Agents have told TTG they have experienced and immediate uptick in positivity among clients, as well as enquiries and bookings, following the government’s Covid roadmap announcement on Monday (22 February).
Domestic trips could resume from 12 April according to the proposals, and international travel from 17 May "at the earliest" – subject to a fresh report by the newly reconvened Global Travel Taskforce.
Agents with retail premises may also be able to reopen their doors from 12 April.
The government will wind back the country’s current lockdown measures in five-week blocks, with each relaxation examined against four key tests – including rates of vaccine deployment, evidence of the vaccine’s effect on reducing rates of infection hospitalisation and death, and the impact of any new Covid variants.
"What a difference a day makes," said Tony Mann, director of Bradford’s Idle Travel. "We had a busy day on Monday before the government announcement; today (Tuesday), the phone is ringing off the hook.
"It’s a mixture of, ‘what’s happening with my booking?’, ‘can I swap my booking?’, and ‘can I have a refund?’. But there have been plenty calling to make new bookings, encouragingly."
Mann also revealed to TTG just how damaging the impact of transport secretary Grant Shapps’ comments on summer holiday bookings had been. "It knocked the stuffing out of me and my team," said Mann.
"We seriously wondered what the future would hold. The roadmap announcement, though, was totally unexpected in its scope, and it was a shock to hear a plan regarding travel.
"And although it won’t be as straight as a Roman road, it’s something we can work with and it’s given us some hope. We are made of resilient stock in travel, and we will adapt to the twists and turns that no doubt still lie ahead."
Haslemere Travel owner Gemma Antrobus said Monday’s announcement was "exceptionally welcome", especially with there having been little expectation of international travel until August, adding that while Boris Johnson’s statement lacked much of the detail agents and operators needed, it offered "a guide for what to expect".
"The positive impact for Haslemere Travel has been immediate," said Antrobus. "The conversations I’ve had today are much more optimistic, both with those with existing bookings and those making fresh enquiries eager to have something to look forward to."
Antrobus said the re-establishment of the government’s Global Travel Taskforce was also a welcome move, albeit only if it proves to be "new and improved" when compared to its previous short-lived incarnation, which featured no travel sector stakeholders.
"By setting a firm date for a plan of action, Boris Johnson has drawn a line in the sand," she said. "Consumers will now have confidence that travel over the summer and beyond is going to happen. As an industry, we must continue to fight for our voice and a seat at the table, but we must recognise the wheels are in motion."
Reflecting on potentially being able to re-open her shop, Antrobus cautioned that as it would yet be several months before agents start earning again, it was vital chancellor Rishi Sunak’s 3 March Budget finally provided tailored support for travel.
"12 April to 17 May will be the first period when those of us with retail shops can physically open but not make any money at all," said Antrobus. "Previously, when we had been ’open’, we could still sell a few destinations. This has to be recognised and accounted for in the Budget."
Graeme Brett, director of South Shields agency Westoe Travel, said it was "great to have a date to work to, at last". "Since the announcement, it’s been really busy with new bookings and dealing with bookings up to 16 May that are cancelled," he said.
"Virtually everyone whose booking has been cancelled has transferred to a new date though, and there have been a lot of new bookings.
"Clients seem to be booking for destinations they have been to before, where they know what to expect. Greece is top seller at the moment, followed by Turkey, then the Canaries, Benidorm and Majorca. More people are booking villas too now."