Vaccine rollout sparks surge of ‘silver tourists’ booking staycation holidays
The promise of a Covid-19 vaccine has sparked a rush of pensioners booking up coach trips for staycations in Scotland and the UK this year.
Tour operators say they are seeing growing confidence from the “grey pound” in their ability to start travelling again in 2021.
The package coach holiday division of National Express, which includes Lucketts Travel and Woods Tours, has seen a 185 per cent increase in bookings for spring and summer this year in comparison to pre-coronavirus figures for 2020.
With a customer base in the most vulnerable age group for Covid-19 - 98 per cent of travellers are aged over 65 - the tour operators have welcomed the rollout of vaccinations.
Jit Desai, head of holidays and travel at National Express, said: “We’ve seen an increased appetite for travel in the last week or two, with an uplift in enquiries and bookings every time there’s been an announcement about new vaccine approvals and the rollout programme.
“Some of this is postponed travel carried over from last year. But there’s definitely a trend of customers being comfortable that they will have had their vaccination and be protected from spring onwards, so can start to make travel plans.
“Some are telling us that they’ve already had their jab and can’t wait to go on holiday once guidance allows again.”
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Lucketts Travel and Woods Tours provide package coach holidays across the UK and Europe which include accommodation, meals, excursions and return coach travel.
The firms are currently taking bookings for travel from May onwards.
Trips to Scotland are among the most popular for prospective travellers this coming season, with destinations including Aberdeen, Newtonmore, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Eddleston, as well as the islands of Skye, Arran, Mull and Iona.
A mini-break to visit Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo and other local attractions is one of the favourite Another top seller is the Romantic Journeys of Scotland trip, which takes in the most scenic Festive holidays are also drawing customers, with strong interest in a six-night break in Glasgow next Christmas.
“Customers are telling us that they are choosing the UK because of the uncertainty around international travel and flights,” Mr Desai said.
“They are worried about the possibility of cancellations and the potential that they may have to quarantine on return to the UK.”
National Express is offering the option of £1 deposits and a no-quibble 100 per cent refund, or a free transfer to another departure date of the customers' choice if their holiday is cancelled due to Covid-19.
Enhanced cleaning regimes ensure vehicles are sanitised multiple times a day - including disinfection of all high-contact areas with antiviral products and fogging systems.
New air filtration systems have also been installed in buses to regularly purify the air on board throughout each journey.
All coaches have limited capacity, with passengers allowed to use only designated seats that comply with social distancing rules.
Temperature check will be carried out on all drivers and passengers prior to embarking on a tour.
Mr Desaid added: “We’ve worked hard to make sure we can offer the same great coach holidays with added reassurance in 2021 and look forward to being back on the road when the time is right.”