There are still a lot of questions that need answering following the prime minister’s announcement, though we’re encouraged that the travel industry’s plight and the need to get people moving again was recognised.
The response our brands have experienced underlines that there is significant pent-up demand and consumers are desperate to book. Enquiries for overseas holidays, particularly to Greece, Turkey and Dubai, doubled overnight across our brands compared to the same day last week – although travellers do seem to be taking a fairly cautious approach and favouring departures from August onwards.
But now we have a potential timescale to work with, we need to set aside the febrile speculation of the last few weeks and really think about the questions that remain.
Assuming the various phases roll out in accordance with the government’s best hopes, and the vaccination programme continues its success, how exactly will travel reopen come mid-May? Will the Foreign Office advice change? Will travel corridors return? What about children and young adults, will they be allowed to travel even if unvaccinated?
And even with restrictions lifted in some way this summer, our industry remains in dire straits – how will the businesses that have survived stay afloat in the months ahead while cashflow will remain compromised?
Having encouraged them to make bookings, the public will not thank us if we have to then disappoint them once more if that timescale gets derailed. Although the end would appear to be in sight thanks to a successful vaccination programme, if there is anything we have learned in the last 12 months it is not to take anything for granted. How much sympathy would there be if, in our haste to ‘get back to how things were’ we spark a fourth wave and the re-imposition of restrictions?