Appetite for travel returns amid vaccine hopes

Holidaymakers are rushing to book breaks for next year as news of a coronavirus vaccine has emerged.

Thomas Cook said that 45 per cent of its new bookings are now for next summer, up from just 14 per cent the week before the vaccine news broke, while ABTA – the industry body for travel agents – also said it had seen a spike in demand following the nationwide roll-out of a vaccine against coronavirus.

Across all of its bookings for the next 12 months, Thomas Cook 40 per cent are for next summer, signalling hopes of a return to normal within the next six months.

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ABTA said that post-pandemic tourists were divided into two categories - those who want to explore somewhere new, ticking off “bucket list” trips and those who want to return to somewhere familiar. A total of 62 per cent of people surveyed said they hope to book a holiday abroad in the next six months, compared to 52 per cent who said the same in August 2020.

A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “News of the vaccine has been a shot in the arm for summer holidays and we can see families returning to our site to book their main getaway for next year. Only a few weeks ago, most of our customers were booking last-minute sun-soaked beach holidays to the Canaries but now nearly half of our bookings are for the peak summer months of June, July and August. It seems that people are really starting to plan ahead and look forward to a brighter – and sunnier – 2021.”

ABTA said that with overseas travel being off limits for much of 2020, people are now keen to get back to destinations they know and love next year. Just 32 per cent of

people said they would be likely to visit a country they had never been to before next year, compared to 45 per cent who said so last year, before coronavirus hit.

This desire to return to familiar favourites is also clear from the overseas destinations that people plan to visit in 2021, with Spain, France, the USA, Italy and Greece making up the top five.

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Conversely, others are planning to indulge in a bucket list trip in 2021, with travel agents saying they expect trips such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking the Inca Trail and searching for the Northern Lights to be popular. Further trends for next year include an unwavering enthusiasm for cruise holidays, increased interest in trips embracing the great outdoors, and growing demand for responsible tourism.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The severe restrictions that have been placed on international travel this year have clearly led to pent up demand, with many people hoping to get away in the coming year.

“Although there are still a number of restrictions in place for overseas travel for now, some Members are reporting spikes in enquiries and bookings for holidays next year, particularly following the positive developments around a vaccine. While these levels of bookings are far below where they would normally be at this time of year, and the travel industry still needs support throughout the pandemic, it is encouraging to see that people are starting to think about their holidays for 2021.”

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