Agents and operators in the UK are optimistic about a recovery next year, especially for cruise and beach holidays.
Talking at WTM Virtual, industry bosses said they were boosted by news of a vaccine for Covid-19 and the buoyant demand for 2021 and 2022.
Miles Morgan, Managing Director at agency chain Miles Morgan Travel, said: “I am more upbeat than I have been since March; I see green shoots of the industry getting back on its feet again.
“We’re all really lucky as we don’t have an issue with demand. Demand will be higher than ever.
“As soon as a vaccine properly gets the green light, demand will go up.”
Richard Sofer, Commercial and Business Development Director at TUI UK & Ireland, added: “The great news is bookings for next year are positive; people who have not holidayed this year have mostly transferred to next year.”
Lisa Fitzell, Managing Director of Elegant Resorts, said the luxury operator had seen a boost for late bookings to destinations that don’t require travellers to quarantine on their return.
Morgan said his agents were urging customers to book now as prices look set to rise once the vaccine gets the go-ahead.
But Sofer said the UK travel industry is “hugely competitive” so prices will still be “keen”.
Session moderator Daniel Pearce, Chief Executive at TTG Media Limited, said his company had been tracking sales and inquiries at travel agencies since the start of the pandemic.
The favoured destinations were the Caribbean, Spain, Greece and the UK, while beach breaks, weddings, honeymoons and cruises were proving popular holiday types
“Our recovery in sales has been led by cruise. The cruise industry, led by CLIA [Cruise Lines International Association], has done an exceptional job and that will build back trust in cruise.”
Sofer agreed, praising the cruising health protocols that have been developed.
“You get the feeling of how safe an operation those cruise ships will be,” he said, adding that he thinks the UK Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office is close to lifting its blanket ban on ocean cruises.
Fitzell said the most popular holiday type for her clients was luxury beach, in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean.
She forecast that tailormade tours in Asia and Australasia will take longer to come back.
Morgan urged the trade to look at the Covid crisis as an opportunity to highlight the value and security of booking with travel agents.
“Some people have done the two ‘H’s – hibernated and hoped. That is a sure-fire recipe for disaster,” he said.
“You still have to be proactive and on the front foot.”