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Samantha Morton

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The Telegraph

Britons urged to book their summer holiday now to save the travel industry

A holiday might seem like a distant prospect right now, but travel industry leaders are urging Britons to book their summer trips during lockdown – in a bid to save the travel industry from a second disastrous year. In many ways, there has never been a better time to book for future travel: prices are low, cancellation and rebooking policies are generous, and pent-up demand is rising. But booking a summer holiday – or indeed an autumn getaway, winter escape, or long-awaited 2022 trip – isn’t only an opportunity to secure a tremendous bargain. It’s a lifeline for businesses that, in many cases, have seen zero cash-flow for months. “Bookings are needed urgently, so that revenues flow in now to help protect jobs,” explains Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency. “Travel firms and airlines must boost confidence now and assure consumers that holidays will happen from May onwards. Otherwise, we will see more failures and many companies unable to stagger through to the summer.” Many of the UK’s tourism businesses are staring down the barrel of a ‘three-season winter’ – a summer, autumn and winter with little revenue to speak of – says David Scott, CEO of Suffolk-based hospitality group The Hotel Folk, which has launched discounted hotel voucher packages to encourage consumer spending throughout lockdown. “It’s essential that money is put into hospitality businesses during lockdown so as to ensure we have sufficient funds to be able to bounce back and re-open when allowed to do so,” he explains. “[This will also] provide support for our essential staff and suppliers during this time, so avoiding redundancies.” At a time when every booking counts, a little optimism goes a long way, says Susan Briggs, Director of The Tourism Network. “With more weeks of uncertainty ahead, tourism businesses will feel reassured and more optimistic if visitors can book ahead. Visitors will have the advantage too of knowing they’ve secured accommodation and something to look forward to. Should things change again, most businesses will happily move bookings.” If the vaccination roll-out is delivered successfully, there will be a huge pent-up demand for holidays. And while this would, of course, be a welcome problem for the industry to have, many travel agents are already warning that supply could quickly be outstripped. Book now, they say, and you won’t have to compete for in-demand destinations. “The prices can only go up,” cautions Craig Ashford, Director of Marketing at travel agency TravelUp. “There is not a huge amount of booking activity at the moment and the appetite is not there for many summer holidays. That means prices are low. But once we are out of lockdown, the vaccine programme is rolled out more widely and more travel corridors are opened up with testing, capacity is going to disappear pretty quickly. “I also think that when they get a chance to, the airlines will ramp up prices. Let’s be honest, they have not had a good year and they will be keen to recoup losses. So once demand comes back the prices will soar.”

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