Some industry executives are predicting international travel will reach 90 percent of its pre-pandemic level now that the United Kingdom has relaxed some of its COVID-19 restrictions.
“I predict travel will be 90 percent back to 2019 levels before the end of spring (2022),” Derek Jones, the chief executive of luxury travel company Kuoni, told the Belfast Telegraph via the European travel site schengenvisainfo.com. “We’re already seeing increased call volumes and inquiries about trips for the year ahead as confidence builds.”
International travel has been the slowest part of the industry to come back from the pandemic, which hit worldwide almost two years ago next month.
England changed some of its rules on travel last week. Fully vaccinated travelers and children under the age of 18 no longer have to take a pre-departure COVID test when they come back to the U.K. A new, cheaper test is now valid to re-enter the country.
That will allow more people in Great Britain to travel, says Steve Heapy, the CEO of Jet2 – Britain’s third-largest airline – and Jet2 Holidays.
“We have seen an immediate and dramatic spike in bookings, with volumes since the Government announcement heading towards pre-pandemic levels,” Heapy said. He added that it “demonstrates just how much demand is out there among people wanting to get away for a much-needed holiday.”
A survey by British travel trade company Abta found that Spain, the United States, France, Italy and Greece are the top five destinations that U.K. residents plan to visit this year.
A spokesperson for travel agency TUI said there has been a “prompt increase” in bookings since last week. But any uptick just might be a one-way thing, because advisors in the U.S. aren’t seeing the same kind of optimism for international travel.
“I have not, and am not, seeing an increase in international travel. I do have a few trips in the works, which may or may not travel, but this is nothing to what I was doing in 2019 or were booked for 2020 prior to Covid. Not even close,” said Miki Taylor, founder and CEO of Taylor & Co. Travel in Marietta, Ga.. “My largest VIP client has two international trips rescheduled from 2020 and 2021 and those are still up in the air and they are all vaccinated and boosted and have all had Covid.”
Taylor said her current impression is that international travel has become a matter of anticipation and anxiety.
“I think that people want to travel, but the biggest concern I am hearing is ‘I don’t want to travel somewhere and then test positive and can’t get back.’ It is a worry and one that people aren’t willing to take just yet,” she said. “My personal opinion is that if we don’t have another Omicron, bookings might pick up for late in the year. But for now most are traveling to the Caribbean and Mexico, but that isn’t even anywhere close to where it was pre-Covid.”
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