Demand for holidays taking off as people ‘fed up and desperate for a break’ says Welsh travel agent
A Welsh travel agent says that business is beginning to take off again after the Omicron variant shook the market, with a “big surge” in bookings after the rules on Covid testing for international travellers were eased.
Don Bircham, the managing director of Wrexham-based Hays Travel (North West) which has almost 50 branches across the region, said that the surge reflected a pent up demand for summer holidays abroad.
“There is a huge pent up demand from people who are fed up to the back teeth and desperate for a break somewhere warm,” he said.
“There are lots of people wanting to tick off things on their bucket list because so many people have re-evaluated their lives as a consequence of the pandemic.
“People have been thinking long and hard about what life is all about and there’s a lot of grandparents who’ve got a few quid in the bank who want to take the kids and the grandkids away on an expensive, dream family holiday.”
Popular destinations included Greece, Turkey, Spain, the Balearic and the Canary Islands along with Florida, he said. There was also a spike in demand for cruises.
The experience of Hays Travel is mirrored Jet2 who said demand had returned to “around pre-Covid levels” and EasyJet who saw a 200 per cent increase in bookings.
“The first part of January was very slow but there has been a massive surge in bookings after the news from the UK Government that travel restrictions were being eased,” Don Bircham, who has stores in Wrexham, Mold, Flint, Prestatyn, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay, said.
“The fact that you only need a lateral flow test on return rather than a pre-departure test and a PCR on return has given customers the confidence to fly again.
“In normal times this is our busiest period because of the January blues after Christmas so the next fix is to get that summer holiday book and have something to look forward to.”
Don Bircham said that he was now “really optimistic that there are better times ahead” and that people were regaining “a lot more confidence to start booking their holidays and thing are really taking off”.
He said that a ‘Piece of Mind Guarantee’, meaning that customers could amend and alter their holidays free of charge, had made a difference.
“Selected tour operators are also doing that and, if you combine that with taking out insurance, it takes out the risk factor,” he said.
“We’re confident now we’re getting back to something like normality and, if there is a bump in the road with certain countries, we have some guarantees and some comfort that we can take care of it and offer alternative destinations.
“People for the most part are opting for the traditionally popular summer holiday destinations like Greece, Turkey, Spain, the Balearics and the Canaries while Florida is also coming back strongly.
“There’s also a massive pent up demand for cruising – that proving very popular again because it’s not been really possible for such a long time.
“The other thing is that people are more and more drawn to the high street travel agent at the moment for all the security, expert advice and help we can provide.
“A lot of people have had their fingers burnt in the past come of years but they know they are in safe hands with a proper travel agency, so if they are booking an expensive holiday they can have real peace of mind.”