Travel firms ‘fighting for freedom’ in sector fraught with challenges – Advantage chief

The so-called freedoms ushered in with Freedom Day is still fraught with challenges for the travel trade, the boss of Advantage Travel Partnership has warned.

Travel businesses are still fighting for their freedom to trade their way to recovery, according to chief executuve Julia Lo Bue-Said.

She said: “Despite the introduction of the ‘green list’, when you remove all the countries from this list who have banned Brits from entering, this represents only 4% of 2019 flights, meaning that travel agents and tour operators have very limited product to sell their customers.

“Fully vaccinated travellers can, of course, travel to amber list countries without the need to quarantine on return, however, as we saw with France last week – that can change at any given moment which is deeply affecting consumer confidence, which is already at an all-time low and exacerbated by the ‘pingdemic’ whereby hundreds of thousands of people being told to self-isolate due to rising cases in the UK.”

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A small increase in bookings was recorded last week over the previous seven days wth a 10% rise. The Canary Islands, UK and Balearic islands were the most popular destinations, closely followed by Greece.

Lo Bue-Said added: “The current traffic light system has been made unnecessarily complex, restrictive and unfair for the British consumer and the travel industry.

“Because of the continued changes we are already seeing a trend in last-minute bookings, and of the bookings made to depart in 2021, 64% were for departures in July and August which demonstrates how late the market is.

“This is likely to be being driven by families wanting to get away in the summer holidays and also people wanting to go and return in between the traffic light list updates.

“The industry is, of course, appreciative of any bookings given the last 18 months of uncertainty, however this is not sustainable long-term and makes it very difficult to plan, forecast and operate holidays and travel arrangements.”

She urged the government to make sure the traffic light framework is “fit for purpose”.

“There needs to be consistency in how the criteria is applied, provide transparency on the data and there needs to be one single source of communication between government and the industry so we can plan appropriately, said Lo Bue-Said.

“Given that most people have been double vaccinated and/or must be able to present proof of a negative PCR test in order to travel – depending on their destination – then we need to make sure the traffic light framework is implemented properly and allow those who decide to travel to return from either green or amber listed countries and continue with their plans, including restriction free travel for fully vaccinated people from low risk countries.”

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Trade hopes word of mouth will help boost sluggish sales

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