Have you managed to get away this year? Holidays would usually offer a break from stresses of everyday life, but the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc with our travel plans and the wider travel industry.
Domestic tourism boomed in the summer as staycations were given the all-clear, while travel corridors provided a lifeline for many popular international tourism destinations. Travel businesses invested heavily in adapting to new regulations to ensure safe experiences – yet a second national lockdown has dampened hopes of a speedy recovery.
A fresh blow to the UK travel industry
The latest national lockdown has forbidden all non-essential travel in the UK and abroad until the 2nd of December, leading to swathes of cancellations.
Despite rising infection numbers across Europe, many industry voices have complained that the fresh restrictions came in to force with insufficient warning.
The return of the staff furlough scheme has offered some relief for businesses, but many believe additional support is needed. Extending VAT discount and business rate relief are two ideas being floated to ease immediate cashflow concerns.
How have travel businesses adapted?
There are reasons to believe that a second national lockdown may not have as severe an impact as the first – partly because we’ve been here before. Many businesses have shown an ability to adapt or hone their offering, while industry bodies have been able to identify areas in need of support.
Some providers have shifted greater resources into their customer service teams or used the downtime to improve their digital presence. Local campaigners meanwhile are helping people discover places to visit, stay or eat once restrictions are eased – one example being the ‘Share a Smile’ initiative in the south west of England.
For the UK travel industry, it’s hoped movements encouraging people to shop local will continue to gain traction.
Giving customers peace of mind
After widespread refund chaos in the spring, many travel providers have also been quicker to reassure customers of their options this time round.
Park Holidays is one such example. The company offers caravan and lodge holidays across southern England, and has told customers they can move their bookings, put them on hold, or cancel and request a refund. The guarantee is designed to provide flexibility in uncertain times.
Looking abroad however, there are fears that those with flight-only bookings may not receive refunds if flights aren’t cancelled. Stances currently vary between airlines, but the advice remains for passengers to wait to hear from their provider rather than cancelling trips themselves.
Whatever the immediate future holds, the travel industry is relying on a return to normality more than most.