Travel bosses have reported a surge in bookings for next weekend when school ends following the Government’s announcement £65 PCR tests would be replaced by £30 antigen tests when returning to the country from October 24. Meanwhile, the sterling’s rise in value against European currencies means Britons will see their holiday cash stretch further while abroad.
Families will pay up to 18 percent less in seven of the ten of the most popular autumn sun destinations because of the stronger pound, research by Post Office has revealed.
Nick Boden, the head of Post Office Travel Money, said the Sterling has “remained buoyant this year despite the difficulties that Britain has faced” and is currently worth around eight percent more against the euro and the Croatian kuna than a year ago.
Britons chasing winter sun have booked for destinations such as Dubai, Alicante, Malaga and Mauritius.
Weekly bookings on Skyscanner for travel during half term increased by 17 percent in the last week alone.
Gavin Harris, deals and pricing expert at Skyscanner, said: “Booking volumes are rising as a result of the recent relaxation of the rules for travel and we expect this to continue to rise as we get closer to the school break.
“Prices may fluctuate as a result of supply moving to meet demand, but many providers have vowed to make travel accessible for everyone and are keeping prices low to compete for bookings.”
Travel firm lastminute.com reported a rise in half term booking as the school holidays near, with reservations last week up 48 percent compared to the previous week.
Reigo Eljas, the firm’s UK and Ireland director, said: “We believe that reduction in testing requirements and less hassle for travellers to find and get tested at their holiday destination as well as any associated cost savings have boosted people’s appetite to jet off once again.”
A TUI spokeswoman said: “We’re continuing to see a big increase in bookings for October half term.”
Consumers went on a travel spending spree after the Government announced the red list would be slashed to just seven countries last week.
Matthew Pack, group chief executive of Holiday Extras, said: “People have had confidence to travel ever since the traffic light system was dropped at the start of this month ‑ our bookings have been up 20 percent ever since.
“Unfortunately the testing news that the government snuck out on Thursday came too late to make any real difference for families hoping to get away this half term.”
Popular spots on Britain’s coast have also seen “exceptional demand” because of pandemic uncertainty.
Simon Maguire, the managing director of Luxury Family Hotels group ‑ which comprises Woolley Grange near Bath, Fowey Hall in Cornwall and New Park Manor in the New Forest ‑ said: “We certainly haven’t felt any negative impact resulting from the lifting of international travel restrictions.”
Comment by Martyn Sumners
The long-awaited news that travellers don’t need a PCR test on return from holiday is a great boost; it will doubtless increase confidence to travel. AITO’s test providers report an average reduction of £20 pp ‑ a saving well worth having, especially for families.
The implementation date, October 24, is a horribly short lead-in time for 2021 holidays ‑ many UK schools start half term next week! For those who can travel, there will be real availability challenges over half term.
The pent-up demand is definitely there ‑ but supply challenges vary according to destination. Easily-accessible European destinations will probably have more capacity than those further afield. Flight prices have increased hugely as demand surges across limited availability.
The longer-term picture after half-term is more positive, as stability starts to return and confidence grows. People are ready to travel and have saved their money, keen to go abroad.
We all look forward to the joy holidays will bring ‑ both to travellers ready to experience new cultures overseas once again and to overseas suppliers, who look forward to hosting them! British visitors have been much missed worldwide during the pandemic.
Our research tells us that more travellers than ever will now book through a travel specialist rather than organise trips themselves.
The pandemic has shown there is no substitute for booking with an expert who can share their knowledge and provide insider tips to ensure that you get the best experience.
Whatever we buy in life, we want to ensure that we are talking to credible experts who we can trust and who will, importantly, answer the phone if there is a problem; travel is no different ‑ in fact, personal help when required while on holiday is probably more important than anything else, and it’s part of AITO’s ethos to help clients whenever they need assistance.
AITO Specialist Tour Operators and AITO Specialist Travel Agents pride themselves on this key USP.
It is vital for AITO specialist holiday companies to be able to trade again ‑ for many, for the first time in 20 months.
We need to earn a living, to keep our highly-knowledgeable staff in jobs, to work with our incredible suppliers overseas and to deliver great holidays to our customers.
The re-opening of travel worldwide, including South America ‑ where, disappointingly, much of the region remains on the red list ‑ is key; this needs to change fast.
Martyn Sumners is Executive Director, AITO