Sales fall amid fresh fears Juliet Dennis

Bookings have fallen following reports overseas trips this summer are unlikely due to a surge in Covid cases in Europe. Comments by government

ministers and scientists suggesting summer holidays abroad were under threat, combined with the announcement of £5,000 fines for overseas travel, have hit consumer confidence and led to a general drop in bookings, according to the trade. Defence secretary Ben Wallace

said booking a holiday was “premature” and “potentially risky” due to the growth of variants, while Dr Mike Tildesley, of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group,

said overseas trips this summer were “extremely” unlikely. The Specialist Travel Association

(Aito) reported a dramatic slowdown in bookings through its members over the weekend as a result, and has written to Tildesley pointing out bookings fell to almost zero as a “direct result” of his comments. Chairman Chris Rowles, who

accused ministers and scientists of “jumping the gun” ahead of the Global Travel Taskforce’s report on April 12, added: “All we ask is for some common sense to be used.” Polka Dot Travel director Mark

Johnson agreed, saying the comments had pushed confidence in booking to even later this year. “We have seen a drop in sales enquiries and the ones

we are getting through are now for October onwards,” he said. Some retailers said sales had

already levelled off since the post- roadmap surge, with clients now reluctant to book until after April 12. Premier Travel director Paul

Waters reported a “gradual drop-off” in enquiries since the weekend, adding: “Where balances have become due for June departures, some are amending due to the uncertainty.” Henbury Travel owner Richard

Slater said: “After a great start to the month, the endless hammer-blow message “don’t book” seems to have put the brakes on sales.” Spear Travels chairman Peter

Cookson described the last 10 days’ trading as “pretty awful”.

Tui in jobs pledge as 48 shops axed

Tui plans to shut 48 of its 362 branches due to the “unprecedented pressure” on the high street and travel industry as a result of Covid-19. The company did not disclose

store locations but said all 273 staff affected by the closures would be offered roles at other stores with vacancies or in its new homeworking retail and contact centre team, which has 290 roles available. Last year, Tui shut 166 shops,

affecting 900 retail roles. Currently, Tui has 1,400 staff

working in retail, of whom 800 are behind closed doors in its shops and 600 working from home. In total, 1,700 remain on furlough.

Vax certificates will be a mix of paper and digital

Ian Taylor

Digital vaccination certificates are unlikely to be available for travel’s restart despite the EC unveiling proposals for a Digital Green Certificate which it says could be ready by June. Iata UK and Ireland country

manager Simon McNamara hailed digital certification as “a key future tool”, but said: “I’m not sure we’re going to see a massive rollout of digital solutions this summer. There is going to be a lot of paper.” Multiple digital-certificate apps

4 25 MARCH 2021

are undergoing trials, including Iata’s Travel Pass, but McNamara said: “The key thing Iata is asking governments to do is issue vaccination certificates. The means of capturing the data and showing it to the authorities is less important than governments coming out with it.” He told Travel Weekly’s Future of

Travel Spring Forum: “There may be some digital solutions, but we need a pragmatic approach. We’ll see a lot of paper checks.” Business Travel Association

chief executive Clive Wratten agreed: “We’re some way off getting

Simon McNamara

Ian Taylor

Susan Deer

Clive Wratten

vaccination certificates digitally from the NHS, let alone anywhere else. It’s good to have all these organisations pushing apps, [but] we can’t have them hold up the industry. We need a way to manage the process through paper until these come into play.” Abta director of industry relations

Susan Deer said: “It’s going to be the destinations asking for this certification so we need to understand the destination requirements.” McNamara said discussions on

certification at the International Civil Aviation Organisation and World Health Organization are “moving well”,

but added: “It’s more of a technical discussion at this stage. It’s slow – multilateral discussions are slow.” The EC certificate will be

digital or paper and include proof of vaccination, a negative test or recovery from Covid-19. How it is used will be up to individual states. EU leaders were due to discuss the proposal on March 25.

Catch up with all the Future of Travel sessions: futureoftravelspringforum

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