As prospective travellers and the travel industry wait to find out whether any new locations will be added to the “green list” for this summer, new figures show most holiday bookings are for 2022.
The latest data from the price comparison site TravelSupermarket, covering the spell from 13 to 20 June, shows 53 per cent of bookings were for 2022 – even though the peak summer season this year has yet to begin.
A further 13 per cent were for December 2021, meaning that two out of three bookings are for trips starting over five months from now.
A collapse of consumer confidence following the abrupt imposition of quarantine for arrivals from Portugal earlier this month appears to be behind the slump in summer 2021 sales.
Just 21 per cent of bookings were for the remainder of June and the peak months of July and August.
The top five destinations for bookings are split between the US and Spain: New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, Benidorm and Tenerife. Both countries are on the “amber list,” from which 10 days of self-isolation are required.
At present the only viable no-quarantine overseas destinations for British holidaymakers are Gibraltar and Iceland.
Later today, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is expected to announce a modest increase in the green list. Malta, Madeira and some Greek island are among the plausible candidates that could be added.
The travel industry is calling for a much wider range of additions, citing the fact that the UK’s coronavirus infection rates are far higher than most European countries.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the pilots’ union, Balpa, told The Independent: ‘We’re nearly at the point of no return for travel this summer.”
Hopes that holidaymakers with flexibility would choose an autumn escape are not backed by the sales figures, with just one in eight of bookings last week for September, October and November.
Emma Coulthurst of TravelSupermarket said: “You’d normally see the majority of searches at this time of year for now until the end of October. But, at the moment, only a quarter of bookings are for this period.
“The current travel restrictions and lack of clarity mean that holidaymakers are looking further ahead to next year rather than this summer. They want to have a blowout when they go away, with entertainment centres, New York and Las Vegas, topping the list for bookings. People are wanting to treat themselves, when they can.
“It is so important that the government stops making political decisions around travel and what they think the public want to hear and actually look at the science and where it is safe to travel to.
“We need to see more low-risk countries like Malta and the Balearic Islands on the green list. We also need to see quarantine restrictions being dropped for the double-vaccinated on return to the UK from many countries where the risk of catching or transmitting the virus is relatively low.”
The junior transport minister, Rachael Maclean, told the Commons this morning: “We fully recognise and support the aviation industry for the country. And that is why this government has stood beside the sector, and provided up to £7bn in the round of support for jobs, through the furlough scheme, and support for airports and the airline industry.
“But it is vitally important that we get the travel industry back on its feet. And that is why we are taking a public health approach to restarting travel and the transport secretary will be saying more on that this evening.”