Government provides consumer reassurance four months after travel cancelled

Four months after the UK Government issued FCO guidance against all foreign travel, and tour operators were obliged to cancel package holidays en masse from 18 March, the Government has finally confirmed that passengers accepting a ‘refund credit note’ (RCN) will be financially protected.

In unprecedented circumstances, writes Simon Calder in The Independent, many travel firms were unable to meet their obligations under the Package Travel Regulations to make full cash refunds within two weeks of the cancellation.

They were advised by ABTA, the travel trade association, to issue ‘refund credit notes’ – vouchers that can be used to book another holiday with the same company at a later date, or redeemed for cash by a certain date.

Many consumers were concerned that the refund credit note was not covered by ATOL protection, which ensures a full refund if the travel firm fails before the holiday takes place.

Now the Department for Transport (DfT) has finally confirmed that the refund credit note, if properly drafted, carries the same protection as the original holiday booking.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which administers the Atol scheme for the DfT, said that refund credit notes issued between 10 March and 30 September this year will be covered until 30 September 2021.

Holidaymakers will still be entitled to a refund if they prefer.

A spokesperson for Abta said: “The move will particularly help tour operators that have not been able to immediately refund customers for cancelled package holidays because they have had to wait for money back from airlines and other suppliers.

“We now need the government to listen to industry calls for tailored support to protect businesses and jobs until its recovery can properly take effect.”


But pressure could increase sharply for those companies who issued credit notes with an expiry date of 31 July, reported Travel Weekly ‘as they will need to pay or face charge backs from card issuers.’

There are also concerns that RCNs issued after 30 September will not be valid. The CAA said that the policy would probably need to be reviewed again.

Lucy Huxley outlined that the government announcement gave vindication to ABTA and provided a lifeline in the industry, but there is still no tangible backing for the industry, and the announcement has already come too late for some companies.



TTG reported that the transport secretary Grant Shapps has said that the government will make more announcements on international travel next week and is working on a package of measures for the airline sector.

The review date for air corridors is on Monday 27 July, but the transport secretary said that countries were reviewed every week as well.

Travel Weekly has been told that it is unlikely that there will be much change, despite pressure from Portugal and airlines lobbying to open up hub airports. However, in The Times on Thursday 23 July, it was reported that it was ‘likely’ that quarantine-free travel between England and Portugal is likely to be confirmed within days and that the move comes after powerful lobbying from the Portuguese government, which was angered by the “absurd” decision to leave the country off the original list of Covid-safe travel corridors published by Westminster at the start of this month.

Portugal, which welcomed 2.1 million British tourists last year, has had a spike in coronavirus cases around the capital, Lisbon, over the past month, although rates are much lower in tourist hotspots such as the Algarve and the islands of the Azores and Madeira. The Foreign Office has already lifted its advice against non-essential travel to the Azores and Madeira for British citizens.

The Maldives is also touted as a new country to be included on the list.

The Telegraph reports that regional ‘air bridges’ are being considered by the government to allow travel to countries such as Portugal and the United States.




WTM London will go ahead as planned after the government announced the resumption of the exhibitions industry from 1 October, reports TTG.

WTM is set to take place between 2 and 4 November. The Travel Forward technology show and associated events that comprise London Travel Week will also take place.

Event Director Simon Press said: “By hosting both a live and virtual event as part of WTM London 2020 we will be providing a truly essential service for the global travel and tourism industry as it looks to rebound heading into 2021. We look forward to welcoming you once again to the event where Ideas Arrive – WTM London”.

The show’s venue, ExCeL, is now 90% restored to its pre-Covid state, with remaining space used as storage for the Nightingale hospital housed there at the height of the pandemic.



Travel Weekly has created a Restart & Recovery Hub with information from a range of destinations and trade-friendly suppliers on how they are reopening to travel.

The hub launched this week and will provide updates from partner tourist boards, airlines and operators. It will include details of planned dates for reopening borders and resuming flights, along with information such as requirements for testing, quarantine or wearing face masks, and photos or videos showing what customers can expect on holiday.



The coronavirus crisis has created a backlog of more than 400,000 passport applications, reports The BBC. Home Office minister Baroness Williams explained that reduced staffing to allow social distancing meant forms were taking longer to process.

As a result, the Passport Office says only people going away before September or those travelling on compassionate grounds should apply now for a passport.

The Telegraph has found that families have been forced to cancel holidays because of delays of up to four months to process their passport applications.



Crystal Ski Holidays says pent-up demand and the reassurance of packages have led to a “significant surge” in sales for winter 2020-21.

The Tui-owned ski tour operator claims its bookings soared by a “staggering 125%” in just a few weeks since the government’s relaxation of travel restrictions.


The Austrian ski resort of Ischgl is set to offer skiers and snowboarders a free coronavirus test and scale down its après-ski scene next winter following the pandemic. A number of Covid-19 cases were linked to the resort, including the UK's patient zero.



Travel Weekly reports that high street agents are reporting a slow sales recovery and a rise in customers questioning Covid rules in holiday resorts.

Bookings for summer 2020 are necessarily late – with departure dates within five to seven days. Advantage Travel said that for 2021 clients were opting for 10 or 14 night breaks instead of seven, spending more and making group bookings – with the Maldives and Caribbean particularly popular.

Re-bookings are up and cancellations are down, with customers asking more about Covid rules, increasing the need for informed travel agents.

Business Travel

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has warned fresh border closures will stall economic recovery and called for the opening of ‘air corridors’ linking major financial centres. The WTTC suggested opening ‘air corridors’ between global financial centres such as London, Frankfurt and New York “where infection levels are low”.

TMCs tracking recovery

The second Focus Covid-19 Recovery Survey, covering bookings taken in the week between 14-17 July has found that 94% of its partners booked flights and 92% booked accommodation, up from 85% and 73% respectively. Construction and engineering were driving most bookings followed in equal numbers by the finance and oil & gas/marine sectors.



New Insurance policies

July has seen the launch of a number of new travel insurance products to cover Covid-related claims. ABTA released survey findings that revealed 30% of consumer respondents were more likely to take out travel insurance now than before the pandemic.

  1. ABTA has partnered with Axa to launch ABTATravel Sure, which it will sell direct to consumers and via its members. The product includes Covid-19 cover as standard for both medical claims abroad and for cancellation prior to travel if the holder falls ill with coronavirus and is unable to travel or has to self-isolate.
  2. Not Just Travel aims to encourage more consumers to book holidays, with the introduction of travel insurance that includes cover for Covid-19. The homeworking agency estimates that 95% of holidaymakers currently don’t have cover for Covid-19. The insurance policy with Covid protection covers coronavirus illness, repatriation, cancellation, curtailment, quarantine and cruises.
  3. Allianz Partners has added Covid-19 cover to its white label travel insurance.
  4. Travel insurance company battleface has launched a new Covid-19 policy covering holidaymakers going to destinations to which the Foreign Office (FCO) advises against all non-essential travel.
  5. Co-op Holidays has unveiled a travel pledge to pay cash refunds to holidaymakers within 10 working days if it cancels a holiday. It has brought out the pledge alongside a new Covid-19 inclusive insurance policy in conjunction with Rock Insurance.
  6. Online travel agency Travel Republic is offering customers the chance to buy a Covid-19 insurance policy for their holidays.
  7. All-inclusive tour operator Club Med has introduced medical assistance cover in its package holidays
  8. All Clear, the travel insurance company that specialises in cover options for older travellers with pre-existing medical conditions, describes its policy as ‘wide ranging’
  9. and Jet2holidays has launched an insurance policy which includes Covid-19 cover for cancellations and medical claims abroad.
  10. Dnata brands have introduced a 'Covid Waiver' to warn customers that the company won't be held responsible for changes to holidays, cancellations or curtailments due to coronavirus. Gold Medal, Travel 2, Travel Republic, Travelbag and Netflights have all introduced the waivers for new and existing customers in June, but each company has used slightly different wording.The waivers warn customers that, for their protection, 'products, services and facilities included in your booking may be subject to short notice change, closure or intermittent availability'.




According to Kuoni, many consumers plan to splash out on a luxury break this Christmas after taking summer staycations. Kuoni said bookings to Barbados are up 30% y-o-y and 20% for Maldives.

Titan Travel

Titan Travel has made a number of redundancies due to a booking slump during the pandemic, but have not confirmed how many.

G Adventures

The tour operator is extending its suspension of tours to include those departing up to and including 30 September, as well as the 21 October departure of its G Expedition ship.

However, there are 21 departures which can operate in Europe during September.



Honk for Hope

Five hundred coach drivers travelled to Whitehall on Monday to honk their horns in a bid to draw attention to the crisis facing the coach sector as a result of coronavirus.

The protesters are asking the government for a package of support measures, including financial help to meet these payments and an extension of the furlough scheme for the industry.

Tom Jenkins, ETOA CEO said: “Many of these coach companies are our members. Coach companies have huge overheads, invest heavily in low-emission vehicles. Now neither tourism nor education revenues are open to them. They are excluded from business rates relieve and the demand for their business has been slashed by government.”




EasyJet staff have protested at Stansted, Newcastle and Southend airports this week after the airline announced plans to close all three bases and shed 1,290 cabin crew.

Airlines call for joint testing scheme to get transatlantic airlines flying again

The owner of British Airways and United Airlines are among the carriers that have signed a letter to US and European Union leaders to ask for a joint coronavirus testing programme, so that travel may resume between the US and Europe, reports the BBC.


Icelandair has sacked all its cabin crew and has said spare pilots must look after passengers.


According to the Daily Express, passengers on Jet2 may be caught out by the specific demands of what face coverings they must wear. The airline says: “Face masks need to cover your mouth and nose and should be either a protective or medical-style mask, or a fitted face covering.

“Coverings such as scarves, snoods, balaclavas or any similar items aren’t acceptable for travel.”

Wizz Air

English media personality Gemma Collins has signed a deal to promote Wizz Air in the UK market and to showcase its destinations and new onboard hygiene measures.

The airline has also announced new routes this week adding five new routes from London Luton. The new routes start from 7 August and include four Spanish and one Greek destination.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic resumed passenger flights this week with flights from Heathrow to Hong Kong, New York JFK and Los Angeles. Last week the airline secured a £1.2 billion bailout package and it has said that it will up the amount of cargo it carries to ensure services are ‘cash positive’.

Vice-president of sales Lee Haslett admitted this week that they “fell short of its standards of service” in processing Covid-19 related refunds and has apologised to its trade partners and their customers.

He also said that leisure travel will rebound quicker than business travel and agents and travel management companies will become more important than ever as people start to fly again.

British Airways

British Airways has struck a deal with pilots over sweeping job cuts in response to the coronavirus pandemic, says The Telegraph. Attention will now turn to the cabin crew and ground crew who are still in negotiations with the airline. A pool of 300 staff will be employed on reduced pay, primed to return to service once demand for air travel returns. In April, the airline announced that 12,000 jobs would be cut, and last week, BA accelerated the retirement of the airline’s 747 Jumbo Jet fleet.

This week BA resumed flights to Jamaica, which is on the list of safe countries.


Iberia has launched its summer network and is adding flights to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Uruguay.

AOA: 110,000 jobs at risk

The Airports Operators Association (AOA) has renewed its call to Government for targeted support for the aviation industry - in line with aid given to the hospitality and retail sectors – saying that the sector will lose £4 billion in revenue by the end of the year, putting 110,000 jobs at risk.



Panache Cruises

A new luxury cruise agency – Panache Cruises - has officially launched with a team of 15.

The cruise agency is helping to spearhead the relaunch of the luxury cruise market and aims to be the UK’s leading distributor of luxury cruises by 2025.

Swan Hellenic

Swan Hellenic, the 70-year-old British discovery cruise brand, has been resurrected as a cultural expedition line.

A new standalone company, with offices in Cyprus, Monaco and the UK, has acquired the Swan Hellenic brand and database from G Adventures.

It is building two “state-of-the-art” expedition ships in Finland, each with 76 cabins and aimed at providing 152 guests with an “elegant, intimate and personal onboard experience, delivered by 120 warm, friendly and knowledgeable staff”.

The first ship will be launched at an event in London in November 2021, before setting sail for Antarctica. The second will launch in April 2022 from St Petersburg en route to the British Isles and Iceland, before venturing into the Arctic for summer 2022.


Cruise & Maritime Voyages has entered administration after failing to secure additional funding.

The cruise line has ceased trading with immediate effect, as has its international sales offices in Australia, France, the United States and Germany.

CMV was based in Essex and operated six ships with a seventh, Amy Johnson, due to join the fleet in 2021.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages was a trading name of South Quay Travel Limited, which sold mainly cruise packages which are protected by Abta. The company also sold a small number of flight-inclusive packages which are protected by the Civil Aviation Authority’s Atol scheme.

Sister companies Independent Coach Travel (Wholesaling) Ltd and Viceroy Ltd have also entered administration.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises has extended a halt in cruise operations until 15 December, citing Covid-19's progression as the main cause.




Sally Balcombe, CEO of VisitBritain wrote in The Times on Saturday that the UK hospitality industry has worked hard to ensure that it is opening safely.

Working with VisitEngland and the tourist organisations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, they’ve introduced the “We’re Good to Go” mark and so far almost 30,000, from tiny B&Bs to big chains, have signed up. They will also be doing spot-checks.


European Union leaders have finally agreed on a €1.82tn budget and coronavirus recovery fund after four days of talks.


The Republic of Ireland has released a “green list” of 15 countries that travellers can visit without having to self-isolate for 14 days on their return – but Great Britain is excluded.

The 15 countries are Malta, Finland, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Greece, Greenland, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino.

Popular holiday destinations such as the US, France, Spain and Portugal have also been left off the list, as only countries with the same or lower infection rate than Ireland were included.


Portuguese authorities remain bewildered by the UK government’s decision to exclude the country from a ‘Covid safe travel’ list of destinations, reports Travel Weekly. The sentiment was echoed by senior members of the Telegraph travel team (see below) – although The Times on Thursday believes Portugal will be on the list of air corridors by Monday.

Lewis Araujo, president of Turismo de Portugal said: “We didn’t expect it. Portugal has done well in terms of controlling Covid.”

“We are trying to understand why because we couldn’t understand what data was used to take this decision.”

Speaking on a Travel Weekly Roadmap to Recovery webcast, Araujo said: “This kind of decision creates a lack of trust and confusion in tourists. It’s not just the UK – other governments in Europe are taking similar decisions.

“You can come to Portugal. We have more than 4,000 flights from the UK to Portugal until October. It’s just a matter of the quarantine.

“In July, we have 30% of the capacity we had in July 2019. In August, we are at 50%-55% of what we had in 2019. Of course, we need the flights to be full and this kind of misunderstanding is not helping.”

Araujo said: “We’re ready to welcome everyone. The virus doesn’t choose by nationality and the economy needs tourists. We’re hopeful the UK government will see the overall picture.”


The Times has reported that the UK Government has moved to scotch rumours that quarantine restrictions would be added to arrivals from Spain after a rise in cases.

Spain, the most popular country for British holidaymakers, has reported almost 9,000 new cases in the past week, with particular concern over the regions of Catalonia and Aragon. The Times said that ‘It is unlikely that quarantine policies in relation to the country will be changed immediately.’ A government spokesman said: “Spain is on a list of exemptions. We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review. Travel advice can be changed rapidly.”

The Telegraph reports on Thursday 23 July that there has been a sharp increase in new infections along the Costa del Sol, with Marbella reporting its first case in 11 days while 23 people have contracted the virus in Malaga in the last 48 hours. The city of Almeria has also seen a spike in infections, only weeks after Spain reopened its borders with the UK. Health officials in Lanzarote are also on high alert after a British holidaymaker tested positive while staying at a hotel on the island.

On Friday four million people in Barcelona and the surrounding region were urged to stay at home in a ‘voluntary lockdown’ to stop the spread of further infection.

Costa del Sol has joined Ibiza, Majorca and Catalonia in making face masks mandatory last week. The Sun reports that some of Spain’s coastal hotspots are much quieter than usual. , Majorca and Catalonia in making face masks mandatory last week. The Sun reports that some of Spain’s coastal hotspots are much quieter than usual.


The Mirror reports that Brits flying to Greece have been warned that they will probably be tested for coronavirus on arrival and if more than 40 travellers test positive, flights from the UK could be banned again.

Greek newspaper Protothema warns: "The result of the mass testing […] will determine if Greek borders remain open, or not, to Britain.”

Greece has been praised for its swift response to the pandemic but the country has seen an influx since borders reopened to many countries on 1 July.

The Daily Express has reported that tourists have been fined in Greece for not filling in the right forms pre-arrival. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office says “if you’re a British national, you can still enter Greece, but you must comply with the Greek authorities’ requirements, including on testing and self-isolation".

Greece is requiring all tourists to complete an online Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at least 24 hours before their arrival in Greece.

Greece has recorded 295 of confirmed cases in travellers since opening its borders with 76.27 percent or 225 of the 295 positive Covid-19 test results were found in travellers from Balkan countries.


The Prime Minister of Belize announced that Belize’s international airport, the Philip Goldson International Airport (BZE), will be opened on 15 August, kicking-off Belize’s third phase of re-opening tourism.


China has reported a 3.2% rise in GDP for the second quarter, faster than the 2.5% growth predicted by economists. The improvement reflects the lifting of lockdown measures and the introduction stimulus measures to tackle a coronavirus-led downturn. However, the economic outlook for China remains uncertain, in part due to the possibility of a resurgence of coronavirus and to the deteriorating relationship with the US.


The Jamaica Tourist Board is expecting a “good 2021” as bookings return faster than expected.


Destination management companies (DMCs) in Thailand have united to create uniform health and safety standards ahead of the restart of tourism in the country.

New Zealand

New Zealand government departments have worked together for the first time to market the country – despite its borders being closed because of coronavirus.

The campaign aims to give a “shout out” to the rest of the world, to keep the country “in the hearts and minds of friends and family around the globe”.


The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has launched a global campaign to woo visitors, with an emphasis on health and wellbeing.


California has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases, which has meant the West Coast state has now surpassed New York for the highest number of cases in the United States, although the latter still has the worst record for coronavirus-related deaths in the country.

The surging infection rate, which started in May after California reopened much of its economy, has prompted the state government to reinstate strict lockdown measures in a bid to regain control of the virus's spread.

Bars and restaurants have been ordered to close, and there are severe restrictions on activities that involve close contact with others.


The Telegraph Travel Industry Webinar – Destinations with Claire Irvin, Head of Travel, Nick Trend, Chief Consumer and Culture Editor and Ben Ross, Deputy Head of Travel

The Telegraph’s most recent reader poll (post lifting of quarantine restrictions) was:

Which country are you planning to visit first?

  1. Spain - 18%
  2. France – 14%
  3. Italy – 12%
  4. USA – tied with Greece at 10%

They had 12,000 respondents and were surprised that the USA figured so highly [given that UK citizens are not currently allowed entry to the US due to US restrictions and that arrivals back into the UK have to quarantine] and that Turkey featured much lower down (details not given).

BR: There’s lot of pent up demand for the USA and the love and wonder that readers have for the country overrides all the bad news about the politics and Covid. Also, he believes the USA provides comfort in the form of English being the first language.

He said that the old colonial countries such as Canada; New Zealand etc are also popular for this reason.

However, the old-favourites are back – and despite the pandemic, Italy is strong. (Old adage at Telegraph: ‘You can never have too much Italy’).

France is helped by the Eurotunnel and you can stay in your own car.

Both NT and BR believe that holiday consumers tend to be very positive and optimistic with regards to travel and readers will put risk and inconvenience to the back of their mind – they will make travel happen. Readers acknowledge there are difficult bits to travel – in normal times this could be a long bus transfer to a ski resort – and they are prepared to not to dwell too much about these aspects. However, BR also said that flying and mask wearing is still providing many with an obstacle to booking.


BR said that there will be some demographics who are more likely to put aside Covid risks – younger audiences for example, who are insulated against the disease.

CI said that there are also older people who want to seize the day. They’ve had a long time to think about what they are missing out on.

All thought it unlikely there would be further nationwide lockdowns. With regions or cities more impacted for future lockdowns.

BR believes that the quarantine issue is impacting on choices of destinations – and he personally has decided to take his family to Tenerife rather than Rhodes – as there is more danger in Greece that he could be quarantined in the country.

News, analysis together with inspiration

They have a two-pronged strategy on coverage: news and inspiration.

They have always covered travel news, but during the pandemic they stepped up the volume of news and analysis. This will be a continuing role for them.

They have also kept up the inspiration. They believed that people would be planning travel to big ticket destinations whilst in lockdown, and it was up to them to provide the inspiration.

They steered away from armchair travel – and have resources to provide on the ground reporting from in-country destination experts to cover the big stories.

They haven’t stopped covering destinations where restrictions are yet to be lifted, but there are nuances within that.

BR says he is not finding it a problem to run long-form pieces on long-haul travel, even though it’s not possible to travel to those destinations now, because trips to those destinations take a long time to plan – and have a longer booking window. Expect to see Canada and New Zealand etc - but they are struggling to cover Portugal at the moment. They don’t really understand why the Government hasn’t lifted the quarantine restrictions for arrivals back from Portugal, and they have a lot of readers who have properties there who are going there anyway, but they don’t feel they can run big features on Portugal at the moment (although they will for Azores and Madeira).

They will cover Portugal in the news sections and BR has a Portugal feature ready to run once the green light is given.

Blog is not just news. They are asking/answering the questions that readers are asking and searching for – and the Algarve is a massive search term for them, so they are covering the destination quite extensively at the moment from that point of view.

As destinations open up, there will be added impetus to cover them. There will be a huge opportunity for coverage in both news’ sections and for inspirational features. All the traditional news pegs such as extra flight routes; new hotels; new hiking routes etc, will add to the desire to cover the destination and engage with online audiences. Consumers won’t just want to know about Covid-based practicalities. They want things to be excited about.

They are assuming that there will be some kind of normality returning quite soon and they plan to cover winter sun destinations in August and September – opportunities for the Caribbean islands – and they believe confidence will return in planning ahead for winter sun.

They often cover Japan, Canada and the US in October with inspirational pieces backed up with practical advice and they anticipate that this will still happen as normal. They are confident they can run these pieces in the autumn for people thinking about booking for next summer.


Victoria has suffered from a rise in Covid cases, and is currently in lockdown, but they ran a destination piece from their expert about how WA has isolated itself from the rest of the country with residents there living and enjoying life there as normal – which looks quite exotic for us.


Whether people will remain nervous about flying is critical for confidence in the industry. They don’t know how that will play out and hope that there will be no stories about flying and Covid transmission.

BR: People have forgotten all the warmth and wonder of being on holiday. Once they get over the hump, they will book again – providing that they haven’t been too economically impacted.

CI: Backlogged travel stories. They have a few, but not many – as they have managed to use most on their many different platforms. Not everything we have goes in print and they have had a massive uptake on digital and online subscriptions, which provide destinations with great opportunities. Their online stock is ever rising – in terms of value to readers.


They don’t know how the skiing sector will work this season.

Telegraph Traveller Awards

They are not running the awards this year as they are based on readers’ votes.

But when they do run them, the results will be fascinating. They have so many entries, that they provide a good bell weather of which destinations and companies have delivered for consumers. They expect the refund issue to impact ratings.

Sustainability and responsible travel

NT: ‘There are incredible opportunities to travel to the great sights of Europe this year. London is extraordinary. Mass tourism isn’t spoiling destinations.’

The pandemic has provided an opportunity to reset. From an editorial point of view, they will be promoting responsible travel at every step. Tourism has contributed to many man-made problems. So the pandemic has provided travel with a possible silver lining. They want to see destinations benefit from tourism and genuine advances.

NT: Amsterdam has made a strong local move to regain the city from tourists. He has a positive view of how they will manage tourism in the future and how destinations manage their crowds will impact on the quality of visitor experience. Before the pandemic, overtourism was the big story. The pandemic has redressed that balance.



Jet Zero

The UK’s Jet Zero Council met for the very first time on Wednesday (22 July) to discuss wide-ranging plans to "decarbonise" the UK’s embattled aviation sector.

ABTA’s Consumer Attitudes to Sustainability Post-Covid

Key speakers:

  • Stuart Baker – Business Director, Travel, Leisure, Hospitality & Services at GlobalWebIndex
  • Clare Jenkinson – Head of Sustainability at ABTA
  • Borbala Jandrasics - Regional Head of Business Development at Hungarian Tourism Agency
  • Sarah Long from The Brighter Group, A Finn Partners Company
  • Hugh Felton - Senior Sustainable Tourism Executive at ABTA

Key points from this webinar include:

  • Sustainability and impact on the local environment continue to be an important consideration for travellers, despite Covid-19 and economic concerns (which usually impact environmental concerns).
  • Travel is still the most sought after purchase once lockdowns and restrictions ease but the intent on the short and medium term will be staycations and domestic holidays.
  • What sustainable tourism means for travellers post Covid-19 will also change; with most believing it’s the positive impact they can make on local economies and avoiding over tourism, not so much their environmental impact.
  • With local and short holidays being the default travel option for many travellers in the near-term, for some travellers, travelling less means they are being sustainable and environmentally friendly. Educating travellers about the difference between sustainable and responsible tourism still remains a challenge.
  • For travellers, sustainability is important but there are many definitions of it and also many different meanings. Travel brands and associations that can connect these will reap the benefits in short and the long term and a good place to start is how travel can help and support local economies.

Recap of ABTA Holiday Habits Report 2019

  • One of the longest running surveys on consumer attitudes towards sustainable travel
  • The most recent report (2019) confirmed that the importance of sustainability has been steadily increasing
  • ‘Green/environmental/sustainability credentials of the holiday provider are important to the booking process’ – growth from 20% in 2011 to 50% in 2019
  • ‘Travel companies should ensure that their holidays help the local people and economy’ – 51% in 2011, 62% in 2019
  • ‘Holidays should have an environmental and social rating, much like a quality star rating’ – 33% in 2011, 49% in 2019
  • ‘I am likely to choose one company over another based on a better environmental/ sustainable record’ – 19% in 2011, 38% in 2019
  • ‘I would like to know how travel companies are benefiting the destination I am going to’ – 34% in 2011, 48% in 2019
  • ‘I am prepared to pay more for a holiday with a company based on a better environmental and social record’ – 19% in 2011, 36% in 2019
  • ‘How animals are treated’ top concern for consumers, followed by ‘Waste and plastic pollution’, ‘Preservation of culture and heritage’ and ‘Nature conservation’ (all above 60%)

COVID-19 and sustainability

  • There has been an increase of sustainability and/or sustainable travel stories in media thanks to Covid-19 (e.g. stories about goats taking over empty streets in Wales, return of wildlife to Venice, how the Himalayas came into view in India for the first time in years as air pollution levels have dropped etc.)
  • These stories led to a new narrative in media that largely aligns with the ‘sustainable agenda’, e.g. support for shopping local (e.g. Independent: “Coronavirus: 5 ways to support small and local businesses during lockdown”)
  • Destinations have been forced to rethink tourism
    • New Zealand: “We have an opportunity to rethink the entire way we approach tourism to ensure that it will make New Zealand a more sustainable place”
    • Milan creating new cycle paths
    • Austrian ski resort of Ischgl, branded as the ‘Ibiza of the Alps’, has announced plans to move away from its party reputation after emerging from a month under quarantine.
  • However, Covid-19 is also a serious threat to sustainability, e.g. the use of single-use plastic has drastically increased (even though items made of/wrapped in plastic are not always sterile)
  • According to Claire, it’s still a bit too early to assess an actual impact of Covid-19 on sustainable travel preferences

Impact of Covid-19 on consumers and sustainability and/or sustainable travel

  • Kearney research: 48% of respondents said the pandemic had made them more concerned about the environment.
  • Kantar’s Covid-19 Barometer: Covid has increased desire to support ‘local businesses’
  • Wanderlust research:
    • 40% of people more determined than ever to make sustainable travel choices
    • “A strong feeling from respondents that they want to help small businesses, communities and conservation with their travels” - 45% of respondents ranked it as a top importance

Research from GlobalWebIndex

  • GlobalWebIndex conducted five waves of Covid-19 research across 17 countries
  • Sustainability and impact on the local environment continue to be an important consideration for travellers, despite Covid-19.
  • Travel is still the most sought-after purchase once lockdowns and restrictions ease but the intent on the short and medium term will be staycations and domestic vacations
  • UK travellers have had largest increase in negative sentiment towards buying a holiday
  • The importance of sustainability has seen slight declines across the majority of sectors which correlates with an increased level of concern in both local, global and their personal financial situation.
  • Levels of concern increase across generations whilst the importance of brands behaving sustainably shows modest declines in importance
  • 64% of consumers globally think that it is now more important than before for brands to behave more sustainably (the figure peaks at almost 80% among Gen Z; only 5% globally think it’s now less important)
  • Over half of European travellers (56%) believe it is now more important for them to reduce their own carbon footprint/environment impact when travelling
  • Despite marked shifts in holiday purchase intent due to Covid-19, Health & Wellness and Sustainable/Eco friendly holidays saw increases in preference; Package Holidays saw a significant decrease
  • Whilst safety is the highest priority for travellers, holidays with sustainable and eco-friendly credentials is of higher importance than price and flexible cancellation policies
    • 68% - safety is most important (+5% since June)
    • 51% - Relaxation & Wellness Holidays (+3% since June)
    • 35% - Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Holidays (+2% since June)
    • 30% - Price is most important (-1% since June)
    • 21% - Flexibility/Cancellation Policy (+2% since June)
  • Despite Covid-19 impacting the ability to travel, sustainability is still a key factor in consumers’ decision making with a clear trend over helping local economies and providers developing countries
  • 18-34-year-olds particularly expect companies to behave sustainably
  • Older generation doesn’t necessarily prioritise sustainability when travelling BUT it could be because they interpret sustainability differently (it doesn’t mean that they don’t care)
  • High-income brackets were more aware of sustainable issues; lower-income was more interested in flexible cancellations.

Hungarian Tourism Agency – case study

  • Hungary hasn’t been as severely affected by coronavirus as other countries (fewer than 600 deaths)
  • The country hopes to have all borders fully open by September
  • 43% of Hungarians plan to travel domestically in the first quarter after the virus; 10% of respondents would travel abroad
  • Fast recovery of the domestic tourism thanks to initiatives supporting sustainable development, e.g. Kisfaludy Tourism Development Programme (a fund available to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, improve operational efficiency, decrease seasonality, create new jobs etc.)

Key media/PR/marketing points:

  • Sustainability is no longer only about climate change and environment - Covid-19 has brought into focus the sustainability of humanity; Covid-19 put the spotlight on human fragility and in doing so highlighted massive inequalities in our societies across the world with Black Lives Matter at the forefront of the news agenda
  • The situation can be a good opportunity for product audit and development, review of accreditations and pledges, charity associations etc.
  • Media commitment:
    • The Guardian – one of the first papers to have a ‘green’ column but it’s not a column anymore as all their content is focused on sustainability
    • The Telegraph
      • Has a sustainability commitment and last year was the partner for the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards
      • Anna Hart has a new column in the travel section dedicated to slow travel
    • Wanderlust Magazine
      • Survey in May revealed a third are more determined than ever to travel sustainably while over a half feel they are already good travellers
      • There’s a shift towards considering flying less due to concern over carbon emissions (from 24% to 37%)
    • Conde Nast Traveller – Juliet Kinsman has recently been appointed sustainability editor
    • The People – now have their first sustainability editor
  • Press releases/pitches to cover new initiatives, accreditations, pledges, innovative approaches post Covid-19 (Covid is a good media hook if used appropriately)
  • Press trips - every trip should have a green sustainability thread (e.g. through experiences, transport, accommodation)
  • Events should be used to highlight the brand’s sustainable commitment (e.g. no use of plastic, locally sourced F&B)

And Finally

Swedish Knights enforce social distancing

A Swedish island in the Baltic Sea has taken a novel approach to maintaining social distancing among tourists by hiring a troupe of knights on horseback.

In full medieval regalia, knights from a re-enactment group greet tourists arriving at the Gotland island ferry terminal. During the week they go on the beach and around the city to tourist sites to talk to people about keeping socially distanced.