As the UK gradually reopens and the long list of countries now exempt from the quarantine requirements has been digested, there are definitely the “green shots” that the travel industry has been so desperately waiting for.
In the media, the travel sections are gradually expanding once more and many travel journalists are keen to pack their bags and explore again. But is this being reflected by consumers as a whole? From our research and anecdotal discussions, it seems the picture is mixed. There is an upward search trend of increasing numbers looking for flights and holidays but, of course, bookings are still way down and many people are now postponing travel until the end of 2020 or start of 2021. In some cases, people are searching for their bucket list destinations and are willing to wait before travelling there.
There is a very different picture for companies such as Eurotunnel Le Shuttle and the Caravan and Motorhome Club. As soon as quarantine restrictions were lifted, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle was inundated with enquiries and bookings and whilst, of course, there is ground to make up, the operator will most certainly have a very busy July and August with signs looking positive until the end of the year. The Caravan and Motorhome Club has also witnessed a huge surge in bookings for both its UK and European campsites and membership has also increased. Whilst very different products, both facilitate travelling in a “bubble” which in these uncertain times is obviously a very attractive option for those wanting to get away this summer.
For the cruise industry, it is a very different scenario. Despite the recent lobbying to the UK government, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice against ocean cruising was announced last week. The cruise industry has certainly had its fair share of negative publicity during this pandemic, with the sensationalist stories at the start of the outbreak and the ongoing advice giving the impression that cruising isn’t safe. Yet we know that cruise enthusiasts are very keen to get back on board again and many of the ocean cruise companies are taking their time to review protocols, consolidate fleets and itineraries, ensuring that they come back in a safer and stronger position than ever.
There is a more immediate and optimistic outlook for river cruising, which it now seems is exempt from the FCO advice. River cruising has already started up again in Europe and strict COVID-19 protocols have been adopted. In fact, we have a journalist who has just travelled with client VIVA cruises on a four day trip departing Dusseldorf. So far so good, the social distancing was maintained and excursions went ahead. It seems that everyone on board behaved in a sensible and respectful fashion and enjoyed the experience, despite the heightened health and safety procedures.
It is a shame this attitude isn’t being reflected by all holidaymakers. I was sad to see reports of a small minority hitting the headlines with their anti-social behaviour in Magaluf. Whilst parts of Spain are still in lockdown, it seems that a small number are risking both the industry’s recovery and the consumers’ chance of a holiday in the near to mid-term by acting in a totally irresponsible fashion.
This highlights the precarious state that we are in right now. Yes there are opportunities coming back, and yes it looks like we can take a holiday that we have all been craving for. However, we need to be realistic in the way we promote the experiences and set expectations. There is no doubt travel will be different as a result of this crisis and we will all have to behave with common sense and adhere to the new protocols, paving the way to recovery in the months and even years ahead.
To find out more about our travel team’s work and insights, contact Debbie Hindle, chief executive, travel, here.