Summer 2021 sales are soaring according to TTG’s latest Travel Agent Tracker survey, with respondents reporting consumer confidence in 2020 travel having slumped to new lows.
The rate of Tracker respondents reporting summer 2021 bookings in Week 20 (week to 21 August) surged 6.5 percentage points (ppt) to 47.5% meaning nearly half of all respondents made at least one booking for summer 2021 last week.
It is also the highest rate for any booking window since Week 11 (week to 19 June) when the rate of respondents reporting sales for summer 2021 tipped 50%.
And despite many respondents remarking on the catastrophic effect the government’s decisions to revoke Spain, France, Malta and Croatia’s quarantine-free travel corridors have had on consumer confidence, Week 2020 nonetheless saw a 6.5 ppt increase in respondents reporting bookings for summer 2020, although comments suggest these are largely lower-value bookings for last-minute getaways to "safe list" destinations.
Meanwhile, the rate of respondents reporting bookings for autumn 2020 (14.5%) and winter 2020 (13.5%) have fallen to just about the lowest levels recorded by the Tracker since early June.
“We are trying to encourage bookings for summer 2021," said one respondent. "It would be nice to have bookings for the next few weeks to get some commission, but the work involved in getting clients back quickly or having to cancel isn’t worth the effort.”
Another said: “I have no wish to book anything for travel before spring next year. The amount of work involved booking, and then cancelling, getting refunds, etc, makes it hardly worthwhile.”
Despite another travel corridor blow, with the government revoking Croatia’s quarantine-free travel status on Thursday (20 August), it was a remarkably positive week for holiday enquiries.
More than four in five respondents (82.5%) reported taking new holiday enquiries in the week to 21 August, up 15.5 ppts week-on-week from 67% a week earlier, the lowest rate since mid-May. The rate of respondents reporting enquiries as being up week-on-week also increased 18 ppts from 14.5% to 32.5%.
Bookings also rebounded, with the number of respondents reporting having taken new bookings in the week to 21 August increasing 7.5 ppts from 53.5% to 61%, the highest rate since late-July.
Many respondents said while there was interest in, and demand for, travel even right now amid the pandemic, there was simply a lack of confidence among consumers to book. "Customers want to go on holiday, but they feel uneasy booking due to the constantly changing rules and restrictions."
Another added: "There’s still so much uncertainty around travel. Travel corridors are being changed at such short notice that we can’t assure clients there won’t be any problems when they’re away.”
Domestic travel in the UK and Ireland continues to defy the Covid downturn though; for the ninth week in succession, more than 30% of Tracker respondents have reported interest from clients in domestic breaks, it being the second-most enquired after destination behind the Med.
It is a similar story in terms of domestic bookings, with more than one in five Tracker respondents reporting having taken at least one domestic booking in a given week every week since Week 12 (week to 26 June) – the week the government gave the domestic holiday sector the green light to resume operations.