Local independent travel consultant Gill Matthews from Not Just Travel loves nothing more than to match holidaymakers with their perfect getaway. Unfortunately, much of her time over the past year has been spent rebooking or recouping her customers’ outlays on cancelled trips. To say the industry has been absolutely devastated is an understatement. Yet Gill is confident travel will return with a bang, as sun-starved Brits look to splash the cash saved over lockdown: “There’s still a lot of uncertainty, but once the upcoming government announcement offers further clarity on the situation, the sector will undoubtedly boom.”
After Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown in March, holiday bookings surged, with EasyJet reporting ticket sales for flights from the UK jumping 337% within 24 hours. Yet Gill wouldn’t rush to book an overseas trip this summer and suggests those itching for a quick getaway would be sensible to stay within our borders: “Many holidaymakers are eagerly looking towards early summer for a staycation, which is fantastic for UK hoteliers. However, you’ll find they’re going to be absolutely stacked out as availability rapidly diminishes.”
Gill believes it’s a great time to bag a bargain, especially if you’re looking further ahead, but you had better act fast: “Once the government gives the green light to travel, everyone’s going to book, availability goes down, and therefore prices go up – that’s just the way things work. Now is a fantastic time to book, even if it’s not for 2021.
“Tour operators have done nothing but cancel for months, and they need to start getting some bookings back in the diary, so they’re offering some really good deals with flexible conditions for peace of mind. In terms of overseas travel, I would feel confident booking for September at the earliest, but many operators have released their programmes well in advance, so you can book right through to 2023.”
For hoteliers and cruise companies, the safety of guests will be paramount as health concerns continue to weigh on holidaymakers’ minds. Gill has witnessed first-hand the lengths operators are going to ensure guests feel safe: “Cleaning regimes have been increased enormously, particularly on cruise ships, with installations of medical-grade air filtration and germicidal fog systems the norm. While Saga Holidays, which caters for the over-50s, is only offering its holiday programmes to those with a vaccine this summer to protect their at-risk clientele.”
Popular European destinations such as Cyprus and Portugal have led the charge in extending their welcome to vaccinated holidaymakers, but will that make foreign holidays off-limits to those yet to have the jab? Gill doesn’t think so: “Destinations such as Greece and Spain rely on UK tourism which adds so much to their economy. Of course, they want us back and won’t want to hamper their tourism trade if they can help it. Plus, getting a global vaccine passport system up and running certainly won’t be viable by the summer.”
One of the travel trends Gill has witnessed this year is multigenerational travel: “With families being apart for so long, they’re looking for an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and really spend some quality time together.
“Self-catered villas and lodges where they can holiday together in a contained bubble are proving extremely popular, giving families full control of their environments. Activity holidays are also popular for extended families and facilities can be reserved for the exclusive use of those in your party. Whether it’s a cycling holiday in the UK or a walking holiday on the Greek islands, there’s such a broad range of itineraries that allow families to make the most of their well-deserved time away, rather than simply flopping on the beach for a week.”
Despite months of negative press after cruisegoers around the world found themselves marooned on quarantined vessels, the green light for cruise liners to set sail once again was greeted by a wave of bookings: “More people cruise than visit Disneyland Florida every year – it’s a huge market. Many imagine it’s just a week of sitting on a deck chair awaiting arrival at the next port, but cruise ships are now destinations in their own right.
“The Royal Caribbean ships offer everything from rock climbing to wave machines and even indoor skydiving – they are just phenomenal. You can cruise with the whole family, from grandparents right down to the kids, and there will be something for everyone to enjoy and in the evening, they can gather around the dinner table and talk about what they’ve been up to. And that’s before you’ve even disembarked. Just imagine waking up every morning in a different exotic location!”
Four-bedroom lodge with hot tub in East Yorkshire.
Long weekend in August 2021.
£55 per person per night.
Cruise the Caribbean on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of The Seas.
14 nights in January 2022.
£1,549 per person including flights.
Four-bedroom Croatian villa with pool and stunning views.
Six nights in September 2021.
From £759 per person.