More and more agents are taking a sustainable, longer-term approach to the coronavirus crisis instead of chasing quick wins, with summer 2020 – for some – now posing too much of a risk to consider actively promoting to clients.
TTG’s latest Travel Agent Tracker survey (Week 19, week to Friday 14 August) recorded a week-on-week increase in respondents reporting bookings for all future booking windows through to summer 2021 and beyond, with the exception of summer 2020.
Respondents reporting summer 2020 bookings fell three ppts from 30.5% to 27.5%; however, those reporting summer 2021 bookings increase seven ppts from 34.5% to 41.5%, and there were increases also in those taking bookings for autumn 2020, winter 2020 and spring 2021.
Meanwhile, respondents reported increasing interest in all holiday types – with the exception of beach holidays, again, suggesting other types of getaway are currently proving more popular, with beach likely to have been the most popular choice this summer.
Several respondents said they were no longer proactively pursuing summer 2020 sales owing to the risk of taking on an imminent refund or rebooking burden, with the government seemingly willing to pull the plug on destinations with little to no notice based purely on an epidemiological approach.
“I’m still fighting for refunds and credit notes from the beginning of lockdown," said one respondent. "I don’t have the interest or inclination to make bookings for late travel this year that might be cancelled and then have more problems to sort out.”
While interest in domestic holidays continues to defy the Covid downturn with 35.5% of Tracker respondents reporting interest from clients in UK and Irish breaks, second only to European Mediterranean destinations, the rate has plateaued over the past month.
However, the rate of respondents reporting domestic bookings fell 3.5 ppts during Week 19, which would appear to confirm fears UK summer holiday supply is no longer able to keep up with demand.
One operator, Parkdean, this week reported it had sold out for August 2020, and was expecting the same for September, while Haven has extended its summer 2020 season through to November to offer the trade more product to sell.
Elsewhere, bookings for European non-Mediterranean destinations have fallen to their lowest level since the Tracker was launched in early April, with the number of respondents reporting new European non-Med sales down five ppts week-on-week to just 14.5%.
A handful of respondents referenced the government decision last Thursday (13 August) to revoke France’s travel corridor in their comments, while well in excess of a third of all 129 respondents (48) made direct or tacit reference to travel restrictions as the biggest issue facing their business.
This was followed by 41 mentioning the impact these decisions have had on consumer confidence, with another 28, more than a fifth, citing quarantine and a further 25 a general lack of new business.
Many said that if the trade was spooked by the uncertainty hanging over some of the UK’s remaining viable summer 2020 destinations, such as Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Italy, it was little wonder consumers were reticent.
“Severe restrictions implemented by government has further reduced confidence in plans to travel abroad – this week is, again, one of the quietest weeks since March," said one respondent.
Another added: "The public don’t understand ‘quarantine on return to the UK’ isn’t the same as ‘you can’t travel’ – France isn’t a war zone. The quarantine issue, which seems to be 99% unenforced, is pushing our industry to tipping point.”
Respondents cited contact from 103 suppliers during the week to 14 August, a new Tracker record – up from a previous high of 98 in Week 16 (week to 24 July). Jet2holidays led the way with 35, followed by P&O Cruises (13), Gold Medal (11), Tui (10), and Railbookers and Travel 2 with nine.