Holiday bookings surge with renewed confidence in travel

Annabel Fenwick-Elliott
·6-min read
island - istock
island - istock

It’s official: lockdown will lift on December 2, to be replaced with a stricter tier system, Boris Johnson will announce tomorrow. 

Exactly what that means remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: Britons are planning holidays. With a vaccine is on its way, an end in sight for England's second lockdown, and as of Sunday, news that quarantine for UK arrivals will be slashed from 14 days to five, consumer confidence has been bolstered considerably.

Indeed, Telegraph Travel spoke to a number of the country’s leading tour operators and travel providers regarding their bookings for December and beyond, both domestic and international, and found an increasingly optimistic picture. 

Camping companies are seeing more demand this year compared to last, and there’s been a recent spike in inquiries for holiday cottages across the UK, indicating that Britons are still banking on Christmas staycations away from home. 

Ryanair, meanwhile, has announced 24 additional flights departing from December 17 to cater for family reunions overseas, with destinations including France, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Portugal; while other travel companies are reporting increased interest in long-haul winter sun holidays.

Here’s what they had to say.

The UK

Jonathan Knight, founder of said that December bookings were up 60 per cent compared to last year, and reported another increase last week. “Presumably customers are feeling more confident that restrictions will ease,” he says. “Interestingly, although there is a notable spike in holidays starting the first two weekends in December, and again at New Year, Christmas bookings are subdued, possibly indicating that people are not anticipating being able to get together with others at that time.”

He adds: “Most bookings we are getting now are actually for 2021, so people are clearly looking further ahead. Last November, the average reservation was for 68 days ahead, whereas this November that has jumped to 155 days ahead, which is quite a big change in behaviour.” 

A rep for Under the Thatch, which offers cottages around the UK, told us: “Bookings are actually very normal for December this year. We'd be full now for weekends if it wasn't for lockdown, so demand is definitely there. But the bigger story for us is that advance sales are noticeably up for 2021. People who lost out during 2020 are advance-booking premium properties by the beach for 2021, especially given our flexible booking policy.”

An agent for Cotswold Hideaways, weighed in: “Since the start of last week, we’ve been receiving many more enquiries about December holidays. Of all our bookings made in November, 36 per cent are for December and 52 per cent account for the first half of next year. The only cancellations we are seeing in December are due to Government restrictions, mostly concerned with the ‘rule of six’.”

cotswolds - Andrea Pistolesi
cotswolds - Andrea Pistolesi

This was echoed by a rep for The Lakes by YOO, another luxury estate in the Cotswolds, who tells us: “Bookings have remained steady for the festive season (December 22-Jan 5), with a large amount of enquiries for Christmas stays; 25 per cent more than in 2019. We’ve also seen a 25 per cent increase for post-lockdown bookings, for stays between December 2-22.  

“Further to this we have seen that this trend will continue into 2021. The Lakes is experiencing unprecedented advanced bookings ahead of the new year. The estate has received approximately 50 per cent more enquiries into summer holiday rentals and is set to be fully booked for the holiday period in 2021.

Overseas travel

It’s a similar picture for tour operators offering holidays abroad; namely a strong appetite for travel in December and for next year.

Sonia Davies, CEO at Scott Dunn, says: “We had our busiest day of bookings in three months at the start of this week, with interest for departures around December 10 onwards. Some families are looking for a slightly earlier festive break, giving themselves time for a potentially shorter quarantine period before the kids go back to school. 

“The Maldives, Caribbean, UAE, Seychelles and Kenya are currently the most in-demand, with a lot of interest for South Africa as well as the rest of Africa. Enquiries and bookings are predominantly from families with older children for the coming festive season, but there is also a lot of interest in next Summer and the 2021 festive season.”

James Bell, Managing Director of Turquoise Holidays, comments “We currently have over £1 million of business optioned for travel between the December 2 to 31; all since the start of November, so we definitely feel there is pent up demand amongst Britons when lockdown lifts.

“Our enquiry numbers were up 17 per cent year-on-year last week, and although bookings are down overall, we have seen an upswing in holidays being booked to the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. These regions are up 63 per cent for us when compared with November 2019. British Airways is increasing capacity here as well, with additional flights to Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados just announced. We are so excited to see confidence return to market.”

caribbean - getty
caribbean - getty

Rene Dyson, head of marketing at Best at Travel, says: “Customers seem to be very confident of the easing of restrictions from December 2, as immediately after that date we are seeing a 48 per cent increase in departures for the following week, compared to last year. Generally, month-to-date bookings for December travel are up 35 per cent on last year.” 

Another popular option for British holidaymakers has been Africa.

James Wilson, marketing director at Desert & Delta Safaris, which operates lodges in Botswana, comments: “Bookings made by Britons, one of our most lucrative markets, over the festive season are still in the system, despite Botswana not having a travel corridor with the UK. We have already contacted these guests and asked them if they wanted to defer until 2021, however, all are determined to travel, and we are delighted to welcome them.”

Alice Gully, co-owner Aardvark Safaris, which has lodges across Africa, tell us: “There has been a significant increase in enquiries over the past few weeks for travel in December, which highlights that the desire to travel to Africa is still there. Clients that we are speaking to are confident that African countries have their protocols in place and can offer Covid safe and socially distanced safaris.”

She added, however: “Despite this, almost all mainland African countries are still unjustly without travel corridors. We need the FCDO and Public Health England to start applying their metrics fairly, to help convert these enquiries to actual bookings. Consumer confidence in Africa is there, but the quarantine upon return is a challenge.”