Vaccine news lifts confidence and spurs sales

Ben Ireland

Agents have reported an upturn in bookings since the first announcement of an effective Covid-19 vaccine. Members of The Advantage

crucial test details e release scheme

We need details of the scheme and how it works in practice, but we’re not going to know until it’s operational

have a minimum sensitivity of 97% – the rate of correctly identifying Covid infection attained by lab-based PCR tests. EasyJet announced a deal with

two providers to offer pre-departure tests on Monday, with home tests priced at £75-£100 and clinic-based tests at £150, both with results available within 48 hours. Separately, Heathrow announced a combined study of transatlantic testing trials by British Airways, American Airlines, United and Virgin Atlantic. A source said: “Airlines are

building a body of evidence to help

convince government to allow rapid testing. It’s a big step forward. There was a change in demand following the taskforce announcement. A lot of consumers have in mind they have a way out of quarantine now.” A second source insisted: “If we

get all the taskforce proposals over the line, the UK will go from the back of the pack to being in the forefront. We have a roadmap out of this now.” BA and American will offer

passengers on flights departing Dallas, New York, Los Angeles or Miami a PCR test 72 hours before their flight, a rapid test on arrival at Heathrow and a further PCR test after arrival. United passengers on one

Newark-Heathrow flight a week take a test at the airport in a trial running until December 11, and Virgin Atlantic passengers on selected flights to Barbados will be requested to take

a test at the airport before flying. i More on taskforce, back page

Travel Partnership saw a 23% rise in bookings in the two weeks following Pfizer and BioNTech’s announcement on November 9 compared with the fortnight before. Further vaccine progress

reports from Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca had also boosted consumer confidence and bookings, as had the announcement of the UK government’s ‘test to release’ scheme, the consortium said. Leisure director Kelly Cookes

welcomed “some green shoots of recovery” but urged caution as members’ sales remain about 50% of normal levels. She said 2020 bookings were “minimal” but: “It’s clear the British public are keen to get away sooner rather than later.” Travel Counsellors reported

more new bookings last week than in the whole of April, worth a collective £6 million. It said a 45% rise in enquiries lifted bookings to 70% of the same week last year. Global sales director Jim

Eastwood said most customers were either booking within three weeks of departure or “far into summer 2021”. December was the most popular departure date, with the UAE top destination. The Mediterranean and US were popular for summer 2021. Not Just Travel reported a

3 DECEMBER 2020 5

62% rise in bookings last week compared to the previous year due to positivity around vaccine trials – and claims to be 5% up year on year. The US, Canary Islands, Dubai, Lapland and the Maldives were its top destinations. Steve Wood, director of

homeworking firm Explorer Travel, noted the end of a “long drought”. He said agents sold as much last week as the same week last year, and that weekend sales “rocketed”. Midcounties Co-operative

saw a 31% sales uplift in the week commencing November 9 across its retail, homeworking and consortium divisions, despite agency doors being closed due to lockdown. Barrhead Travel said enquiries

and bookings rose after Pfizer’s news, with customers booking for 2021 through to 2023 and November sales 40% up on October. President Jacqueline Dobson said vaccine news had “provided much-needed hope”, with demand now “more consistent” than spikes triggered by travel corridor announcements.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai

PICTURES: Heathrow; Armani Hotels

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