Ministers shouldn’t be telling us not to book summer holidays

Logic dictates that a large-scale outbound market is possible by July, says Steve Endacott

The government undoubtedly has a tough job of balancing saving of lives with economic damage and restrictions of freedoms. On the whole, I think they have done a good job and, like most people, am fully supportive of the current lockdown and ban on overseas travel.

However, I take great exception to ministers telling the public it is too soon to book an overseas holiday for this summer and saying that they are planning a British holiday to Cornwall.

Obviously a domestic break versus an overseas trip is an individual choice, but ministers are massively underestimating the pent-up demand for overseas travel and the reasons behind it.

Holidaymakers like to book well in advance, so they know they have holiday dates booked off work and, more importantly, something to look forward too. That has never been truer than in a Covid-19 world, where we have been in full or partial lockdown for most of the last year and most people have missed out on last year’s annual holiday abroad.

People choose overseas holidays over a UK staycation because they have a much better chance of getting a week of sunshine – and the cost of hotels, eating out and drinks are much better value. How many all-inclusive options that cater for a fixed holiday budget can you find in the UK? Not many.

The impact of Covid-19 has also increased the gap between the ‘haves’ and the have nots’.

If you’ve worked from home through lockdown on full salary, you will have greatly-enhanced disposable income to spend on holidays this year. The average saving level for this sector has risen sharply as spend on commuting, going out and buying clothes have all fallen. This should lead to a boom in more expensive “holidays of a lifetime” to exotic destinations, as people who have woken up to their own mortality start ticking items off their bucket lists, or decide to upgrade their holidays.

Conversely, many people have been furloughed and will have to budget even more carefully if they are to afford overseas holidays. This may lead to a boom in sales to cheaper destinations, like Turkey, or maintain sales of all-inclusive hotels which otherwise look set for a decline due to Covid-19 restrictions and increased delivery costs.

However, all this is irrelevant if the UK Government does not re-instate the ability to travel and also loosen current testing and quarantine rules.

We know that, by the end of February, the majority of the ‘at-risk’ sector of the UK population will have been vaccinated and, by the beginning of the summer holiday season, most over 50s should also be covered. Scientists tell us that vaccinating those two demographics should cut the death rate from Covid-19 by 90%.

Politicians’ policies are invariably based on what will get them re-elected, and therefore when the death rate is cut to 10% of current levels the pressure to move to a ‘living with Covid-19’ phase will become overwhelming.

In this phase, the balance swings to reducing economic damage and lifting restrictions on public freedoms, such as going on overseas holidays.

So, I expect holidays to start again in May 2021 – but inbound testing and quarantine restrictions imposed by the UK government not to be relaxed until July or August, in time to allow UK citizens to travel on mass during UK school holiday peaks.

Therefore, unless new strains overcome vaccinations, logic dictates that the UK government should allow us to go on an overseas holiday this summer. Even if ministers say it’s too soon to book.

But don’t assume all holiday destinations will be letting us in!

The majority of UK holidaymakers will still not have been vaccinated by summer 2021, and the UK may still be living with relatively high infection levels within younger people, who suffer less server symptoms, just as we live with flu.

As we know, Europe as a whole is behind the UK with its vaccination rollout, and some popular but poorer holiday destination such as Turkey may be even further behind and still in the ‘containment’ phase.

It is therefore likely that Covid-19 testing will remain a requirement this summer, with it unlikely that travel corridors removing the need for outbound and inbound testing are reinstated.

As I’ve said before, it’s crucial the cost of testing comes down – and access to government testing capabilities would help greatly. However, having extensively researched the private testing sector in recent weeks, it’s apparent that aggressive directional selling by the travel industry can dramatically push down testing prices, and I’m more relaxed this obstacle can be dealt with.

In my opinion, by July 2021 large scale overseas holidays will be possible – and we can start moving from survival to profitability as an industry.

But, like any Covid-19 prediction, the road to recovery remains fraught with risk due to unknowns.

January Travel Sales? The only certain thing is uncertainty.

Most industry observers are expecting January sales to be only 30-40% of traditional levels because although the news of a Vaccine is a massive boost to consumer confidence, too much uncertainty remains over the speed of the vaccine role out and access to low-cost testing to allow travel.

With hundreds of aircraft sitting on the ground and Jet Aviation Fuel being 37.8% cheaper year on year, flight capacity will return rapidly for Summer 21 once demand returns, creating an “Ultra Late” market for holidays. However, low-cost airlines models yield models are based on low early prices establishing solid load factors before the “lates Market” i.e. within 3 months of departure and natural caution is likely to lead to capacity remaining at 70% of 2019 levels. So less overseas holiday will be sold in 2021 compared to 2019 peak volumes.

Travel companies January marketing will have to change to reflect changes in the mix of customer types booking and the types of products demanded. However, there are so many variables at play, it’s hard to predict these changes with any certainty, requiring a “measure and react fast” policy.

A key impact cutting across all passenger types is the increased differential between the “Have’s” and the “Have Not’s”.

The impact of Covid-19 lockdown measures have not been felt equally across all industries or employment sectors. If you have been working throughout Covid-19, you will now have increased disposable income having spent less in lockdown and have a large number of holiday days left to use. However, many people have been furloughed or made redundant, making these customers unlikely to be in the holiday market this year.

There are a few trends that can be predicted however

Families. Traditionally, 60% of January sales come from families booking early to secure the right hotels during school holiday periods. With the costs of Covid-19 tests currently at £120 per person per test, it’s hard to see families booking in January, as the combined cost of inbound and outbound tests, in theory, could be as much as £960 per family, which is just untenable for a mass-market beach holiday.

Older customers. Ironically, this could be the first market to return to booking, as they have the greatest certainty of being able to get a vaccination and have been locked down the hardest over the last 9 months. Covid-19 has reminded us all of our own mortality and the importance of enjoying life while we are healthy enough to do so but apply this to an age group with the finances and time to travel and you can easily see surge in bookings from this sector. Cruise is the obvious beneficiary but watch out for growth in demand for destinations like Cyprus, Malta and Benidorm that have older customer profiles.

Couples. Test costs are lower and potentially bearable, so depending on economic circumstances this group should be willing to book and will make up a higher percentage of the reduced January booking levels.

Younger people. This sector remains the most Covid confident, as the health impacts are much lower, but their disposable income is lower and the need to book early is minimal. Why would they book in advance when they are being told that there will be plentiful late availability?

I personally believe that “Lockdown” levels may also impact consumer phycology and introduce a further potential regional impact on demand. If you are in Category 3 and cannot socialise with friends outside the house, in pubs or restaurants, you are a lot less likely to discuss holiday plans. Historically this has been a big driver in the “Dream” stage of deciding where and when to go. How often have you booked a holiday because you heard friends talking about their holiday plans?

Predicting changes in destination mix is equally hard, as the unpredictability of “Quarantine Corridors” is a nightmare for the travel industry and customers alike. Even with a reduced quarantine period of 5 days with a test, quarantine corridors will have a massive influence on demand and simply cannot be predicted with any certainty in advance. Therefore, it’s hard to predict what changes in destination mix we will see until January bookings start coming in.

However, it is likely that the demand for self-drive holidays and staycations will remain high again in Summer 21, given its unlikely that the majority of the holiday taking population will have been vaccinated by summer and Covid-19 avoidance may remain front of mind.

The phrase the “the only thing certain, is that nothing is certain” has never rang truer.

Vaccine Bounce. When will Travel see it?

The announcement that a Covid-19 Vaccine, will start being rolled out by Christmas gave airline shares a massive boost this week, with British Airways share price improving by 40%.

The city clearly sees this as the “beginning of the End”, which is great news for the Industry, but will customer confidence bounce as fast?

Early signs are positive with many retailers, particularly those in the luxury sector, reporting a strong surge in bookings as more affluent customers, with money in their pockets and frustrated by disrupted Summer 20 holiday plans, make up for lost time with early bookings so Summer 21.

However, I still fear that the demand for “mass market” beach holidays will not return until we can reassure customers over the availability and price of Covid-19 tests.

The focus for the first wave of vaccinations will be older people, the medically vulnerable and health workers. It is highly likely that the bulk of “package” holiday makers will not have access to a vaccine until the summer at earliest and even when they have, we still have no idea how “health passports” will be issued or accepted by other countries to allow entry without testing.

Therefore, I think the travel industries focus should remain on implementing a low-cost testing infrastructure.

As a board member of the ITT, I have been able to put forward a question to be asked during the house of Lords debate on travel this week. Basically, it is a request to allow holiday makers access to the Governments PCP testing stocks, if they are willing to pay a £25 fee to have a test prior to travel and one on return to shorten quarantine.

Most holiday destinations are following the example of Cyprus, Dubai and now the whole of Spain in requiring visitors to take a test within 72 hours of arrival.

The cheapest private test available currently cost £125 (Although, TUI customers have access to a negotiated bulk discount) and cost escalate rapidly if you need a “last minute” test, which by definition of the 72-hour rule prior to departure, is a major issue for holidaymakers.

A cost of £250 per couple or £500 per family is a massive deterrent to booking a holiday. I have no doubt that by the time we get to the summer the availability of testing will have increased and competition will have forced down “Rip off” pricing levels. But only the Government has the stocks required to give holiday makers the certainty of access they need to book in January with any confidence.

In reality few people under 50 are still scared of Covid-19 as the low death rates and the relatively mild impacts on people they know provides reassurance. However, many like myself, still have elderly parents or vulnerable friends that dictate a cautious behaviour set, as they cannot risk catching Covid-19 and passing it on.

Once these vulnerable groups have been vaccinated however, I expect the clamour for a return to a normal life, including overseas holidays will surge. At this point the acceptance of illogical blanket quarantine rules will also be heavily challenged.

Due to peer group pressure and social responsibility, I twice returned early this summer from holidays to avoid being quarantined for 14 days, even though I was returning to Rochdale which had a 10 times higher infection rate than the destinations I was returning from.

I’m not convinced the Government will convince me or anybody else to comply with these idiotic blanket rules once the vulnerable are protected, again leading to a surge in demand to get away.

Strong holiday demand for Summer 21 is coming, but I think it will be an ultra-late market still.

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, 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 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.