ABTA’s Travel Matters conference takes place on June 22
A person’s vaccination status should aid their ability to travel more freely, as it does in Europe, Tui’s UK managing director has argued.
Andrew Flintham spoke to ABTA Magazine ahead of ABTA’s upcoming Travel Matters conference, at which he is a speaker. Other speaks include Mark Tanzer, chief executive, ABTA; Robert Courts MP, minister for Aviation, Maritime & Security, Department for Transport; Garry Wilson, chief executive officer, easyJet holidays; and Joss Croft, chief executive officer, UKinbound (you can register here).
“In the short term we need transparency from government about how they’ll get international travel open for business again,” said Flintham. “We need to understand the methodology and data they’re using when applying the Global Travel Taskforce framework – and to then actually stick with the framework that the industry and Department for Transport agreed to.
“As a country we have over 50 per cent of adults vaccinated with two doses and yet we’re not taking advantage of this; by doing so it also removes the complexity and expense of testing for those fully vaccinated.”
Speaking to ABTA Magazine, Garry Wilson, chief executive officer, easyJet holidays, said “consumer confidence is key” to travel’s recovery in the short term.
“For that to be successful we need really clear information and guidelines from our government, applied with some certainty and stability, so that everyone knows what’s expected and required to be able to travel this summer,” he said. “We also continue to push for travel to be as affordable and accessible as possible and are still waiting to see what else the government can do to bring down the cost of testing. The industry, as a whole, also needs some real and very targeted and tailored financial support as it continues to be so impacted. So while we’ve taken decisive action, and within holidays specifically we have really low fixed costs, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners and peers and want to see much more to support our combined recovery.”
Flintham said there is “no doubt in my mind that that removal of Portugal from the green list will absolutely dent consumer confidence this summer.” He added: “As an industry we lobbied hard and worked with the Department for Transport to create the traffic light framework, so for it to be ignored on the first review was a body blow to us all. We were assured that we wouldn’t have another summer whereby destinations would freely come on and off lists. Our expectation was that as vaccination programmes ramped up around the world, we would see more countries join the green list and we would all have more stability.
“As an industry we really are trying to do everything we can for our customers; we’re all offering really flexible booking terms and we’ve all shown the importance of booking an Atol and ABTA backed package holiday.”
Flintham said that the sector “absolutely” can come back stronger. “As an industry we constantly adapt; we saw this with additional security requirements after 9/11, after geo-political issues, or massive weather events. We all learn to adapt to what our customers need and expect from us. Whilst it’s hard to find any positives about the difficult 18 months we’ve all faced, we have all shown the importance of booking a package holiday.
Longer stays, all-inclusive boarding, 5-star hotels and upgrades to room types are all among current trends, said Flintham. “Customers are looking to return to old favourites this summer- with Greece, Spain and their respective islands top of the list. Before Turkey went on the red list, this was another extremely popular choice. When we look further ahead we’re seeing customers book long-haul destinations, or treating themselves to bucket list destinations.”
Wilson agrees that “it’s firm favourites that are topping the list”: Spain, Turkey and Greece were EasyJet Holiday’s most popular destinations pre-pandemic and continue to take the top spots. “Of course Portugal had also enjoyed a recent spike in bookings when it was put on the green list and anything else that is added to the green list proves popular,” he said. “I think most of all people know how much some of their favourite destinations rely on tourism and want to do all they can to support their recovery as much as they can. And we’re also seeing people wanting to re-connect with other parts of Europe, so a real interest in city breaks. We’re expecting in to 2022 and 2023 that people will take multiple trips abroad to make up for lost time. It’s hard to beat the value and experience that some of our favourite European places can offer when it comes to holidays.”
“We’re seeing a lot of customers book September and October holidays – so expect an extended summer this year,” Flintham added. “One positive trend for this summer is the popularity of domestic cruises. We start our Marella Cruises domestic itineraries at the end of June and the team cannot wait to welcome customers onboard again.”
Wilson said that travel – as one of the most resilient industries – will come back stronger. “We’ve faced our fair share of challenging events over the years, although this is unlike anything else in terms of how long this has now gone on for,” he said. “I think we’ve got a real opportunity, though, to build trust and confidence, and also to encourage more responsible travel. We recently announced we’re offsetting the carbon emissions for our holidays – so any that have already taken place since we launched our business and any future holidays booked. And without passing any cost on to our customers, this means the carbon emission are offset to cover the fuel from flights and in destination transfers as well as energy from hotel stays. And that’s just the start, we’ll have much more to share very soon on how we’ll support our partners, and our destinations and communities.”
Pre-registration for Travel Matters is essential as places are limited. For more information and to register, visit: abta.com/travelmatters2021