Independent agents are seeing signs of recovery in business with hopes of an imminent “spike” in the lates market this summer.
The return of flights to key short-haul destinations, the easing of quarantine restrictions and social media showing Brits on overseas holidays should help to give the summer market a much-needed boost in the coming weeks.
This was the verdict of the latest TTG Agent Matters panel, chaired by senior reporter Tom Parry, which discussed whether the industry had turned a corner in the battle to rebuild sales amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
David McDonald, managing director of World Travel Lounge, said: “Demand has picked up significantly for us in the past week – to the point where we have removed our locked door policy.
“Demand is significantly higher than during lockdown. Confidence is coming back and they want to go away now.”
McDonald added he could see “a big spike” in sales in the next couple of weeks. But there would be a “very late booking” trend with many booking within four weeks of travel.
Diane Coleman, owner of Tickets Travel, said she had seen a “slight increase in interest”. But there were still “some hurdles to get over”, particularly around insurance and being unable to get cover if a client cannot travel because of Covid-19.
“We should see more interest as more people post on social media – they will see those images and think they want to go away,” she added. “The more you see people flying then that will give confidence.”
Kate Harris, owner of Inspired Travel, added: “We’ve definitely had more enquires and more buzz – but have people got that extra confidence to get on that plane and go?
“Things are going to keep changing – we don’t know what the new normal is going to be.”
Harris said that half her agency’s current bookings were for UK trips compared with just a handful of domestic sales per year before Covid.
“We don’t have the tour operators out there for the UK compared with Europe,” she said. “I’ve got to get better at UK holidays as I’ve not pushed this before.”
All the agents admitted there was still plenty of “nervousness” from clients about booking a holiday, with many consumers already deciding not to travel abroad until 2021.
The panel also discussed the impending government move to make wearing face masks mandatory in all shops in England from 24 July.
“I think masks could be a good thing,” said McDonald. “It could drive more confidence for people to visit high street. We have stores with an older demographic who like to come and see us. Hopefully it will enable us to recover faster.”
But Harris worried that wearing masks could make the face-to-face selling of holidays “more difficult” in her shop.