TUI has said the UK’s coronavirus vaccine rollout will boost its summer holiday programme while reporting a surge in bookings despite official advice it is too soon to think about breaks abroad.
The world’s biggest holiday company said bookings across the group had topped 2.8 million for the European summer ahead – with average prices 20% up on the pre-COVID season of 2019.
It said that while the current booking figure was 44% down in comparison with the same time in 2019, the pace was starting to pick up.
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The Germany-based firm revealed a €699m (£613m) loss during its first financial quarter as lockdowns and travel restrictions in its key markets severely limited demand for flights and Christmas breaks abroad in the three months to the end of December.
Revenues were 88% down on the same period in 2019.
But it said that cost-cutting limited the damage and it now had €2.1bn (£1.8bn) of cash in its war chest to get it through the tough months ahead after three capital-raising exercises during the crisis to date and bailouts from the German government.
The company said that after a dire first half, it was expecting a strong pick-up in demand for summer breaks and planning for 80% of its summer 2019 capacity.
That is despite jitters in national government circles on whether the disease, and its many variants, will allow for international travel as normal.
For example, all travellers arriving in the UK face a tougher testing regime from next week while Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, told a Downing Street news conference only on Monday that it was “just too early to say” whether people would be able to plan getaways this summer.
TUI argued that the UK’s vaccination programme, which has progressed at greater speed than in EU markets, should help open the door to bookings but it admitted a lack of clarity on when government restrictions would ease.
It did not disclose UK booking figures but said that it expected most customers to seek out last-minute breaks when restrictions allowed and that it favoured testing regimes over a quarantine-led approach.
Tom Jenkins, the chief executive of the European Tourism Association, told Sky’s Ian King live that no government had performed well during the crisis to date on providing clear guidance to the travel sector, warning that, in the UK’s case, a £30bn tourism industry had been placed in “jeopardy”.
He said: “The thing that really concerns me… is the complete inability of governments throughout Europe to give clear indications on when this lockdown is going to end.
“This is having impacts not just domestically in terms of intra-European traffic but it’s having a big knock-on effect on worldwide demand for Europe.”
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