The travel sector is stepping up its “ignore the government” messaging with the launch of a campaign to reassure consumers that it is safe to book holidays for this summer.
The Save our Summer (SOS) group is calling on the government to ensure holidays at home and abroad are possible from 1 May and guarantees that anyone booking through its members will be entitled to either a refund or a change of date for their holiday if travel is cancelled or not possible due to government Covid-19 restrictions.
The campaign has the support of more than 120 travel companies, including EasyJet Holidays, Trailfinders and DialAFlight, that are “united in outrage” at the government’s handling of the crisis and failure to support the tourism industry.
“UK citizens should ignore government ministers’ conflicting advice and book summer trips with confidence,” said co-founder Paul Charles of the PC Agency.
Co-founder Henry Moore of True Travel said: “The travel industry stands on the edge of a precipice today. There must now be a clear roadmap set out from 1 May onwards specifically for travel, in order to reinstate consumer confidence and protect millions of jobs which hang in the balance.”
The group is also calling for quarantine measures to be replaced by an extensive testing programme, with rapid testing on arrival and departure.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is due to give details of the easing of lockdown in England in an announcement on 22 February and is under pressure from both the tourism industry and lockdown sceptics to commit to a timetable to allow domestic trips in time for Easter. Leaders of the Covid Recovery Group are calling for pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues to be able allowed to open in a way that is Covid-secure but still allows them to operate “in a commercially viable manner”.
Chair of Cumbria Tourism Jim Walker said: “We’re very optimistic about Easter. It’s a very important time for us in the new season and will set the stall out for us in the year ahead.”
The pandemic cost Cumbria £2bn in lost tourism revenue in 2020. In a normal year tourism contributes £3bn to the county’s economy. He said he hoped that hotels and guest houses would open soon after self-catering accommodation “if not at the same time.”
He added: “At a time when there has been no income our hospitality businesses have spent thousands on making sure they are Covid-safe.”
Overall domestic tourism fell to £30bn in 2020, down from £91bn in 2019.