London,
04
September
2020
|
10:45
Europe/London

LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (04.09)

QUARANTINE

In sharp contrast to recent Thursdays, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted that no changes would be made to air corridors into England ‘today’, although he warned that destinations could still be added or removed from the government’s ‘safe lists’ “at very short notice”.

However, the system was thrown into ‘chaos’ reported The Times as both the Scottish and Welsh governments announced that travellers to their countries from mainland Portugal and Greek islands must self-isolate for 14 days from 04:00 BST Friday.

It is the first time Wales has applied its own quarantine rules. Up until now Wales has used the exemption list as set by the UK government in England.

Both Scotland and Wales also removed Gibraltar and French Polynesia from the list of countries exempt from quarantine restrictions.

The Scottish Passenger Agents' Association has warned that it is 'extremely concerned' about the workload being put on agents as a result said Travelmole.

DESTINATIONS

Greece

Earlier in the week the UK Government had come under pressure to impose quarantine measures on arrivals from Greece, but it was clear from a report in The Times that the Government would make no change in the status of holidaymakers from Greece.

The Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis told Times Radio: “We feel we’re well under the bar and at the same time we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve actually stabilised the cases.”

On Thursday TTG reported that health authorities are trying to locate more than 200 passengers who were on a Wizz Air flight from Crete after a group of teenagers tested positive for Covid-19. Eight members of the group, who were travelling on the Wizz Air flight from Heraklion to Luton on 25 August, were found to have contracted the coronavirus after returning home, according to The Guardian.

TUI has cancelled holidays to the party resort of Laganas on the Greek island of Zante from tomorrow amid fears some customers are ignoring Covid-19 safety measures.

Portugal

Travellers and tourism officials in Portugal had all voiced anxiety and concern about the prospect of being removed from the UK’s air corridor after just a fortnight. Covid cases in Portugal have risen to around 22 per 100,000 people over seven days – above the UK government’s 20 per 100,000 over seven days threshold.

Several operators, including Jet2holidays, Tui and Riviera Travel, had quickly added additional Portugal capacity and others pledged to restart operations in the country. The Express reported that since the air corridors have been introduced visitor numbers are up 190% up for Portugal.

Conversely, earlier in the week, Sky News reported that air fares from Portugal soared as tourists rushed to return home amid fears that the country will be put back on the UK's quarantine list. It claimed British Airways' flights on Thursday cost £554, while next week seats are available for £139. EasyJet, says the report, had no capacity left on flights left on flights from Faro this week.

Other European destinations in brief

As coronavirus cases rise in Europe, rules have tightened:

  • Masks are now mandatory in public places in France.
  • Hungary will prevent foreigners from entering the country from 1 September
  • Germany’s ban on large gatherings will continue until December at earliest

Back in early July, the Government ended the blanket ban on overseas travel, but as The Telegraph points out, the list of options keeps changing and in recent weeks nearly 20 countries have been removed from the ‘green list’.

“Since then, we have gone backwards,” says John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow. “Few people are going to fly if they have to play quarantine roulette.”

LOBBYING

The Government is coming under mounting pressure to introduce coronavirus testing at airports amid further warnings that the travel industry is being crippled by the existing quarantine system. More than 30 countries already have a system of airport testing for coronavirus including Germany, France, Austria, Dubai and Iceland, reported The Times.

Ex-prime minister Tony Blair said yesterday that a failure to screen passengers for coronavirus was deterring millions of people from traveling in and out of the UK and was crippling international trade.

The Government has said that airport test would only pick up seven per cent of cases, but the industry says that these are outdated statistics.

AGS Airports

The BBC reported on Thursday that the head of Southampton, Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, Derek Provan, accused ministers of "overseeing the demise of UK aviation" and said the sector was seeing more job losses than the demise of the coal industry in the 1980s. France and Germany are already using testing at airports for passengers arriving from countries with a higher infection rate.

Mr Provan said calls for regional travel corridors and testing at airports were falling on deaf ears. "We are not getting any response back from the government."

And he said that this was causing "huge frustration" across an industry that was already having to shed tens of thousands of jobs.

In addition, the bosses of Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport said "leadership" was needed on the testing issue, warning of the huge number of jobs at stake.

A pilot project has been set up at Heathrow to trial coronavirus testing but it is currently not in operation as they are waiting for government go-ahead.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "We provided unprecedented support to the aviation industry - taking early action on airport slots, loans, tax deferrals, and paying people's wages through the furlough scheme.

"While protecting public health remains our priority, we are working closely with experts to keep our approach to quarantine under constant review," the spokesman said.

#SaveTravel

Travel industry stalwarts joined TTG on 1 September to hand over a letter to the Department for Transport and the Treasury listing a number of demands for sector-specific support. The letter had more than 11,000 signatures.

Save Future Travel

Travel Weekly reports that industry associations have united as the ‘Save Future Travel Coalition’ to demand government action to save jobs and businesses. The group state that they want to see more-regionalised quarantine restrictions; the testing of travellers to reduce quarantine times; business grants and salary support extended beyond October when the current furlough scheme ends.

Test4Travel

The Telegraph has launched a campaign Test4Travel - urging the Government to roll out affordable Covid-19 tests on arrivals at all UK airports and ports by Christmas. Research shows that 62 per cent of the population supports a test on arrivals in the UK over a 14-day quarantine, and more than half would be willing to cover the costs of a test.

Of those who have an opinion, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) would prefer a two-part test (with 5 days of self-quarantine in between) above a 14-day mandatory quarantine that is currently in force.

With support from airport chiefs, health professionals, MPs and consumer polling, The Telegraph urges the Government to test all arrivals on entry to the UK in order to drop the current, ineffective quarantine. “We believe this testing regime will save the travel industry, help to revive the UK’s tourism economy and restore the nation’s faith in our holidays, in a way that will better contain the spread of Covid-19,” they say.

The Government’s policy on international travel is ‘broken’, ‘inconsistent,’ ‘unfair’ and ‘unenforced’ says Telegraph’s Professor Karol Sikora.

The form process is all largely based on trust. The clunky, poorly designed forms aren’t checked and follow ups aren’t made.

The Times on Thursday 3 September ran a feature on how people supposed to be in quarantine aren’t following the guidelines as it is not being enforced. The National Police Chiefs Council admitted that just three fines have been given in the last month for failure to comply with quarantine rules.

MPs

On Friday 28 August, Travel Weekly reported that more than 100 MPs united to lobby the chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the Job Retention Scheme for the aviation sector until March 2021.

The MPs have signed a letter, coordinated by Unite the union, which asks for help to “stop the crisis engulfing the sector” and “recognise the wider economic benefits of keeping workers active within the sector, not unemployed and collecting benefits”.

ASSOCIATIONS AND CONSORTIA

ABTA

As ABTA launches its Travel Convention programme, which is to be held virtually on 14 October, Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA defended the association’s lobbying approach to Travel Weekly. “The Government is clearly taking a cautious approach to quarantine and we’re not going to stand against that. What we want is its application in a more targeted way.” Tanzer said he hoped for more regional advice by the middle of October but doesn’t think that there will be a comprehensive testing system in place by then. “The technology is there. The question is the physical process. How do you move people through an airport with a large-scale testing programme without snarling up the airport? It’s more likely that testing will be at home.”

He continued to say that ABTA has focused on producing results rather than noise during the pandemic and believes that taking a stand against quarantine was the wrong thing to do and ineffectual as the Government is focused on health guidance. “Getting the government to move away from blanket bans to a target quarantine has been more effective.

“Quarantine is a deterrent to travel and anything we can do to get that timeframe down through testing is going to help.”

ABTA is engaged very closely with government on the issues and believes that because there have been sharp spikes in infection rates the industry is going to have to live with the short notice period of quarantine for the timebeing.

He continued: “Even the most pessimistic people don’t think the travel market has disappeared. It’s a question of when it’s going to come back and making sure we build confidence to get it back as quickly as possible.”

Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT)

Dozens of coach firms supporting tens of thousands of jobs are at risk of being lost by next spring, the Confederation of Passenger Transport has told the UK tourism minister Nigel Huddleston in a letter. This could wipe almost 10% off the value of the UK’s tourism sector,

The CPT said that after bookings for its peak spring and summer travel windows "collapsed" during lockdown, four in 10 coach firms – supporting 27,000 jobs – could be lost as early as April 2021.

CAA

  1. Travel Weekly reports that the CAA has invited businesses to tender for the takeover of holiday bookings of failed companies, heightening fears of a spate of failures in the coming weeks. A majority of ATOL licences fall due for renewal at the end of September. One industry source described the move as ‘sensible contingency planning’ while another said it was ‘planning for failures’.
  2. The Times says that Richard Moriarty, chief executive of CAA, is urging the government to give the regulator greater powers including the ability to fine airlines, “a move that would be likely to prompt carriers to treat customers”.

The Times report said his remarks come in the wake of the CAA’s official review into the handling of refunds by airlines during the coronavirus pandemic. It found that passengers were being made to wait up to four months for refunds.

He told the newspaper he would like to see the body given powers to issue fines and the ability to disqualify people from acting as company directors where they have repeatedly broken consumer law.

TTNG

Travel agent consortium, The Travel Network Group – TTNG – has begun a consultation with staff – which could see 30 roles being made redundant. The company employs 112 people and supports World Choice and Travel Trust Association agents as well as homeworking agents from the Independent Travel Experts.

WTTC

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled a set of measures designed to ensure the safe reopening of adventure tourism.

The body, which represents the global travel and tourism private sector, is behind the Safe Travels stamp for destinations.

Partners including the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) and tour operators such as Abercrombie & Kent, Eurotur, Intrepid and The Travel Corporation (TTC) helped form the basis of the protocols, which cover cycling, rafting, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, wildlife safaris and culinary tours.

Measures include:

  • Reduced capacity limits for activities to allow for physical distancing
  • Ensured difficulty levels do not exceed guest ability and skill, decreasing the need for rescue
  • Clear, consistent, and up-to-date communication on health and hygiene protocols
  • Promote contact tracing apps if required by local legislation
  • Inform guests about support available if questions or concerns arise
  • Share guest guidelines ahead of trip or activity digitally and in person upon arrival.
  • Encourage guests to purchase tickets online if possible
  • Keep the same households, families, or members of group bookings together for all activities
  • Ensure, where possible, that each guest can handle their own equipment and gear for the duration of the trip – or bring their own where possible.
  • Limited physical contact and queuing where possible.

BOOKING TRENDS

The Guardian reports that despite a summer of chaos and confusion and an upward trend in coronavirus cases in Europe – tour operators are reporting pent up demand for bookings for holidays in autumn and winter 2020 and for 2021.

ABTA reports that ‘immense damage has been done to consumer confidence, but people still want to go away.’

There has been a massive spike in bookings for the UK both this summer and for 2021 (camping portal pitchup.com reported a 500% increase in bookings for July and August 2021 last month).

For those not constrained by school holidays, September heralds the start of a new holiday season.

Kuoni reports that the Government’s behaviour has encouraged a culture of late booking – as nothing can be guaranteed.

A survey by Hotelplan found that the pandemic will have little or no impact on their intentions to book a ski holiday.

Caveats/advice for those booking for travel between September and December include the need to be flexible– an ability to travel last minute and willingness to take second or third choice of destination and book with a reputable company in case cancellations happen and refunds are needed.

Tour operator Explore is sending passengers to the Dolomites, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Booked by passengers hoping to catch the tail end of the European summer “who can rebook or get a refund within 14 days if they have to cancel”.

Kirker Holidays, a luxury city-breaks operator reported a spike in bookings in the third week of August. ‘With the realisation that the goalposts are constantly moving, people are taking advantage of booking last minute if they see a window of opportunity and a sensible destination’. The Sunday Times reports that despite tough trading conditions, Kirker advises that there has never been a better time to travel as ‘overtourism was an early Covid victim.’

Sunvil also reported an upturn in bookings to Corfu over a single weekend, as people saw that Greece was going to stay on the air corridor list. Similarly, bookings to rural properties in Portugal became popular.

Searches are such that for the first time BA Holidays started selling some holidays over a year in advance and some of their more popular destinations are available to book up until November 2021.

Villas are in high demand – with 45% of capacity for Sunvil’s villas in Greece for next year already sold.

Destinations that let people carry on isolating have been popular. Over the water villas in the Maldives have been a top seller for Trailfinders for 12 weeks this summer for 2021 and they report increased interest in Canada. Mauritius, Turkey, Greece and Barbados are also popular.

With Australia and much of Asia out of the picture for the foreseeable future, the Caribbean is looking like a relatively safe bet for winter sun. Most of the Caribbean islands are deemed safe destinations, says ABTA. St Vincent and the Grenadines for example, has no reported cases of Covid-19. The government of Saint Lucia has just announced a further easing of restrictions for visitors, and the Dominican Republic will roll out revised measures at the end of September.

The travel trade also has a Caribbean focus in September, Paul Cleary, MD of Caribtours said: “In the last month enquiries and bookings for the Caribbean have been looking quite bright across the board. Unintentionally, the Caribbean has been the beneficiary of quarantine restrictions relating to other parts of the world. As a region the Caribbean has handled the crisis particularly well and so clients, who may have considered other destinations, are finding themselves drawn to the Caribbean. 2021, in particular February and March have been selling well for a couple of months, but we’ve now seen real pick up for October through to December, particularly family holidays in October half-term. There is huge pent up demand from people who missed out this year. Barbados, Grenada and St. Lucia are selling well and we had seen a surge of interest in Jamaica before it went onto the quarantine list. We look forward to that coming off the list so that we can fulfil the interest that is clearly there.”

British Airways Holidays has seen strong demand for St Lucia, Barbados and Montego Bay in Jamaica, and some of Kuoni’s clients are booking the Caribbean for Christmas.

Kuoni reports a steady flow of bookings for its self-drive UK and Ireland holidays launched in May.

Explore has launched 32 new private tours, nine short cycling and walking breaks on the Pembrokeshire coast, Hadrian’s Wall and the South Downs, among other UK destinations.

Self-catered accommodation and self-drive travel are already proving popular. Peak Retreats and Ski Collection report that the French mountains have had their best year ever as a result of the French holidaying at home.

The Sunday Times reported that out of the 80 destinations that Wild Frontiers operates in, only Turkey is viable. The company has pivoted to the Italian Apennines and Orkneys.

Inside Japan reports that because Japan has coped well with the pandemic, interest is returning but borders are still closed.

AVIATION

IATA

Business Travel News Europe reported that global air travel demand in July plunged 79.8 per cent year on year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That's an improvement compared with June, when demand dropped 86.6 per cent year on year. In July, global capacity fell 70.1 per cent and global load factor fell by 27.7 percentage points year over year to 57.9 per cent, a record low for the month.

Wizz Air

Wizz Air executed a mid-air U-turn on Tuesday, reining back on its previous bullish prediction of a post-pandemic recovery in passenger numbers.

Heathrow

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO said the government needed to change its approach. "I think the government has been very cautious, really focusing on the health crisis and yet we have an unemployment crisis looming.

"The UK government needs to get behind testing as an alternative to quarantine to save millions of jobs in this country," he said.

The Times reports that up to 1200 jobs could be lost after Heathrow served formal notice to staff on Wednesday. Heathrow is also proposing salary cuts of between 15 and 20 per cent for some affected staff.

Virgin Atlantic

The High Court cleared a £1.2 billion recapitalisation of the airline in which scores of creditors have accepted a loss of 20 per cent of the money they are owned. The US courts will also rubberstamp the clearance this week.

The airline was on course to run out of cash in September, laid off a third of its workforce and quit Gatwick.

A spokesperson said: “ Achieving this significant milestone puts Virgin Atlantic in a position to rebuild its balance sheet, restore customer confidence and welcome passengers back to the skies safely, as soon as they are ready to travel.”

The Times said that the only UK-based long-haul carrier after BA - plans to be flying to 11 locations by the end of September but will continue to be crippled on its lucrative transatlantic routes.

Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said testing was "essential" to help kick-start the economy.

"Without free and fast travel with the US, we won't see a rebound of aviation and this will stall the economic recovery of the UK, which of course is already in recession," he said.

Virgin is already flying daily to New York and Los Angeles and three times a week to Miami and Travel Weekly reports that the airline will resume flying from Heathrow to Delhi, Tel Aviv, Atlanta, Mumbai and Lagos throughout September.

It said additional routes will be added throughout 2020 followed by a “further, gradual recovery through 2021 in line with customer demand”.

From October the airline will fly new routes including new services to Pakistan from both London Heathrow and Manchester.”

Emirates

Emirates has resumed flying from Birmingham, making the airport the fourth re-opened UK gateway. Birmingham joins Heathrow, Manchester and Glasgow in seeing the resumption of Emirates’ flights.

Ryanair

Budget carrier Ryanair flew seven million passengers in August – down by 53% year-on-year. Last August it carried 14.9 million travellers.

Jet2

TTG reports a trading update from Jet2 plc - the new name for Jet2holidays and Jet2.com. The airline says it plans to operate a summer 2021 flight and holiday programme "close to summer 2019 seat capacity levels".

The company said package holiday customers as a proportion of total departing customers were showing "a material increase".

It said pricing would, however, have to remain "consistently enticing" with winter 2020/21 forward bookings "yet to match revised on-sale seat capacity".

The company has more than £1 billion in cash reserves and resumed operations after lockdown on 15 July, gradually ramping up summer 2020 flying to approximately 40% of their planned destinations for August.

Norwegian

Norwegian Air has confirmed plans to slash its long-haul fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft which form the basis of the carrier’s base at London Gatwick.

Geir Karlsen, Norwegian Air chief financial officer, said: “We have too many long-haul aircraft. We are working to reduce the number.”

Wingly

Bookings for the ‘Uber of the skies’ Wingly, a French start up, has seen bookings for its tiny propeller planes rise 80 per cent on the same month in 2019, reports the Financial Times.

While private jet operators have also reported surging demand this summer, Wingly flights operate not just at lower altitudes but at a lower price point. A flight to the Isle of Wight from London would cost about £120 return per head, depending on the type of plane used and number of passengers. The site lists returns from the London area to Salcombe, in Devon, from £138, to Land’s End from £250, or to Courchevel, the French ski resort, from £388.

United Airlines

The American airline plans to involuntarily furlough more than 16,000 employees on 1 October according to reports in the US.

Eurowings

Eurowings restarted flights between Newcastle and Dusseldorf on Wednesday, becoming the 10th airline to resume services from the northeast’s largest airport.

Blue Island

Channel Islands airline Blue Island has re-introduced regular flights from Birmingham to Jersey, along with Exeter airport services to Jersey and Manchester.

The Birmingham flights will initially operate on four days a week, rising next summer to a daily service to Jersey and with onward connections to Guernsey.

The two revived services from Exeter will initially operate three days a week.

Blue Islands will increase frequencies from Exeter next summer, with Manchester served three times a day and Jersey once a day.

TOUR OPERATORS

TUI

All 193 passengers and crew on board a TUI flight from Zante to Cardiff on 25 August have been asked to self-isolate, after 16 people tested positive for Covid-19. TUI investigated reports that passengers had removed their masks during the flight against current guidelines and found that multiple announcements over the PA were made about mask wearing were made as well as individual conversations with those flouting the rules.

Industry leaders have urged travellers to respect rules on face coverings when flying. IATA Director General said: “This behaviour is damaging for the industry. We agreed these measures; we should implement them strictly and not have any compromises. An aviation industry source said: “This is a disruptive incident like [excess] drinking on a flight”.

VIVID

Tour operator VIVID Travel has “suspended operations until further notice”, blaming the effects of Covid-19. Founder and managing director Kane Pirie said he was “uneasy” entering into contracts with customers that may not be fulfilled, and said the current market was “not compatible with our 100% commitment to refunds”. VIVID employed 10 members of staff, whose contracts have been terminated.

Newmarket Holidays

TTG reports that the first departures for Newmarket Holidays operated in August in the Scottish Highlands and Belfast and there are plans for over 100 departures for September and October – all will be accompanied by a tour guide and member of the operator’s product and operations to monitor adherence with new Covid protocols and direct contact with clients during the tour.

Titan Travel

TTG reports that escorted touring specialist Titan Travel has pledged to restart all holiday operations in February next year. Land tours, as well as river and ocean cruises, will resume from 1 February 2021 the operator confirmed on Tuesday (1 September).

Adventures Overland

Next year, expedition company Adventures Overland is set to launch a new ‘hop on hop off’ bus service that will travel 20,000km from India to England.

The vehicle, which will have space for 20 people, is set to cross 18 countries in 70 days and passengers will be able to stop off in cities along the way.

People looking to book the trip will be able to choose if they want to take the entire journey, or one of the four legs (Southeast Asia, China, Central Asia, Europe). They can start their trip in Delhi or London. If you take the route that begins in Delhi, the bus will travel to Thailand, before going up to China, then onto Russia and European cities such as Warsaw, Prague and Brussels – before finishing in London. Adventure Overland’s bus route was partly inspired by the Hippie Trail buses that crossed the world in the 50s and 60s.

Tickets for the journey are priced at £15,300 and the first departure is currently set for May 2021.

Jet2holidays

Jet2holidays has cancelled all departures to mainland Spain and Croatia up to and including October 31, 2020.

Jet2holidays has added a new function on its consumer-facing website which helps customers find their nearest independent travel agent.

The operator said the Agent Finder function had been added in response to feedback from agents.Customers key in their address or postcode to be presented with a map pinpointing their nearest independent agents, plus their address and contact details.Jet2holidays said it will include the details of 2,500 agents to 'drive customers to the high street where they can benefit from the expertise of independent travel agents'.Head of Trade Alan Cross said the launch 'truly demonstrates how committed we are to independent travel agents'."Through the launch of Travel Agent Finder, we have delivered exactly what independent travel agents have asked for, the mark of a true partnership."As well as making independent travel agents more visible and accessible via our direct website, it encourages customers to get onto the high street, visit a trusted travel agent and benefit from their valuable expertise. This is the latest example of our approach to working in partnership with agents, and another demonstration of our unwavering commitment to supporting our agency partners to help them grow their businesses."

Kuoni

Kuoni has created an online ‘Talent Finder’ to help staff leaving the business find new roles, reports Travel Weekly.

The company is also supporting staff in other ways such as offering sabbaticals until June 2021 and consultations on CV writing and reskilling for jobs in other sectors.

G Adventures

The tour operator has further suspended all tours due to depart up to and including 31 October, and all remaining G Expedition departures this year.

Travellers booked tours departing up to 31 October who do not wish to rebook to a later date will receive a protected refund credit note for 100% of the amount paid, plus an additional 10% credit.

TRAVEL AGENTS

Ben Clatworthy, in The Sunday Times urged readers to book a package holiday to help the travel industry as they still come with the best financial protection, meaning that if a holiday is cancelled, you will get your money back. In the absence of government support to stimulate demand and boost confidence through testing on arrival or a regional approach to Foreign Office travel bans and an extension of furlough, support your local travel agent, capitalise on their expertise or use an independent tour operator.

Travel Counsellors

Travel Counsellors says the number of new franchisees joining the homeworking company has returned to pre-Covid levels, with one new business owner signing up every working day in August. It said it has seen a notable increase in enquiries and new members with corporate travel experience, with many looking to set up their own businesses after being made redundant.There is also an ongoing uplift in interest from independent travel agencies with 'bricks and mortar' stores, said Travel Counsellors, and from travel management companies with teams of less than 10 staff.Travel Counsellors Corporate MD Kieran Hartwell said, "We know it's a very difficult time for many people in the industry, and the situation is fuelling a growing trend towards independent consultants and micro TMCs being formed from teams of people who are facing an uncertain future.

ACCOMMODATION

Atlantis

Travel Weekly has reported that Dubai resort Atlantis, The Palm will be offering its international guests a free Covid-19 PCR test if they stay for five nights or more.

Tests will be conducted in resort by staff from an authorised hospital in the United Arab Emirates for all bookings until 18 December.

The latest initiative also aligns itself with Emirates Airlines free medical cover for Covid-19-related expenses, designed to boost people’s confidence to travel during the pandemic.”

RAIL

From October, Eurostar will be operating direct from Amsterdam to London from £40. This route has been on the high-speed railway from St Pancras to the Netherlands since 2018, but until this year it made a stop in Brussels. Initially the new service will not run at weekends.

FERRIES

Brittany Ferries

Travel Weekly reports that Brittany Ferries plans to introduce new ship Galicia on UK-Spain sailings before Christmas. Galicia will run two return trips a week between Portsmouth and Santander.

The ferry company has also announced further cuts to its services after 65,000 passengers cancelled their reservations following the introduction by the UK government of further travel restrictions to Spain and France.

It will take Connemara out of service and close the Portsmouth to Cherbourg and Le Havre routes from 7 September. It has previously announced the closure of the Portsmouth to St Malo route from 7 September and its Poole to Cherbourg route will also remain closed for the rest of the year.

The company's busiest route Caen-Portsmouth remains unaffected for the next two months. Normandie and Mont St Michel will continue three daily departures as normal, with Armorique covering each ship's technical stop in November and December respectively, running in freight-only mode.

The company added that it was seeing 'significantly' weakened demand for services this autumn.

Director general Christophe Mathieu said Brittany had hoped to 'salvage' 350,000 passengers from a summer season that would normally attract more than double that number, but in reality, it is unlikely to reach 200,000.

"Passenger traffic accounts for around 75% of our income, so our bottom line has been hit hard. It's is why we must continue to take decisive action to reduce our costs to get us through the worst of this unprecedented crisis," he added.

CRUISE

Uniworld

Cruiseline Uniworld has created a new package for group bookings of 10 people or more on selected departures. The Friends Reunited packages is offered for river cruise departures in Egypt, India and Europe.

Cunard

Itineraries for The Queen Elizabeth ship with Southampton departures around Cornwall, the West Coast of Ireland and the Scottish Isles will go on sale from 29 September. Short breaks to Amsterdam, Norway and Iberia will also be offered.

The Queen Mary’s Round the World Cruise for 2022 will go on sale from 8 September.

Travel Village

The Travel Village Group, with brands The Cruise Village, Southampton Cruise Centre and RiverCruising.co.uk is recruiting home-based cruise agents to use the firm’s new ‘Leads Toolkit’ to sell holidays.

The initiative will target cruise specialists who have been made redundant or who are looking for fresh opportunities.

Fred Olsen

Fred Olsen’s Black Watch and Boudicca are heading to retirement and two new ships Bolette and Borealis will sail when ocean cruising begins. The capacity of each is below 1400 but will increase the line’s overall berths by 30%.

Holland America Line

The new president of Holland America Line says he is “hopeful” that sailings will resume by the Christmas holidays.

Gus Antorcha said the line may even be able to re-start a portion of its fleet earlier than 15 December – the date to which it has announced its pause in operations, and suggested it may offer some shorter duration cruises initially.

Antorcha said: “I very much hope to be operating the holiday cruises. It’s an important time for families and we want to make sure we offer them the ability to celebrate together; so I’m very hopeful we’ll be back.”

Hebridean Island Cruises

Hebridean Island Cruises has cancelled its 2020 season of sailings on Hebridean Princess and its European river cruises on Royal Crown.

Hebridean will start again on 1 March 2021 and the company will offer two European river cruises on Royal Crown which will operate on 25th August 25, 2021, and 5th September, 2021.

AmaWaterways

AmaWaterways has expanded its no-fly river cruise offering for 2021, with another 11 itineraries now being offered with rail connections from the UK.

INSURANCE

Rock

Rock Insurance Group has updated its travel insurance policy to provide cover when customers travel against FCO advice. Policies now cover Covid-related issues both pre-departure and while abroad in destinations that are not on the government’s ‘safe list’.

Great Rail Journeys

Great Rail Journeys has updated its travel insurance policy to give customers Covid-19 cover as standard, with no increase in the price of the policy.

ECONOMY

The Financial Times’ economy tracker reports that UK economic activity improved over the summer months as coronavirus restrictions eased and government support measures underpinned consumer spending. The recovery has helped the UK narrow the gap on those continental European countries where restrictions were eased earlier.

Across the UK, the economy is now almost fully open and while consumer spending had fallen sharply during lockdown, there were some bright signs in August when spending exceeded last year’s level for the first time since the outbreak, according to Fable Data, which tracks card payments across the UK.

The UK’s big cities, particularly London, are not seeing the same pick-up in footfall experienced by smaller cities and towns, according to an analysis of anonymised mobile phone data by the public policy institute Centre for Cities and location tracking company Locomizer.

Spending on air travel remains depressed, as the UK’s quarantine policies and perceptions of the risks of contracting the virus from flying have hit demand. Analysts report that airlines are going from zero to 70 per cent capacity in a blink of an eye and then having to ramp down again.

Some domestic markets globally have started to recover, or recovered, but international travel remains ‘adrift’.

Taxes

A "fairly substantial" increase in taxes that affects all Britons is likely to be needed to pay for the economic consequences of the pandemic, according to Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The UK chancellor Rishi Sunak echoed this sentiment and has told Tory MPs that taxes will have to rise to restore the public finances, reports The Times. ‘The Government is going to have to make ‘difficult’ decisions to recover from the pandemic.

BREXIT

The Financial Times reports that the UK’s leading customs and logistics associations have demanded an “urgent” meeting with chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove after warning that Brexit border preparations are inadequate and risk causing “severe” disruption to supply chains next year.