The road ahead will be bumpy, but word of mouth will be key to increasing confidence, says Miles Morgan
On the face of it, we had the green light from Grant Shapps last week to really whip up a booking frenzy.
While we saw an uptick in sales and interest on the back of his announcement that fully vaccinated holidaymakers will no longer have to quarantine from amber destinations, it was certainly not the thousands of percent rises that others said they were enjoying.
We’ve all seen many travel firms have been keen to jump on the ‘we are smashing it’ sales bandwagon over the past 16 months. This is not really helpful to anyone, least of all an industry that in the same breath is asking for sector support. Balance is needed rather than an out-of-control PR machine.
So where are things heading and why is my business not snowed under with queues out of the doors of the shops? Is the level of pent-up demand really what we think it is? Or, is this simply the calm before the storm? Having gone from single-digit countries on the green list to, in theory, more than 140, what are people waiting for?
The demand is 100% there. I regularly speak to our clients and they are keen to travel but why are they not booking in big numbers?
First, there’s the uncertainty about destinations ‘doing a Portugal’ and quickly being moved from one Covid status to another. Second, there’s the cost and the hassle of Covid testing, in many cases both before departure and coming back from a destination. Finally, the complexity of the rules means some people simply cannot be bothered and will travel instead when it is simple and easy.
Sadly, you can’t argue with any of these reasons for not travelling; they are all very valid arguments.
Nevertheless, determined consumers will travel and, most importantly, they will boast about it with photos of empty sunbeds, sunny skies and crystal-blue waters on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Upon their return, they are highly likely to say, just like my staff who have travelled, that it wasn’t as challenging as they’d thought and, crucially, it was absolutely worth it.
This is the point at which the natural human instinct of jealously will kick in and we will all start to think that maybe this is another new normal, and that if we want to travel, we need to get on with it. I certainly felt jealous seeing Margaret from my Wells shop on board Celebrity Silhouette. And just listening to Tracey from my Portishead shop talking about her trip to Majorca made me think ‘right, gotta go!’
One of the huge benefits of social media is this type of feedback and its speed. Without another Covid ‘banana skin’, I can see everyone quietly getting back to travelling with the new testing ‘normal’. If Shapps starts to loosen things up a bit, we might lose one of the tests on return. Even so, I am keen that one test should be kept for now, even for green destinations, as a variant is still the single biggest threat to the future of our industry.
This is just an opinion. Like everyone right now, we all have one. Should Gareth Southgate have set up the England team so defensively in the Euro 2020 final? Should Shapps drop testing for green destinations?
But I do feel my thoughts on the positive impact of social media will play out. We just need changes of the rules kept to a minimum, testing costs to be driven lower and no variants.
The path is there for us all to see, but we should expect more bumps in the road yet.
Miles Morgan is chairman of Miles Morgan Travel