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U.K. Vaccine Rollout Provides Summer Optimism for TUI
TUI Group, owners of TUI Airways, has reported an increase in advance bookings for package holidays from the over-50’s demographic in the U.K. This confidence is being linked by TUI management to increased customer confidence as the Covid-19 vaccine rolls out across the U.K. City A.M. quotes TUI’s operations manager in the U.K. Andrew Flintham advising that, “Since the end of last year, bookings from this group (over 50’s) have accounted for 50% of all our web bookings, as customers long for a sunshine break later in summer, in particular in Greece, Turkey or the Balearics.”
Package holidays are extremely popular in the U.K. and accounted for approximately 40% of all vacations undertaken by U.K. citizens in 2019. The package holiday is booked via a travel agent and includes transport such as flights, accommodation, and other services such as transfers and meals. According to Statista U.K. residents spent £20 billion ($27 billion) on package holidays in 2019 and TUI was the leading provider of these vacations. The TUI Group reported a EUR 3 billion ($3.6 billion) loss in 2020.
The confidence by the over-50 demographic seems well-founded as the BBC reported this week that U.K. health authorities estimate those in the population over 50 years of age will be vaccinated by May. It is further estimated that all those over the age of 18 will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the autumn of this year. The vaccine rollout in the U.K. is being carried out by the National Health Service (NHS) and free of charge and non-compulsory.
In a further optimistic indication of passenger confidence, Mr. Flintham added, “Many Brits want to get away for longer this year, and opting for 14, 10 or 11 nights instead of seven to make up for not having a holiday in 2020.”
This will be encouraging news for an aviation industry devastated by travel restrictions and minimal passenger demand since February last year. U.K. citizens are currently unable to travel internationally for non-essential reasons and movement between the home nations of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Island is also restricted. Flights from over 50 countries have been canceled in recent weeks as a new variant of CoVid-19 was attributed to the U.K. and cases have surged over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.
Airlines and industry bodies continue to lobby for more standardized rules regarding pre and post-flight CoVid testing as a way to boost passenger confidence and increase pre-booking of flights for summer 2021 and beyond. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published a position paper on ‘Vaccines and Travel’ seeking greater collaboration between countries to assist in the recovery of international travel. Testing measures are expected to continue to form part of the travel journey for passengers even after countries achieve high vaccination numbers given the variation in vaccine delivery.
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