Sector Spotlight: The Travel Planning Sector Gets Ready for a Post-Covid Comeback

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As restrictions lift across the country, travel planning franchises must prepare to re-open their doors and meet the demands of a missed year. But how will the travel sector stage its post-lockdown comeback?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities in the travel planning sector were severely limited. Travel bans were in place, movement was restricted, and holidays were far from most people’s reach. 

Now, as the process of reopening the economy begins across the UK, the post-lockdown public are beginning to make bookings. After a year of financial hardships and net losses for the industry, capitalising on the upcoming booking boom will be vital.

How will travel planning businesses make a comeback post-Covid?

There are several key dates for the travel planning sector to keep in mind:

1. April 12th 

Since April 12th, domestic overnight stays have been permitted, but only with other members of the same household. People will be able to stay overnight in a campsite, caravan, boat, second home or other self-contained accommodation. 

(Self-contained means not sharing a kitchen, sleeping area, bathroom or indoor communal area with any other household.)

Government guidance still states, at the time of writing, that travel should be minimised, and that international holidays remain prohibited.

2. May 17th

On this date, the ban on international travel will be lifted. This decision is, of course, subject to review and dependent on data. Also subject to review, six people or two households will be able to mix together indoors, including during domestic overnight stays and at places such as hotels, caravans and lodges. 

3. No earlier than June 21st

At this stage, which will happen no sooner than the 21st of June, all legal limits on life events and social contacts will be removed. Within the UK, people will be free to travel as they choose, though international travel may still be disrupted by the legal restrictions that remain in place in some other countries.

Between May 17th and the formal end of restrictions, the government’s Global Travel Taskforce (Department for Transport) has recommended a traffic light system for international travel. If approved, this system would mean…

  • Green: Passengers coming from a green-coded country would need to take a COVID test before returning to the UK, and a PCR test on or before their second day back in the country, but wouldn’t need to quarantine when they get back.

  • Amber: Arrivals from an amber-coded country would need to quarantine for 10 days, take a COVID test before returning to the UK, and take a PCR test on their second and eighth days back in the country, with a Test to Release option available on day five.

  • Red: Travellers from red-coded countries would need to stay in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days, take a COVID test before returning to the UK, and take a PCR test on their second and eighth days back in the country.

If this system is implemented, it will also come with a “green watchlist”, which tells travellers which countries are likely to change colour code from green to amber. 

Customer demand ahead of the travel sector comeback

The demand for travel and adventure is there, and after a year spent at home, it’s stronger than ever. But every travel planning business in the country has been hit hard by the global pandemic.

Travel agencies and accommodation businesses saw the steepest decline in turnover during the first lockdown last year. The travel and tourism sector saw “the largest fall in employment of any age group” - more than 40% of 16-24 year olds lost their jobs [UK Office for National Statistics]. 

These effects have continued to be felt. On April 29th, London Heathrow’s total reported losses since the beginning of the pandemic reached £2.4 billion [Reuters].

There’s also the worry that extensive testing requirements will put people off taking an international holiday after May 17th. Things could be simplified for the travel planning sector by the introduction of vaccine passports, though they continue to prove extremely controversial.

We are working on a solution to enable residents to prove their Covid-19 status, including vaccination status, to other countries on the outbound leg. We are working on this as a priority and intent to have the solution ready as soon as possible.
—Department for Travel

Travel sector trends amid the UK reopening

Thanks to recent progress, it isn’t all doom and gloom for those running a travel planning franchise. 

The first boom to bookings came early in 2021, after the vaccine had been announced and had started to roll out. At this time, Tui reported that 50% of their website bookings had come from over-50s, indicating that confidence in the vaccine was high.

The current picture, as we head into May, is one of lessened loss. Compared to figures from two years ago, spending in the travel planning industry remains down, but the outlook is definitely improving as public confidence in the possibility of a holiday grows.

In March, for example, spending figures for accommodation were down 54.3% compared to March 2019, compared to a reduction of 75.4% in January [Barclaycard].

What government support is still available for businesses in the travel planning sector?

Many travel-planning and leisure franchises - particularly those focused on international travel - haven’t been able to fully welcome back business yet. The industry has suffered, and so have thousands of individual businesses. 

Here are the government support packages still available:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (open until September 2021)

  • The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

  • The Vat Deferral New Payment Scheme (open until the 21st June 2021)

  • Business rates holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year covering retail, hospitality and leisure companies in England

  • The Recovery Loan Scheme

  • The Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility

  • The Coronavirus Restart Grant

  • The Coronavirus Additional Restrictions Grant

  • The Local Restrictions Support Grants 

Running your own travel business post-lockdown

Whether you’re running a franchise, or running your own independent business, the post-lockdown landscape may be difficult to navigate. Point Franchise is proud to provide expert advice and guidance to franchisors and franchisees across the UK.

Find more helpful business support in our catalogue of articles.

If the travel and leisure sector interests you, and you’re thinking about getting stuck in, look no further than our best travel and leisure franchise opportunities. If you’re open to anything, find the perfect investment in our UK franchise directory.

>> Read more articles on the Travel Agency sector

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