Airlines, agents and suppliers have all hailed a surge in travel and holiday enquiries after Boris Johnson laid out the country’s proposed route out of coronavirus lockdown on Monday (22 February).
Domestic trips could resume as early as 12 April according to the government’s roadmap, while a newly convened travel taskforce is due to issue a report the same day setting out proposals to restart international travel, although this will not happen until 17 May at the earliest.
While details of the government’s plans for travel were limited in Johnson’s House of Commons address, the industry broadly welcomed Monday’s announcement with further detail set out in a number of supporting documents.
The ITT said the industry needed greater clarity now, not in April; Abta chief Mark Tanzer, by comparison, said he was pleased with government’s renewed commitment to working with the sector on the resumption of international travel.
In the hours that followed the announcement at 3.30pm on Monday, a number of travel firms reported an immediate uptick in demand; Tui said demand for Greece, Spain and Turkey from July onwards was the most booked overnight, with bookings up 500% Monday into Tuesday.
Andrew Flintham, Tui managing director UK and Ireland, said the announcement was a positive, and illustrated how a risk-based framework for travel gave people hope of overseas travel.
"We will continue to work closely with the government so people can look forward to a well-deserved break away, after what has been a very difficult year for many," said Flintham.
He also confirmed no Tui trips would depart from England before 17 May; customers with affected bookings will be contacted directly in date order to discuss their options."
EasyJet said flight bookings more than tripled since the announcement, while its holidays division said bookings were up more than six times with Malaga, Alicante, Palma, Faro and Crete proving to be among the most popular choices for summer getaways, particularly August.
"We have consistently seen there is pent-up demand for travel and this surge in bookings shows that this signal from the government that it plans to reopen travel has been what UK consumers have been waiting for," said easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren.
"The prime minister’s address has provided a much-needed boost in confidence for so many of our customers in the UK, with demand for flights up 337% and holidays up 630% already compared with last week and beach destinations proving most popular for this summer."
Thomas Cook confirmed to TTG web traffic was up 75% on Monday following the announcement, while a surge in new bookings ensured the OTA achieved its best day for some time.
Chief executive Alan French said the announcement was "good news for those of us desperate to get away on holiday".
"While we await more details, it’s clear that the government’s ambition is to open up international travel in the coming months and hopefully in time for the summer holidays.
"People have been seeking reassurance for some time and we’re confident today will be the first step in providing that offering a much-needed boost to everyone starved of a break."
Steve Witt, co-founder of homeworking firm Not Just Travel, said the announcement was "really good for consumers".
"It is a much clearer timeline than many people had expected which means we can all start to make plans.
"In fact, we’ve already seen a surge in enquiries and bookings as clients want to make bookings before everywhere is full."
Witt added the travel industry should "gear up for a busy time ahead". "We are anticipating UK holidays to be another big seller this year. Greece, Spain, Turkey and UAE are also likely to be very strong destinations for the second half of this year."
Under the government’s indicative roadmap, domestic getaways are likely to be possible from 12 April when self-contained holiday accommodation is allowed to reopen, although this will be limited to individual households; multiple households will not be able to holiday together.
Indoor hospitality venues and hotels, meanwhile, will be permitted to reopen from 17 May under the plans set out by Johnson.
Graham Donoghue, chief executive of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said: "The prospect of holiday lets reopening to individuals and single households in April will be welcomed by many as tourism is such an important part of so many local communities.
"In recent weeks, we’ve seen a significant increase in bookings for later this year, which is a reflection of the nation’s growing confidence as well as, perhaps, lockdown fatigue. However, most people were planning ahead for summer, so we expect to see a sudden scramble tonight (Monday) as people get their May half-term and bank holiday plans lined up too."
Outdoor accommodation provider Pitchup, meanwhile, said more than a third of its bookings over the past week were for Easter and early summer bookings, 10% for April, 14% for May and 14% for June as preliminary details of the government’s roadmap became clearer over the week leading up to Monday’s announcement.
Founder Dan Yates said web traffic started increasing while Johnson address the Commons, and bookings were up more than 500% since 4pm compared to those made in the hours before the announcement.
"We’ve already seen annual growth in bookings of more than 100% this week so far (compared to the same period last year)," he said.
"Our peak day last summer saw 6,500 bookings in a single day and we’re keeping a close eye on reservations to see whether this week’s surge will rival that."