more for “fast pass security clearance” as all seek to make more from fewer customers travelling.

Booking routes may also be impacted by Covid-19, with many retailers having lost loyal customers because of the refund log jam caused by airlines. A lot of brand damage has been done, although Travel Counsellors and On the Beach seem to have fared better than most.

Booking channels with high human interaction may do well as customers seek reassurance about what happens if Covid-19 flares up again and causing further holiday disruption. However, OTAs’ low deposits and offers of final payment two weeks before departure may counterbalance this.

If you have not decided how to implement video conference tools such as Zoom into your sales process, you’re behind the curve. Sharing online content and seeing customers’ buying signals will markedly improve conversions.

We are now at the start of the beginning.

It’s not just to the restart of holiday travel, but also a new chapter in the UK travel industry’s evolution.

Face masks on public transport will increase confidence to fly

The government’s announcement that wearing a face mask on all public transport is now compulsory may seem an odd thing for the UK travel trade to celebrate, but it is, in fact, a major plank in a return of holiday travel.

It effectively admits that two-metre social distancing measures are not practical in all elements of everyday life, and can be replaced with simple personal protection measures like face masks. If personal protective equipment (PPE) can effectively protect NHS staff in medical environments where there is a 100% infection rate on Covid-19 wards, it’s logical to assume similar measures can protect travellers on public transport when the average infection rate in the general population is a lot lower.

The more the public move away from blanket two-metre social distancing to using face masks as an alternative protection mechanism, the faster they will become comfortable with flying. What is the difference between a train or bus station and an airport? If you can spend one or two hours on a train, then why not a plane? In reality, aircraft are a lot safer than trains, tubes and busses, because aircraft air filtering systems create a sterile environment close to that of an operating theatre.

The move also further undermines the government’s illogical and compulsory 14-day self-isolation period imposed on all arrivals to the UK from June 8. If face masks neutralise any incremental risk of flying, then the only other potential risk is from countries with a higher “R” [reproduction] rate compared to the UK. There is no logic to thinking holidaymakers are at a greater risk on holiday than in their day-to-day environment in the UK. Countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal all have lower R levels.

I continue to think the travel industry needs to force the government’s hand via co-operation, rather than conflict. It has never been more clear that the government does not really care about the survival of the outbound travel sector, evidenced by its response to industry dismay at the financial damage the 14-day quarantine threatens.

One such collaborative move would be to make the filling out of track and trace forms and, in the future, downloading the government’s app, part of the flight booking process. If this was complemented by Covid-19 testing at airports for both arrivals and departures, then there is no way the government could resist the lifting of the quarantine.

We shouldn’t need to do all of the above to have the government lift the quarantine, but committing towards working on implementing these Covid-19 protections would massively strengthen our position with the government, as well as providing assurance to the traveling public that travel is still relatively safe, even before a Covid-19 antidote is available.

Can we and should we save our High Streets?

Tui CEO Fritz Joussen commented in Tui’s recent results, that the tour operator would be putting more emphasis on digitalising sales and moving them online, at the expense of its high street network, because he felt that the Covid-19 outbreak has forced shopping habits further online.

In the short term, it’s difficult to argue against this theory, as most high street shops will remain shut until 1st June 2020 at the earliest. A full lockdown of 3 months, which has forced customers to move online.

This trend is set to continue as Social distancing and restrictions, preventing customers from trying on clothes, will further damage this distribution channel. Customers may be willing to queue outside supermarkets for food, but will they be willing to enter 10-15 separate queues on a “browsing” Saturday shopping trip.

We are likely to see a growth in “Cross Channel” shopping, where customers review samples in the flesh, but ease the shopping process, by capturing a QR code and ordering their size for home delivery via their phones or even gain “Fast Pass” appointments to return later to beat queues.

However, I do feel these “natural” changes are being accelerated by imbalanced taxation structures, where “business rates” are strangling the high street. Although high street rents are reducing to reflect the balance between supply and demand, business rates continue to increase as local council’s become desperate for revenues to balance their books.

On the other hand, we hear regular reports about how internet retail giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon via clever legal structures, are paying minimal taxation in the UK as a whole and zero to local councils.

If we want to save our high streets, I propose an increase of online VAT payments to 25%, with the extra 5% being allocated to the postcodes that goods are delivered too. It would take no more than 2-3 days to create the computer programs required to “tag” sales with the postcode they are delivered to, along with the 5% Vat attributable, so that it could be paid to central government and then passed on to fund local councils.

This new VAT income, which is similar to “state sales taxes” in the USA, would allow local councils to reduce business rates and rebalance cost structures in favour of the high street.

However, do customers want to save the high street?

I believe that the high street is a key plank in the UK’s Social community, providing an opportunity for all ages to meet and spend time with friends, shopping and enjoying a coffee or in my case a quick beer.

Do we really want grate swaths of derelict town centres to spring up, because of our consumerist desire for cheaper online goods?

The answer may well be yes, but lets at least allow shops to fight on a level playing field, by counterbalancing business rates with a higher online VAT bill.

It’s a simple and deliverable idea.

Turn Travel Agencies into Track and Trace facilities?

The government’s 14-day self-isolation policy for returning holidaymakers has effectively put a ban on flight-based overseas holidays for summer 2020.

It has also left many travel companies with excess staff they would obviously like the government to continue supporting through furlough, as well as unused retail facilities.

The policy effectively puts travel staff in the same bracket as pubs and clubs as the last sectors to be able to return to work. There is, therefore, a strong argument for government assistance.

However, a continuation of furlough by sector is fraught with difficulties, and you can easily see some taxpayers objecting to the government continuing to pay substantial subsidies for some sectors while their staff take risks returning to work as they struggle with the economic downturn.

So how about an extension to the furlough scheme for travel in exchange for becoming a “track and trace” resource?

One radical solution, to mitigate any backlash, would be for the travel sector to take a leaf out of the wartime “Land Girls” and ask: ’What can we do for our country in the war against Covid-19?’

The travel community currently has multiple empty shops on most UK high streets. These are equipped with modern computer equipment and staff used to dealing with members of the public.

Why not re-purpose these shops and the large call centres travel business operate, into coronavirus track and trace facilities in the short-term.

In order for the government to effectively operate appointment-based testing, along with complex track and trace contact strategies, it will need to dramatically ramp up the volume of staff it has.

These staff will need to operate a brand new technology platform and to follow up automated alert-based contact with phone calls to reassure people and to make next-step arrangements. In some cases, this will just involve self-isolation. But in many, it will require testing for Covid-19.

To be 100% clear, I am not suggesting travel agency staff take frontline testing roles; this clearly carries a risk of infection and is likely to continue to be operated by medical professionals or the Army.

However, I do think the travel community does have some excess resource the Government could rent on a short-term basis, allowing travel business to retain staff while mitigating costs when travel remains on effective lockdown.

Besides asking what the government is going to do for travel, maybe we should be asking ourselves what can we do for our country?

The quicker we win the war against Covid-19, the quicker we can return to sending people on holiday and rebuilding our prosperous industry; like those who remained at home during World War Two, we may have to re-invent ourselves for a period of time.

Could an early holiday restart cause more customer complaints?

Airlines could consolidate flights and not everyone will be raring to go, says Steve Endacott

Greece’s announcement that it is suspending its travel ban and allowing hotels to open from June 1 is obviously welcome news for the UK travel industry.

I personally expect its example to be followed by other destinations, such as Spain’s Balearics and Canaries, which will struggle to access surges in self-drive domestic markets, as they require inbound flights to deliver the volume of tourism required to support their hotel infrastructure.

We all know that social distancing simply does not work for beach holidays, as it is virtually impossible to deliver this at airports, on flights or at large buffet-style hotels.

However, the government’s need to get the UK back to work should provide the solutions we need in travel shortly as testing and tracking replaces lockdown and self-isolating as the key methods of stopping the spread of Covid-19.

Unfortunately, travellers will probably have to get used to the wearing of face masks and gloves while flying, as well as airport testing, before international ‘immunity passports’ are agreed.

In the meantime, not all destinations will open up for UK visitors and we still wait with bated breath to see if the UK government will introduce 14-day quarantine measures for returning Brits on Sunday, when the program for relaxing lockdown and back to work measures are expected to be announced.

Another key consideration is whether UK customers are ready to return to holiday travel yet.

I know I am, and if allowed I would travel on all the trips I have booked as I have paid for them and getting a refund, as we know, is problematic, to say the least. I hope customers will be equally gung-ho, but fear many will not.

EasyJet has already announced that a return to flying by lowcost carriers will be gradual and this may require flight consolidation.

Airlines currently define it as a ‘minor’ change, requiring no compensation, if a flight is changed within six hours of the original departure time. It is therefore likely that airlines will try to consolidate all passengers booked to depart on a day to a single destination, eg Majorca, onto one flight. Airlines will no longer have to refund customers once they can get one flight per day to a destination from a departure airport.

If they adopt a more brutal approach, they may try to consolidate customers from a departure region, says the North West, into one airport and cancel the other airport’s flights (for example, switch customers from Manchester to Liverpool or vice versa. This is less likely as it would represent a “significant” flight change and force the offering of a refund if the customer does not want to accept it.

The one thing that is guaranteed is that not all customers will be happy to travel because of the threat of Covid-19. Some may wish to cancel but find themselves unable to get their money back if they do so.

Logically, they can only blame the airline. But logic does not always come into it. Unfortunately, travel agents could be soon caught in the middle again, as they will be unable to cancel a holiday because the airline is offering a flight to a destination and the customer cannot claim on their travel insurance because the holiday is operating.

So, as well as some happy customers glad to be able to get away, the industry could soon be facing a second wave of Covid-19 unrest amongst its loyal customers.