14 Jun

The travel industry is in Government induced turmoil

There was light at the end of the tunnel. The “traffic light” system that categorised destinations as Green, Amber or Red seemed to make sense. Here was a way that destinations could slowly but surely be brought back online as viable, convenient, holiday hotspots.

Travel bookings to Portugal, the first mainstream destination to be given the Green light, proved that UK consumers are hungry for international travel. However, moving the country from Green to Amber at such short notice has had a devastating effect on consumer confidence. Rather than move Portugal to the Green Watch List to give holidaymakers and travel businesses the chance to adjust their plans, a panic move has thrown the travel industry into chaos.

I was in Portugal last week with my other half and our son and his wife. We had planned a Friday to Friday week away. As soon as we heard that Portugal was to be re-categorised as Amber, son and wife, along with many others, had to abandon their holiday and find flights back to the UK on Monday to beat the deadline for isolation. They managed to buy return flights but at an unheard of high cost.

We decided to stay on and complete our break. The hotel had been full of UK guests. It emptied out to perhaps just a quarter occupancy. Restaurants, cafes and beach concessions became equally quiet. Portuguese tourism businesses that had geared up for a busy summer season are devastated.

My wife and I are now in isolation and will take a Day 5 Test to Release. It makes no difference that we have been double-vaccinated. The Government is not currently taking this into account for reasoning that I find unfathomable. I reckon I have spent £800 in Covid-19 tests. We are just two people. For many families of four or more, the cost of tests is surely prohibitive, potentially adding up to more than the cost of the holiday itself.

In this turmoil, unfortunately online travel has presented an opportunity to ‘entrepreneurial’ travellers. With uncertainty as to which destinations will be open and which will be closed, there is an increasing prevalence to book multiple trips for the same dates. Online accommodation resellers makes this very easy to do. Why not book four or five hotels with free cancellation and then just choose one nearer the time and cancel the others? Likewise with flights. Airlines that offer vouchers or refunds if flights are cancelled make it easy to book travel to multiple destinations for the same dates. We can only hope this is a temporary situation and won’t become normalised behaviour.

This is all being driven by Government policy. When is it going to get its act together? When is it going to realise that those who have been double vaccinated can travel safely to countries that have infection rates equivalent to the UK’s low rates? When is the Government going to support the travel industry by applying some common sense?