Group Assistant Company Secretary- Retail Group
The travel industry has been perhaps the most affected sector during the events of the previous 18 months and while many other industries have been able to pull themselves up and thrive post-pandemic, travel has struggled to reach its former heights as consumers are still wary of the costs and difficulties associated with traveling abroad. I have certainly felt the effects professionally as the travel sector is one of my main focuses at the office.
On the personal side, I’ve been affected just like many others. My family and I were forced to cancel 2 trips abroad with little notice during 2020 and have been eager to enjoy a foreign holiday ever since. This is where I can understand the sector’s consumers’ trepidation as we have recently planned and executed a holiday. Normally a chance to travel would fill me with excitement and enthusiasm however, it has now been replaced with anxiety and apprehension.
After numerous phone calls to various travel agents and working out the odds like a poker player on the final table, we spent much of the planning stage sitting on pins and needles waiting to gain clarity on the rules and regulations. What we expected to take weeks ended up taking months. I now have a better understanding of why the market has been so slow to rise to its previous level.
Even after all our careful planning and worry, our cruise with Celebrity Cruises (part of RCL) provided surprises leading up to and even during the trip. Suddenly, we were made aware that all unvaccinated infants weren’t allowed to step foot off the boat despite all ports being UK based and having no restrictions to get on. However, we did enjoy spending time on the ship and overall, the experience was a unique one that I would highly recommend if you were looking to avoid airplanes and minimise time spent PCR testing and mask wearing on-route. The cruise was essentially another form of “staycation” however, we did feel further afield.
Regardless of all the positives, we were shocked that even something as banal as visiting other areas within the UK was came restricted due to our son being unable to receive a vaccination and shuddered at the current difficulties of traveling abroad as many foreign destinations still require:
- Negative PCR tests pre-departure and post-arrival followed by the same upon embarking to retu to the UK
- Double vaccinations
- Masks wo while traveling
What does the future hold for the travel industry?
There may be light at the end of the tunnel due to recent adjustments to the UK travel regulations.
Those coming from non-red list countries will no longer need a negative PCR test however, red list countries still required a stay in a quarantine hotel for a 10-day period. Thankfully, understanding the travel system has become much simpler with the amber and green country category elimination. Additionally, testing rules are also being eased for people travelling from non-red list destinations who have been vaccinated in the UK, the EU, the US, or any of the 18 other recognised countries. Finally, those UK residents under 18 years of age can now retu to the UK without testing.
Whist there is still great deal of uncertainty regarding continuity with itineraries, a large proportion of wishful travellers are keen to block out their diaries and get their trip in and have a positive experience to look forward to.
Sentiments amongst staff operating within the travel industry first and foremost (through our experience) appeared incredibly grateful to be back in work and appreciated that not everyone had been given the opportunity to as they were not back to full capacity. Seeing their customers happy and being able to interact with them again after such a long period made them realise how much they enjoy what they do and how much this means to their families. The various restrictions make it difficult for all within hospitality, especially those in locations where tourism is the primary source of income.
So long as things continue to move in the current positive direction we’ve experienced in recent months, operators are expected to remain in business, giving them a chance to elevate standards of customer service and their bottom lines as restrictions continue to ebb. Customers can also expect more competitive offers as companies compete for the coming travel boom. We are expecting an uptick in activity, revenue and hiring throughout the rest of 2021 and early 2022 leading into a big summer in 2022.