Agents fear customers have already started writing off their summer holidays, despite an imminent government update on the UK’s route out of Covid lockdown.
Ahead of prime minister Boris Johnson’s address on Monday (5 July), Anna White – manager of Ocky White Travel – said it was vital the government provided more clarity on its plans for international travel.
"We have clients desperate to get away but aren’t willing to commit because of the ever-changing rules, which change at such short notice," said White.
"This is something that was promised not to happen for this summer season, but is now worse than ever. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low, with clients writing off summer holidays this year.
"I’d like to see our country united, and for the rules to be the same for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as this just creates additional confusion."
The government is considering a range of changes to the UK’s Covid rules from 19 July, including dropping the current mandatory adherence to rules on wearing masks and observing one-metre distancing.
Travel, meanwhile, is awaiting an update on the government’s pledge to ease quarantine rules for fully vaccinated amber list arrivals, although it is unclear whether this will form part of the prime minister’s address.
Carolyn Park, director of Bath-based agency C The World, said she did not believe lifting the rules on masks, for instance, would promptly "resurrect the travel industry".
"We still need tailored support, clarity on the traffic lights, testing costs to drop further or to be allowed to use the lateral flow test," she said.
"Our more senior clients just can’t be bothered with the hassle. Until these layers of admin to go on holiday disappear, I don’t think it’s going to make huge difference."
Park added her hopes for an August resumption of overseas holidays off the back of Monday’s announcement remained "slim".
"I can’t see how this announcement will rescue August," said Park. "Our clients don’t want to go on holidays because of restrictions elsewhere."
Asked about the proposal to lift quarantine rules for fully vaccinated amber list arrivals, Park added: It will give those that want to go the opportunity to go. It will be a game-changer for those desperate to go away."
Steve Witt, co-founder of Not Just Travel, offered a more positive tone, claiming there had "never been so much pent-up demand to travel" ahead of the expected announcement
"Sunday (4 July) was our busiest Sunday in 17 weeks and our second busiest of the entire year – 75% of all bookings yesterday were last-minute breaks for this summer," said Witt. "The market is buoyant and customers are positive."
He added there was particular interest in the Balearics, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and the US.
Reigo Eljas, UK and Ireland country director for lastminute.com, added he believed international travel would "remain complicated", allowing domestic travel to continue "going strong".
"We must wait for the next update on green list countries with the hope that more destinations are being added and the announcement on the fully vaccinated people being able to return from amber list countries without quarantining at home," he said.
"These are the key next steps we need for international travel and to save remaining summer holidays for late July and August."