St Helens travel firm takes off again with big surge in bookings
A local travel agent says business is taking off again with a “big surge” in bookings after the rules on Covid testing for international travellers were eased.
Don Bircham, the managing director of Hays Travel (North West) which has almost 50 branches across the region including St Helens, said the changes announced by the UK government had opened the floodgates to meet the pent up demand for summer holidays in the sun.
Popular destinations included Greece, Turkey, Spain, the Balearic and the Canary islands along with Florida. There was also a spike in demand for cruises.
The experience of Hays Travel is mirrored by Jet2 who said demand had returned to "around pre-Covid levels" and EasyJet who saw a 200 per cent increase in booking.
According to Mr Bircham, the easing on restrictions on foreign travel was the best news the industry had had in a long time.
It had also provided a massive boost for families desperate to escape the long haul of the pandemic and given them the confidence to think about travelling abroad again.
The pandemic had caused many people to re-evaluate their lives and were ticking items off their bucket by booking dream holidays.
Mr Bircham said: “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.
“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.
“With the announcement about the easing of the testing rules, we’re really optimistic that there are better times ahead.
“It’s given people a lot more confidence to start booking their holidays and thing are really taking off.
“There is a huge pent up demand from people who are fed up to the back teeth and desperate for a break somewhere warm.
“Travellers can book with a low deposit and take advantage of our easy payment plan to spread the cost of their holiday
“We have all sorts of initiatives in place, including a Piece of Mind Guarantee which means you can amend and alter your holiday free of charge.
“Selected tour operators are also doing that and, if you combine that with taking out insurance, it takes out the risk factor.
“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.
“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.
“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.”