LOTUS CORONAVIRUS UPDATE (18.12)
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary tweeted on 17 December that the government aims to provide certainty to those travelling over Christmas and will only make emergency removals to the Travel Corridor list if needed for the next two weeks, with the next schedule update due on 7 January.
He also tweeted that Uruguay, Namibia and US Virgin Islands are being removed from the list. From 4am Saturday 19 December, arrivals into the UK from these destinations will need to self-isolate.
In a third tweet, he reminded travellers about the test-to-release scheme, saying: “Passengers returning to England can now buy a COVID-19 test from an approved private provider and reduce their self-isolation time IF they receive a negative result.” He provided a link to the government’s list of private providers.
TEST TO RELEASE
The test-to-release scheme has been widely criticised as some firms could not provide tests and others experienced delays. Most of the 11 firms approved by the government to provide COVID-19 tests to travellers who want to end their 14-day quarantine early are unable to offer the service, reported Travelmole.
Within hours of the launch of the test-to-release scheme, several firms on the government's list of approved test providers had stopped offering any new appointments.
Others say they've run out of testing kits or that they're not yet ready to provide the service.
One, Screen4, said it could still offer postal tests but its turnaround is up to three days, so the earliest travellers could end their quarantine would be on day 8.
Several travellers pointed out they had booked trips to the UK in the expectation that they would be able to book a test in time to spend Christmas with their families but they'd been unable to find a test provider.
Agents are reporting a “major headache” with private COVID-testing companies recommended by travel suppliers claiming they have not been able to cope with the demand, reported Travel Weekly.
TTG reported that a COVID testing firm pulled out of the scheme hours after the short list of approved providers was finally published on Monday, just a few hours before it was due to go live.
Martin Alcock, Travel Trade Consultancy director, told delegates at the online AITO conference: “The launch of testing-to-release today is helpful, but testing is still fragmented and needs to be more coordinated.
“We need coordination between nations but so far we have not seen any sign of that.”
Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (Bar UK), said there may not be much value for consumers to pay for a test on day five, as the results may not come until day seven or eight – and the quarantine period is 10 days.
The prices for the approved PCR tests range from £89 to £180.
“It’s a stepping-stone, it will not serve us well into the future,” he said.
WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said in a statement: “Protecting public health is paramount and while WTTC welcomed the Test to Release scheme, it has created confusion and appears to be hindering rather than helping travellers, so we question whether – as it stands – it is fit for purpose.
“Holidaymakers must have easy access to the list of private testing firms and be certain that they will actually get their results in time.
“Travellers need clear and concise information so they fully understand the process they need to follow in order to take themselves out of quarantine.
“All of this information should be available via the NHS app or other clear mechanisms, otherwise it is just adding to the confusion and travel will stall before it restarts.
“Tests need to be quick, more affordable and accessible, and should also be available through the NHS, not just through expensive third-party suppliers.”
Guevara added: “Testing travellers is the solution to restarting international travel while avoiding exporting the virus.
“It ensures only infected people are isolated and will enable mobility in a responsible way.
“Other countries have shown it can be done by introducing testing schemes which are both quick and cost-effective and have successfully kick-started travel to revive wilting economies.
“Safe and effective test and trace measures will form part of the essential toolkit which allows the return of safe travels with ease and confidence across international borders.
“However, the current test to release scheme in place in England is already causing acute confusion among the public, and there is an urgent need to ensure that it works for the very people it’s meant to help.”
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the Airports Council International (ACI), the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) have called for an immediate resumption of international travel through rigorous testing and enhanced hygiene protocols, stressing the industry cannot wait for a full vaccine roll-out.
They say that while they recognise vaccination will play a major long-term role in combating coronavirus, travel could be achieved safely now within existing COVID guidelines.
WTTC has identified four key measures needed to restore international travel safely, including:
- globally recognised pre-departure testing regimes
- common health and hygiene protocols that are aligned with globally-established standards set out by ICAO
- a risk management regime
- internationally consistent and recognised travel passes
DRIVE THROUGH TESTING AT HEATHROW & LIVERPOOL
A 24-lane private COVID testing site for PCR tests has opened at Heathrow. Pre-departure tests cost £80 for passengers or £99 for the general public. Heathrow staff are charged £60, reports Business Traveller. The site is open 365 days a year. Those testing negative will be emailed a ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate authorised by a doctor.
Virgin Atlantic will soon begin the second phase of its pre-departure Covid testing trial – testing passengers arriving into the UK – as it looks to build pressure on the government to scrap quarantine requirements.
Abercrombie & Kent and sister brand Cox & Kings will offer clients travelling with them next year £50pp off COVID tests, reports TTG.
Aviation body IATA has released details of its new mobile app that will enable travellers to comply with COVID-19 rules and regulations.
The IATA Travel Pass has been developed to give users the ability to manage their travel in line with government requirements for COVID testing and vaccination.
It says these four modules are independent, interoperable and have been built using open standards, so they can be used individually or as part of other solutions being developed.
London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday. The move saw thousands of bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants close in the capital and surrounding areas after Tuesday night. Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary said the decision was made after seeing “very sharp, exponential rises” in the affected areas.
He announced that more parts of the east and south-east of England will be subject to the toughest coronavirus restrictions from Saturday 19 December. Matt Hancock also said Bristol and North Somerset will move from tier three to tier two from Saturday and Herefordshire will move from tier two into tier one.
A new lockdown in Northern Ireland will begin on 26 December, the BBC reports.
The first week of the lockdown, running until 2 January, will see even tighter measures with essential shops having to close each day by 20:00.
Non-essential shops in Wales will close from the end of trading on Christmas Eve, with an alert level four lockdown starting four days later, reports the BBC.
Close-contact services, such as hair salons, will also have to shut before Christmas, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Thursday 17 December. The situation in Wales was "extremely serious", Mr Drakeford said, with one in five COVID-19 tests returning a positive result.
From 18:00 on 18 December, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and East Lothian will all move from level two to level three of the five-tiered system in a bid to reverse rising numbers of cases.
All of the country's other 29 council areas will remain in their current levels.
VisitBritain is forecasting 16.9 arrivals next year, an increase of 73% on 2020, far short of the 40.9 million visits recorded in 2019, but says signs of a recovery are emerging, reports TTG.
Similarly, inbound spend is forecast to reach £9 billion next year, up 59% on 2020, but less than a third of the all-time high of £28.4 billion reached in 2019. VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said: “Tourism is a fiercely competitive global industry and the key to success will be attracting visitors, those who can travel now, stimulating demand and bookings to drive the quickest return of international tourism spend.”
Visits from short-haul European markets are forecast to recover quicker than long-haul, although short-haul is still expected to be half of the 27.3 million seen in 2019.
In long-haul, the forecast is for 3.3 million inbound visits to the UK in 2021, less than a quarter of the 13.6 million in 2019.
VisitBritain is set to launch a campaign in early 2021 across major European markets including Germany and France – the third and fourth most valuable tourism source markets – to drive future bookings by highlighting messages of welcome and reassurance.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced people in the European Union will receive the Covid-19 vaccine in ten days’ time. She said: “It's Europe's moment. On 27, 28 and 29 December vaccination will start across the EU.” The rollout is conditional on the European Medicine's Agency approving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which it is expected to do on 21 December.
Across Europe, the virus has retreated less than expected after the introduction of measures against the second wave, reports The Times. Governments have been extending lockdown restrictions while trying to make allowances for the Christmas week.
THE NETHERLANDS imposed a strict new lockdown, which will last for at least five weeks and included border closures.
Germany was placed under a hard lockdown from Wednesday 16 December with schools, nurseries and all but the most essential shops closed through Christmas and the new year until 10 January. All shops except supermarkets, petrol stations, outdoor market stalls, banks, pharmacies and a dozen or so other categories were ordered to close.
- After five consecutive weekends of declining case numbers, Spain’s Health Ministry reported a jump in coronavirus infections on Monday. The government proposed limiting family and other social gatherings over the Christmas period to six people and implementing a 1am curfew on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It has allowed travel across Spain to stay with family members. A state of emergency exists but the central government has left control of measures in the hands of its regional counterparts, which have imposed their own restrictions and will loosen them for the festive season.
- The Spanish government is preparing to overrule a decision allowing travellers that have taken a rapid coronavirus test to enter the country to the Canary Islands. Mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands say anyone entering their territories must have a full PCR test as part of their travel papers. Canary Island leaders said they were too expensive and would accept negative antigen tests that were “easier to obtain.” But The Sun reports that Madrid won't allow the Canaries to make this decision.
- The shock removal of the Canary Islands from the UK’s list of travel corridors has “dented” winter demand despite major operators continuing programmes, reports Travel Weekly
- Tighter restrictions are being implemented in Tenerife from Friday, with reports borders closed for 15 days – but holidaymakers are exempt from the restrictions, the tourist board and ABTA confirmed. Jet2.com moved to reassure UK holidaymakers that they can continue to travel.
Italy has become the European country with the highest official number of COVID fatalities. The country is tightening restrictions on movement on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day by banning people from leaving their hometowns. No maximum number has been set on lunch guests on the 25 December although the government has urged people not to invite relatives. Travel between regions is also banned between 21 December and 6 January and a nationwide curfew from 10pm, which is already in force, will run throughout the period.
The country has lifted its six-week ban on movement, allowing travel anywhere in the country. With infection rates at about 12,000 a day, more than double the official target for December, President Macron’s government decided last week to impose an 8pm-6am curfew every night until mid-January except for Christmas Eve. It is also keeping museums, theatres and cinemas closed until January at least, along with restaurants, bars and cafés which have been shut.
PORTUGALPortugal will ease its coronavirus rules over the Christmas period to allow people to visit their loved ones, but measures will be reimposed a few days later to prevent New Year’s Eve parties. There is no limit on how many people can gather per household for Christmas and the night-time curfew will be pushed back from 11pm to 2am on 24 and 25 December.
The country remains under a “state of contingency” with gatherings limited to ten people and commercial establishments obliged to close in a staggered way between 8pm and 11pm.
The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) on Sunday extended all travel restrictions for domestic and international flights, previously announced to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country, until 7 January.
The authority also issued a new aviation directive informing that all travellers entering Greece on flights from abroad from Friday 18 December will be required to enter a mandatory three-day precautionary quarantine. The new directive follows the announcement made by the government last week and aims to protect passengers and citizens from the coronavirus.
REST OF THE WORLD
The share of Brazilians unwilling to take any Covid-19 vaccine has grown to 22% this week, from 9% in August. A majority of respondents said they would refuse to accept a vaccine made in China.
South Korea’s biggest wave of COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic is straining hospital resources and sparked panic buying in anticipation of a harsh new lockdown. Hospitals were at a breaking point with only three critical care beds available as of Wednesday in greater Seoul, an area with a population of almost 26 million people.
Around half of Australia’s retail travel agents have gone out of business over the past six to seven months, AITO’S conference was told on Tuesday.
New Zealand’s cabinet has agreed to establish a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of 2021. Prime Minister Jacinda Ahern said a number of issues needed to be worked through including how passengers from “safe zones” and those from COVID-19 affected countries could be segregated, as well as how New Zealand would deal with a “flood” of returning citizens if there was a resurgence in Australia.
The US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has recommended a second coronavirus vaccine for the country. It is expected to grant emergency use authorisation of the Moderna jab after doing the same last week for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The USA started rolling out their first vaccination programme on Monday 14 December following record rises in cases, which has been in some part attributed to families gathering over Thanksgiving.
China is preparing to launch a vaccination programme that will reach 50 million people ahead of the peak Lunar New Year travel season early next year. It intends to carry out mass inoculations of high-priority groups such as emergency service workers, customs officers and utility workers among other essential workers. Officials were told that the first 50 million doses would have to be completed by 15 January and the second by 5 February.
Governments are not likely to insist on COVID-19 vaccinations as a requirement for entry, according to the boss of the World Travel and Tourism Council. Gloria Guevara, WTTC and president, said: “I don’t believe governments will request vaccination as a requirement [for entry] as they will kill their [tourism] sector.”
She was speaking at an online update from the Commons Project Foundation and the World Economic Forum, which are coordinating international efforts to develop a globally recognised standard ‘COVID passport’.
Called the CommonPass, the digital health app enables travellers to document their COVID-19 status to satisfy country entry requirements.
Guevara said testing will remain the key element to enable international travel because the vaccination programmes will take several months to take effect and will initially only affect vulnerable groups and healthcare workers.
“The vulnerable will be the last ones who will be travelling so testing will remain important,” she said.
She expects gradual changes later in 2021 as vaccination becomes more widespread. “If the application can show that you have been vaccinated, by a certain time we will see the protocols may change, so you may not have to wear a mask,” she said.
The government is to cover the cost of EU holiday healthcare for people who require routine hospital treatment such as dialysis and chemotherapy in the event that there is no Brexit deal to replace the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme, reports The Guardian.
The health minister Edward Argar revealed the plan in a written statement to parliament on Thursday 17 December. The arrangements will last for 12 months from 1 January 2021.
Deloitte partner David Gard told Travel Weekly that the nature of the relationship between the UK and EU will depend on what type of deal is struck. He believes a Brexit deal will have an impact on travel businesses, but an acrimonious break-up will be worse than an agreement on no deal.
Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of ATOL Companies, warned that travel on 1 January 2021 will be complicated.
Ami Naru, partner and head of employment at Travlaw said: “We’ve got to see some coordination across destinations and departure points on what is going to be required to travel. There is no evidence of that yet in many countries.”
“The problem is there are going to be more costs and complexities getting staff into European resorts.”
Hotelplan say there are 11 different impact areas of Brexit for its company and they are working on different scenarios because for half of them there is no outcome yet.
Pet owners will have to get a health certificate from a vet, at a cost of around £60, as proof of a rabies injection up to ten days before the date of travel.
The change will come in even if trade talks fail and there is a no deal Brexit.
The Times reports that UK ministers are continuing to argue for the current system to be maintained under which pets can travel under the pet passport scheme.
As of Friday 18 December, both sides of the Brexit negotiations were warning of major obstacles with talks seemingly blocked on fisheries and state aid.
Competition and Markets Authority - CMA
Airlines will be investigated by the competition watchdog over whether they broke consumer law by failing to offer cash refunds to passengers who couldn't legally travel due to government restrictions during the pandemic, reports MoneySavingExpert. The move is part of ongoing work by the CMA in relation to holiday refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, the authority said the investigation “will consider situations where airlines continued to operate flights despite people being unable lawfully to travel for non-essential purposes in the UK or abroad, for example during the second lockdown in England in November”.
The CMA added it is aware that, in some cases where flights were not cancelled, customers were not offered refunds and, instead, many were offered the option to rebook or to receive a voucher.
“The CMA recognises that the airlines sector, like many others, is under strain due to the pandemic.
“However, it is concerned that certain airlines may have breached consumers’ legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds, leaving people unfairly out of pocket, and has therefore opened an investigation to examine the matter further,” the authority said.
Loveholidays has agreed to pay £18 million in refunds to customers who cancelled their package holidays after the Foreign Office advised against non-essential travel earlier this year, reports Travelmole.
The online travel agent has promised the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that 44,000 customers will be refunded by the end of March 2021.
Loveholidays had originally told package holiday customers that they were only entitled to a refund for their hotel accommodation and transfers.
It refused to refund their air fares unless the airlines refunded Loveholidays first. In some cases, airlines refused to refund because the flights still went ahead.
The CAA won’t extend refund credit notes beyond 31 December, reports Travel Weekly, and this could result in serious cashflow for travel businesses’ cashflow says Chris Photi from White Hart Associates.
FLEXIBLE FARES NOT WORTH IT
Flyers are better off buying standard fares than opting for flexible options in case they have to cancel due to disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A study by consumer group Which?, reported in Travel Weekly has found flexible fares could inflate the price of a flight by as much as 17 times the original basic price.
Which? said it checked fares for flights with many of the UK’s major airlines to see if it was worth paying for extra flexibility.
In every example the difference in cost between a flexible ticket and a standard fare was greater than the cost of the standard fare.
The Global Business Travel Association reports that most business travel firms believe the industry will begin to rebound from the impact of COVID-19 in mid to late 2021.
- 59% of GBTA members say vaccine availability is a ‘significant’ factor in their company’s decision to resume business travel
- 75% expect employees to attend in-person meetings or events in the second or third quarter of next year
- 89% are set to attend a meeting or event with attendees outside their company by the third quarter
- 90% say 2021 business travel spend will be lower compared to 2019 and only 5% expect 2021 travel spend to be the same as 2019. This breaks down to 98% of buyers and procurement professionals based in Europe and 90% in North America expect 2021 business travel spend to be lower than it was in 2019
- Travel savings will be made in internal meetings, conferences and trade shows, but there is a predicted rise in percentage spend on sales meetings and service trips with current and prospective customers
Ian Taylor from Travel Weekly believes that a delayed recovery in corporate travel will pose issues for airline carriers such as BA, with some long-haul routes hit hard by a significant decline in business travellers.
Deloitte partner David Gard told a Travel Weekly Insight report : “We’re going to see a fundamental shift to lower-cost, shorter-haul travel which supports the leisure community because business travel will be less relevant…. We’ve found we can be effective on calls rather than having to travel and there is also greater seriousness about carbon emissions, so we have a fundamental challenge to the level of business travel.” He also pointed that a change in the size of aircraft is happening and a reduction in premium cabins.
Steve Black, co-founder of human resources firm Topia, predicts an ‘arms race’ for facetime with travel sellers when restrictions relaxed.
“No doubt Mr Gates would offer Microsoft’s Teams as a worthy substitute but making new connections — critical for business growth — is virtually impossible over video chat. Even Gates himself admits he hasn’t created new friendships this year.
“His dire prediction underestimates the fact human connection is how business gets done. And with meetings, conferences and other networking events cancelled over the last year, employees are eager to connect with one another and with new prospects,” says Black.
In October, there was a further slowdown of the muted travel recovery seen in the summer, reported IATA’s Chief Economist Brian Pearce in Travel Weekly.
“Domestic markets are still expanding but at a slower rate and are at about 40% of where they were last year. International markets have been flat-lining. Traffic is still almost 88% down on last year.”
Load factors are below 43% and deteriorating.
“In domestic markets there are huge contrasts. In October, China’s domestic market was down fractionally on last year. The US and Australian markets are disappointing. The Russian market, which had fully recovered in the summer, has seen a surge of coronavirus.
“A lot of the relative success can be explained by controlling the coronavirus…COVID-19 is proving difficult to control ahead of vaccines. This has been the main issue behind the poor recovery in air travel…The vaccine is very good news, but it has not yet transformed travel restrictions…We doubt we’ll get a significant improvement in travel until the second half of next year. Meanwhile it is going to be a tough winter. We’re going to need help in stimulating markets and supporting airlines.”
IATA has called for five categories of stimulus – 1. reductions in fees and taxes, 2. route subsidies, 3. incentives to operate flights, 4. travel subsidies and 5. government advance purchase of tickets.
Pearce rejected a suggestion fares would rise to pay off the debt, saying: “Price depends on competition and that is going to be pretty intense. The debt burden is more of danger to airlines and investors than to consumers.”
1. Passenger forecasts revised downwards
Heathrow has downgraded its passenger forecasts for 2021. Passenger traffic this year is expected to be down to 22.3 million, a decline of 300,000 on projections issued with third quarter results as a result of the November lockdown in England. Numbers are now forecast to fall by 54% in 2021 to 37.1 million over pre-COVID levels in 2019.
2. Third runway given go-ahead
The airport welcomed this week’s Supreme Court’s ruling to back plans for a third runway.
“This is the right result for the country, which will allow Global Britain to become a reality,” Heathrow said.
The expansion still faces major obstacles, including having to persuade a public enquiry of the case for the development, says Breaking Travel News. Boris Johnson has refused to endorse proposals, but he has a decision to make, says Alistair Osbourne of The Times. Does he halt a project he doesn’t believe in now? Or allow Heathrow to push ahead with a protracted and costly planning inquiry and see what happens, knowing the government has the final say on whether the runway goes ahead?
3. Heathrow airport has warned travellers that the experience will come secondary to safety measures this Christmas travel period.
British Airways cancels services to more than 15 long-haul destinations next year. Routes to cities in North America such as Pittsburgh, Calgary and Charleston have gone, alongside flights to Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Osaka, the Seychelles, Muscat, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.
However, flights from London City to Geneva will resume on Saturday (19 December). Four flights per week, operated by the airport’s home-based carrier BA CityFlyer, will connect passengers to the financial centre and key winter tourist destination.
The route was London City’s ninth most popular in 2019, connecting 190,000 passengers to Switzerland’s second largest city.
Gatwick; there’s a new service from Manchester to Turkey with SunExpress reports Travel Weekly.
EasyJet has put its winter 2022 flights on sale, reports Breaking Travel News. The early release of these flights gives customers the chance to book early and make savings on winter holiday flights.
UK SUPPORT PACKAGES EXTENDED
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the furlough scheme for one month until the end of April next year. He said the move would provide "certainty for millions of jobs and businesses". It means the government will continue to pay 80% of the wages of workers who have been furloughed. He is also preparing to extend the UK’s £68bn coronavirus emergency loan schemes to help support businesses hit with COVID and Brexit. The Treasury has confirmed the Government’s business loan scheme would also be extended until the end of March 2021, as opposed to January. Both moves indicate that the Government is expecting not to lift restrictions until later in spring than many had hoped.
Official figures show that redundancies surged to a record high of 370,000 in the third quarter of the year with young people hit hardest. The Office for National Statistics said the number of UK workers on payrolls dropped slightly last month and has fallen by 819,000 between February and November due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 1.7 million people are officially unemployed meaning they are out of work and actively seeking a job.
INTEREST RATES LOWEST ON RECORD
The Bank of England has kept interest rates at the lowest levels on record after warning that rapid growth in coronavirus infections will deliver a bigger hit to the UK economy than expected in the final months of 2020. The Monetary Policy Committee voted to keep the 0.1% rate while also continuing the quantitative easing bond-buying programme unchanged at £895bn after pumping an additional £150bn into the economy last month.
Signs of a recovery in recruitment in travel are being seen although vacancy numbers from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic are 94% down this year, reports Travel Weekly.
Travel recruitment was decimated between April and November, but vacancies between September and November were twice the number between April and June.
There has also been a large fall in the number of new candidates searching for roles. The volume of new job seekers has fallen by 53% since April compared to the same period last year, although there have been significant monthly fluctuations.
Salaries have been less impacted. The average travel salary remained steady compared to the April to November period in 2019, a marginal rise of 0.19%, with the standard travel salary falling 2.78%.
The pound picked up on Tuesday on prospects that a Brexit deal could be within reach. It rose against the euro and the dollar amid speculation that Britain was close to securing an agreement with the EU, reported The Times.
Which? has called on the UK’s financial regulator to investigate the travel insurance market before travel resumes after the COVID-19 pandemic.
It claims no travel insurer is providing complete cover for COVID-19 and related disruption for customers travelling abroad.
And said a study into 73 policies has found insurers are reducing cover that would have been available prior to March 2020 while raising prices
CONSUMER & TRAVEL TRENDS
Agents and operators will see slower sales in January than normal as consumers remain cautious about booking holidays, according to speakers at the Specialist Travel Association (AITO) conference on 15 December.
Martin Alcock, Travel Trade Consultancy director, said booking curves usually show a spike in the turn-of-year peak sales period but this year it will be quieter.
“Customers will delay making decisions because of uncertainty,” he said.
The new boss of Inghams, Esprit Ski and Santa’s Lapland, Joe Ponte, has reported that while the rest of the 2020-21 winter season is on a “knife-edge”, 2021-22 is already really well sold. He also said that he hopes that travellers will be able to travel from February.
A European Travel Commission (ETC) survey shows that winter travel across Europe has effectively been wiped out by the latest wave of COVID-19, reports Travel Weekly.
- 17% of Europeans plan to travel by the end of January – a 21% drop compared to the previous survey
- 15% say quarantine measures remain the top concern, followed by fear of becoming ill at the destination and rising cases of the virus (both at 13%)
- Health and safety remain the primary consideration in Europeans’ travel plans and is especially important for respondents over 55
- 19% and 14% of respondents respectively believe air travel and public transportation in destinations are the least safe parts of a journey
- 11% believe bars and restaurants are a rising concern
- The share of those planning to travel in the next six months fell from 54% in October’s poll to 49% in November, while uncertainty about the exact timing of the next trip increased by 13% in the last month.
- The proportion of Europeans who are not making any travel plans now stands at 18% as sentiment towards travel deteriorates.
- Travel within Europe is the top choice with an equal share of respondents (38%) favouring domestic and intra-European trips.
- 63% stated leisure as the primary purpose for travel in the short-term, 22% said visiting friends and relatives is the main purpose for 22% and business travel accounts for just 9% of respondents
- City breaks remain the most favoured type of trip among 19% of Europeans, despite the pandemic’s effect on metropolitan areas. Other leading preferences include holidays in nature and outdoors (15%) and travels with a focus on culture and heritage (14%)
- Half (51%) intend to fly to their next destination, while 37% prefer travelling by car.
Shorter quarantine for travellers under the new Test to Release scheme is having a limited impact on people’s desire to travel overseas, according to Skyscanner, reports Travel Weekly.
The price comparison site released the results of its latest consumer survey as test-to-release was launched, cutting quarantine to five days from high-risk countries. While more than third of respondents want to go abroad in the next six months, only a third of those were swayed by the new shorter quarantines.
However, the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine saw 41% of the entire UK population feeling more confident to travel abroad by the summer of next year.
Since the announcement of test-to-release on 24 November, Skyscanner has seen a 62% spike in searches for travel between December and February 2021, with Spain seeing a 70% increase.
CRUISE A third (32%) of the UK population with an interest in cruise should start to be targeted by lines now that a vaccine for COVID-19 has been approved for use.
Those interested in holidays at sea had previously been waiting to travel only when a vaccine was available, according to a new study. The UK Travel Intelligence Report, compiled by LOTUS, reveals that propensity to cruise still exists as 33% of those who favour a cruise holiday plan to travel within Europe in the next 7-12 months and 32% outside of Europe once they have received the vaccine, reports Travel Weekly.
For more information on the UK Travel Intelligence Report, compiled by LOTUS, contact email@example.com
Golf Travel Centre reported a 39% increase in bookings in November, reports Travel Daily compared year-on-year. There has been a surge in interest in golf holidays in several locations.
Destinations showing significant growth in popularity for their golf holidays are: South Africa; Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Turkey and Mauritius.
According to the latest tourism data from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), destinations welcomed 900 million fewer international tourists – a fall of 72% between January and October when compared with the same period of 2019.
Based on the current evidence, UNWTO expects international arrivals to decline by 70% to 75% for the whole of 2020, equating to levels of 30 years ago, with 1 billion fewer arrivals and a loss of US$ 1.1 trillion in international tourism receipts. This massive drop in tourism due to the pandemic could result in an economic loss of US$ 2 trillion in world GDP.
UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili said: “There is still a long road to recovery. We thus need to step up our efforts to safely open borders while supporting tourism jobs and businesses. It is ever clearer that tourism is one of the most affected sectors.”
Asia and the Pacific, the first region to suffer the impact of the pandemic and the one with the highest level of travel restrictions to date, saw an 82% decrease in arrivals in the first ten months of 2020.
The Middle East recorded a 73% decline, while Africa saw a 69% drop. International arrivals in both Europe and the Americas declined by 68%.
Europe recorded decreases of 72% and 76% in September and October compared to other world regions, following the slight though short-lived recovery in the summer peak months of July and August. The resurgence of the virus across the region has led to the reintroduction of some forms of travel restrictions. However, Europe is the region in which more destinations (91% as of 1 November 2020) have eased such restrictions, mainly among Schengen Member States.
At the other end of the spectrum, Asia and the Pacific continued to record declines of nearly 100% in September and October, reflecting the ongoing closure of borders in China and other major destinations in the region. The Americas has seen a gradual improvement since June with comparatively lower decreases in international arrivals through October. This reflects the reopening of many destinations in the region, including small island developing states in the Caribbean.
According to the latest research from UNWTO, the proportion of closed destinations has dropped from 82% in late April 2020 to 18% in early November (expressed in percentage of international arrivals).
UNWTO has partnered with CNN on a Restart Tourism Campaign.
8 OF THE BEST TRENDS FOR 2021
Travel Weekly has published its eight trends for 2021.
- Short-haul will recover first with old-favourites as customer confidence takes time to build
- Villa holidays for seclusion
- Self-drive for self-containment
- With uncertainty, will come late bookings
- Outdoor adventures
- Domestic holidays will grow
- Rail-based breaks for eco-aware, flying alternatives
- Wildlife and sustainability and the desire to travel more responsibly
CLUB MED GOOGLE SEARCH DATA
Long-haul countries are emerging as the most popular post-COVID destinations people want to visit in 2021 analysis of Google search data by Club Med has revealed.
Holidaymakers appear to be looking to travel far from home next year with the Maldives top of the list ahead of Mexico and Thailand.
The US, Mauritius and South Africa are other long-haul destinations under consideration for post-COVID travel.
The analysis also shows Turkey, Spain, Malta and Portugal in the top ten.
This follows Greece coming out on top this year.
Opodo parent eDreams ODIGEO says European destinations will dominate the most booked charts in 2021, according to its latest data, reports Travolution.
“We saw a rapid increase in bookings when travel restrictions were lifted in the summer which is a positive indication of what we can expect as we move towards a better sense of normality next year.
“Flexibility and agility will be king next year; businesses that cannot fold this into their offering will struggle to remain relevant.“
A recent survey we commissioned of 10,000 adults found that before committing to book, 60% of travellers would need a guaranteed refund for travel and accommodation if their trip was cancelled due to COVID-19.”
Table 1: Top 10 most booked destinations for 2021 based on 2020 booking data
Fort de France
Palma de Mallorca
Canary Islands / Spain
Health Editor Perspective
BBC health editor Hugh Pym told the AITO conference: “I don’t think anyone should suddenly think from the spring there’s a magic bullet that deals with everything.” He said he thought travel next year, would be “restrained, but there”.
“If you think back to late summer this year, it might be like that next summer, but that’s a cautious personal view.”
He said vaccinating the elderly and vulnerable should lead to a huge drop in COVID cases generally by spring, but cautioned that there was currently only one approved vaccine.
“The virus is still around and there is a view that until the autumn we will have to accept some sort of restriction.
Travel Trade Consultancy director Martin Alcock predicted a “stepped” booking pattern in 2021, with January sales far short of the total normally expected.
He said January could normally see “up to 20%” of annual sales made, but predicted:
“We are going to see a much quieter January. I think we will see much more like this stepped profile as customers react to events.
“I think realistically, (it will be) Q3 before the vaccine has propagated enough into society that we have sufficient coverage.”
WFH TREND TO CONTINUE
Accountancy giant EY says few people will want to return to working five days a week in the office post-pandemic, while data by Rightmove shows that there was an annual jump of 326% in listings mentioning terms like ‘office’, ‘workspace’ and ‘working from home’.
SOCIAL WITH MEDIA - THE OUTLOOK FOR 2021
- Jenny Southern, Globe Trender
- Katie McGonagle, Travel Weekly
- Rene Frey, Insights Guides/ Rough Guides
- Angelina Villa Clarke, F/L. Forbes/ Journeys/ Mail
RF – Insight Guides / Rough Guides: Revenues for Rough Guides have shrunk dramatically. They are looking at reinventing the business and how they can position themselves in a new market. Part of this is their digital strategy. Domestic tourism is still really important for all of Europe and globally and will continue to be important in 2021 as people more cautious.
JS – Globe Trender: There is a lot riding on the vaccine. Although lots of uncertainties with this. She expects some kind of immunity passport. There will be a travel exodus of young people although they’ll be more cash strapped.
Some people might find a more luxury or high-end experience ‘safer’. I.e., spending more for reassurance and guarantees. BUT…camping and rentals are going to also grow in popularity. Growth at top and bottom end.
She says there is a lot of fearmongering over Brexit. Lots of confusion amongst travellers which could make people more hesitant to book. People will hold off further changing booking patterns.
KM – Travel Weekly: There is positivity with lots of pent-up demand. Travel corridors help reinforce confidence across the market.
There is an appetite for self-contained holidays. COVID has been a catalyst to other trends such as sustainability, wellness, no-fly. Seeds were sewn pre-COVID. People aren’t putting their money where their mouth is with regards to big once in a lifetime trips, although average spend has gone up, according to Kuoni. But from a mainstream perspective, price is always an issue.
Brexit is an issue for inbound tourism. Outbound will be okay. Inbound has already suffered hugely this year. Unknown how the industry can mitigate the impact because we still do not know the details.
AVC - freelance: The feel good factor will be important in 2021. Travellers will be tiered based on people’s risk level and openness to travel.
Across the LOTUS agency the teams are in constant contact with senior travel editors, commissioning editors and travel journalists. Supported by investment in databases and networking platforms, LOTUS ensures it has the latest insider intelligence to inform clients of the latest trends and requirements of their target media.
LOTUS is a multi-award-winning PR, marketing and representation consultancy specialising in travel and tourism, working with destinations, travel associations, hotel groups, airlines, tour operators, transportation companies and other tourism related businesses.
In challenging times, working with an established and intelligent partner is key. Steering clients through this territory, LOTUS provides essential client counsel, industry insight, new commercial opportunities and flexible strategies.