NEWS y March’ as spread of coronavirus in Europe triggers a sharp fall in summer bookings

‘We must take steps to reassure clients’

Juliet Dennis Countries with

confirmed cases of coronavirus

ookings slump

in Tenerife had been “the turning point”, adding: “The fear of being quarantined is making people wait until they book a holiday to see how it pans out. If they have not paid their final balance for Easter holidays, they will be wanting to cancel.” Bowen said: “Business has really

tailed off in the last two weeks, which means cashflow is not there.” One agent, who asked not to be

named, said: “It’s only going to get worse and we have at least another two months of this. You can’t give holidays away at present.” Derek Moore, chairman of The

Specialist Travel Association (Aito), said most operator members reported bookings had “slowed down”, adding: “No one has any idea how soon coronavirus will be brought under control. It’s a waiting game.” A senior industry source said:

“We saw a significant change last week. Across the board, people just stopped booking. There is a nervousness about the implications. If

this continues it could be disastrous.” i Coronavirus Q&A, page 12 i Business, page 72


O Travel Republic closed its head office in Kingston after a member of staff tested positive for coronavirus. Key functions were handled by other areas of the business.

O Tui is reviewing capacity, freezing recruitment and postponing non-critical projects.

O A sixth guest tested positive at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel in Tenerife. The guest was not connected to the Italian group that initiated the lockdown.

O BA is cutting or merging more than 200 flights from London between March 16-28, including New York, Italy, France and Germany.

O Ryanair is to cut its Italy services by up to 25% this spring.

O On the Beach issued a profits warning as demand dropped.

O Virgin Voyages pulled a two-night showcase for new ship Scarlet Lady in New York.

The trade is calling for a unified response to the coronavirus outbreak to reassure clients it remains safe to travel to most destinations. Operators and agents said it

was important to give a positive message to consumers and play on the industry’s expertise. Alistair Rowland, chief retail

officer for specialist business at The Midcounties Co-operative and Abta chairman, said: “We will look to Abta to communicate a positive message about it being ‘safe to travel if precautions are taken’.” Scottish Passenger Agents’

Association president Joanne Dooey stressed agents played a vital role. She said: “We need to be careful

the negative message doesn’t scare people from travelling. The message should be ‘if you are travelling with a tour operator, they will only send you on your holiday if they know it’s safe’.” Typically Holidays owner

Daniele Broccoli urged Abta to put together a campaign, with messages in agency windows to say it is safe to travel. He said: “This is a time to work together. We have to put the time in to persuade clients to travel.” Kirker Holidays

director Ted Wake said there was an opportunity for agents to show their worth and urged them to ask

operators to join conversations with concerned clients in stores. He said: “The sales process is about collaboration between operators and agents. We must take steps to reassure clients.” Hays Travel managing director John Hays said agents would have to work harder. He said: “When customers are scarce and even more precious than they are normally, you’ve got to work every last enquiry to get a sale.” Royal Caribbean Cruises

chairman and chief executive Richard Fain appealed directly to the trade not to panic. In a video message, he said: “We will get through this difficult time together”. Miles Morgan Travel

chairman Miles Morgan, who appeared on BBC News Special on coronavirus on Monday, said the government’s decision to publish worst-case scenario plans for the UK’s response was “scaremongering”. He added. “There is no

Richard Fain,

reason to stop booking. People should be reassured that if their holiday is impacted, their money is protected.” Abta is running Facebook adverts to reassure consumers. It is holding a conference call with agents next week and has a members’ page with regularly

Royal Caribbean updated advice on the coronavirus. Abta’s Victoria Bacon

is on BBC’s The One Show this week to offer consumer advice.

5 MARCH 2020


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