Sunday, 18 April 2021

Holidays may still happen, says agent

A TRAVEL agent in Henley is encouraging people to book foreign holidays.

Matt Callaway, a director at Savile Row Travel, hopes going abroad will be possible from June and expects there to be a surge in bookings this summer.

The Global Travel Taskforce, a government agency, is expected to make an announcement on April 12 as to what might be possible this year and when.

Mr Callaway said: “I really do hope, and I am confident, that some countries will be open for travel at the start of summer. This is what we’re hearing from our contacts, whether it is hotel suppliers or our partner agents.

“There will be some European countries to start off with and then that net might get wider. There are lots of places making great progress with covid that are also really desperate for UK tourists to return.

“In the travel industry, we know how important it is to contain the virus. What we are lobbying the Government for is a more nuanced approach to restrictions and border closures. We want them to use a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer.”

Holidays abroad are currently not allowed and returning travellers have to quarantine. Currently, May 17 is the earliest possible date for the ban to be lifted but Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says this could be extended to stop the spread of coronavirus.

A £5,000 fine is due to come into force for anyone in England trying to travel overseas without good reason amid concerns of a “third wave” of the virus across Europe.

Mr Callaway said: “It has never been illegal to book a holiday. There are barriers to travel and that is understandable but you can always make plans.

“There are deals on the table from hotels and airlines that we’ve never seen before in terms of prices and flexibility. Any consumer needs to make sure they are going with a viable ATOL operator and you have to make sure you have the correct financial protection.

“My advice is, if you can capitalise on the flexibility of what is being offered at the moment, then it pays to be prudent.”

Darren Morris, who runs D&G Travel Centre in New Street, Henley, is taking a more cautious approach.

Mr Morris, who has had the business for 15 years, has been advising customers to hold off making bookings and does not expect foreign travel to be possible until later in the year.

Referring to the announcement, he said: “I’ve got a sneaking feeling that it will probably not be what people want to hear. There is a possibility that a limited number of countries and destinations will be added to a safe list to travel but I don’t know how long that will take.

“Obviously, a lot of people travel to Europe in the school holidays and that is a concern with what is going on over there at the moment. I’ve tried to be as open and transparent as possible with people since the very beginning of all this. I have just told people that they are better off waiting.

“It is all well and good saying ‘we can go to Greece’ and these countries are reliant on tourism, but it’s more a case of if our Government allow you to go. Having been in the industry as long as I have, it’s not going to be as quick as some people think.”

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