Quarantine cut raises spirits and bookings
by Steve Hartridge
The travel sector responded positively to this week's news that quarantine restrictions are to be cut from 14 to five days from December 15, but there were warnings that more steps are needed to restore badly dented consumer confidence.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps' announcement of a 'test to release' scheme', which will see returning travellers released from their own personal lockdown if they test negative on the fifth day, was hailed as a move that should make overseas travel more attractive and manageable for holidaymakers.
But Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association, was among those who pointed out the need for additional measures.
“There is still more work to be done to get more people travelling and to support the recovery of the sector, including having a testing scheme in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the Government moving to a regional approach to quarantine and travel advice," he said.
"It is important that the test to release scheme is kept under review, to make sure that advancements in testing are used to further reduce quarantine to as short a period as possible.”
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, described the move as "significant progress to restoring travel, especially for leisure travellers" but repeated its call for a single internationally recognised cost-effective test - which for UK travellers is expected to cost between £65 and £120.
"This would remove crippling quarantines and begin the gradual process to revive international travel, save the sector and bring back millions of jobs around the globe,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC President & CEO.
Steve Norris, Managing Director Flight Centre EMEA, welcomed the news of the quarantine period cut claiming that 95% of its customers have said they would be willing to take a Covid-19 test if it reduces the quarantine requirement.
"This new model of Covid tests will come as a relief to leisure travel brands who are hoping for a strong bounce back after a challenging year. Anything that helps facilitate demand for international air travel, when it is safe to do so, is extremely well received by Flight Centre UK and its employees,” he said.
Zina Bencheikh, Managing Director EMEA of Intrepid Travel, said that the new quarantine rules, coming on top of positive news about a vaccine, means customers are already feeling more confident to book their 2021 holiday.
"We have seen a spike in bookings, particularly to bucket-list destinations such as Peru and Nepal. Over the next couple of months I expect to see more and more Brits securing their 2021 holiday – but flexibility and value will be key.
"We are moving in the right direction. However, for travel to really open up we still need the FCDO to lift its advice against non-essential travel. There are many countries with low infection rates where the locals are heavily reliant on tourism and they need us to return," he said.
Intrepid has partnered with Confirm Testing to offer clients a ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate, for postal tests and results both pre- and post-departure.
G Adventures also reported a surge of bookings, with the operator's 21-day sale, which runs until November 30, sparking a 200% increase in new UK and Ireland bookings week-on-week, the largest increase since the pandemic closed the world’s borders in mid-March.
The company claims Costa Rica, Peru and Thailand are among the most booked long-haul destinations for 2021, with Stu Darnley, National Sales Manager, saying an uplift in demand for 2021 travel presents an opportunity for travel agents to capture both new bookings and rebookings as the desire to travel gathers momentum.
"With destinations such as Costa Rica and Peru proving popular with UK and Irish travellers, as well as a number of active tours that require a lot of preparation, more will be looking to experts for advice and reassurance ahead of their next adventure," he said.