A similar situation to the Foreign Office’s sudden advice against travel to Spain would prove “fairly terminal” for tour operators clinging on to business this summer.
That was the assessment of Prestige Holidays commercial director, David Skillicorn, who said: “I hope to god this doesn’t become the new norm because no-one is going to commit themselves to anything.”
Speaking during TTG’s latest Business Support Live, Skillicorn said the FCO’s decision for mainland Spain late on Saturday had come as a “massive shock” and was “made worse” by the tightening of restrictions for Spain’s islands on Monday evening.
“It was always a possibility but none of us thought that would happen and we felt that the direction of travel was going in the right direction," he said.
Lawyer Farina Azam, partner and travel lead at Kemp Little, said she felt it was “inevitable” the industry would see other destinations being dropped and reinstated to the government’s quarantine exemption list in the coming weeks and months.
Skillicorn said Prestige was taking a “14-day view” on mainland Spain, the Balearics and Canaries and would likely follow the plans of Tui and Jet2 “who are controlling much of the air capacity”.
“So far clients have been quite happy with that explanation we have had no panic. I suspect those who we have booked to travel in August are pretty resilient – they’re determined to go."
“We braced ourselves for [customer calls] and brought a number of people back off furlough to ensure that we could cope with what I felt was certain to be barrage of calls – but that didn’t come.
“We still have customers booked to travel within the next 10-12 days who we haven’t heard from at all, so they’re obviously quite happy.
“The concern is now, 18 weeks in and knocking on door of August, we have about eight weeks left of summer. There is going to come a point when hoteliers will decide it’s not worth opening – particularly in the Balearics, Croatia and places like that.
“Canaries are in their low season and moving into the winter for high season. Like all people we have to be super optimistic. I do think August is going to be a very difficult month with a lot of stop-start going on.
“I hope once we get into September we’ll see a bit more stability, albeit in a much smaller industry with a much smaller potential client base.
“With the furlough scheme ending in October, that is going to throw up all sorts of horrors for the economy and at the end of the day, we are selling a luxury item and we’ll be top of the list of purchases to be struck off.”