Tui expects the UK to be its first major source market to reopen its borders and restart leisure travel, owing to the pace of its Covid vaccination programme.
Chief executive Fritz Joussen said what the UK had achieved so far with regards to vaccination was "amazing", and urged other countries to be equally ambitious.
More than half of Tui’s 2.8 million summer 2021 bookings so far are from the UK, Joussen revealed during a briefing call on Tuesday morning (9 February) detailing the firm’s first quarter (three months to 31 December) results.
Tui put its summer 2021 programme on sale early in the UK, which saw bookings start to roll in from August last year.
Joussen said he was increasingly confident about summer 2021 with vaccination coming in addition to better quality rapid testing, which he said would ensure the summer 2021 travel landscape was significantly more stable than summer 2020.
"We are very positive that summer vacations will be possible," said Joussen. "We have 2.8 million bookings in the system, more than 50% of which are in the UK."
Tui chief Joussen said UK summer 2021 load factors were currently sitting at around 42%, which he described as "very advanced" and showed "strong intent to travel". In addition, he said January bookings were up 70% on December which, while less than the usual doubling, underlined the pent-up demand in the market.
He said people were "sitting on their suitcases" waiting to see what opens first, adding Tui had the flexibility in its programme to move with demand.
Joussen said he expected the UK’s borders to be the first to reopen for leisure travel, which he said – sadly – came in stark contrast to the situation in the EU.
"The UK has been very diligent and clear securing vaccinations, contrary unfortunately to Europe," said Joussen, although he stressed it was his belief supply would be scaled up in the EU in the coming weeks.
He added it was his advice and wish that other countries are as ambitious with their vaccination programmes as the UK.