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December 22, 2020

Outbound UK tourism demand may not pick up in early 2021

By Globaldata Travel and Tourism

40 countries have now banned UK inbound travel, which coupled with Brexit’s impending effect, will further decimate UK travel confidence going into 2021.

Germany, France, Italy and Ireland were among the first to bar travelers from the UK on 20 December 2020 due to concerns over a more infectious strain of the virus. Over the past few days, this list has grown rapidly as 40 countries now have international travel restrictions on inbound UK tourists. The impact of Covid-19 and the on-going uncertainty associated with Brexit, reflect that there is still a long road ahead for UK traveler confidence to return to pre Covid-19 levels. In order to maintain a positive image, travel companies with a presence in the UK need to: openly accept refunds, changes to travel bookings and prioritise flexibility.

GlobalData’s Week 11 COVID-19 Recovery Survey displayed that travel demand was actually beginning to ‘pick up’ in early December. Week 11 results ran between 2-6 December and found that 32% were planning to reduce international travel and 22% aimed to reduce domestic. In comparison to Week 9 results (ran in early October with the news of increased testing facilities and a vaccine rolling out) the number of respondents aiming to reduce international and domestic travel was actually higher in comparison to Week 11.

The news of a second variant of Covid-19 that is 50%-70% more transmissible than the original is ravaging across the UK is further devastating traveller confidence. Plans for international and domestic travel in light of the current situation are likely to have deteriorated since early December. These restrictions will not last forever, but when lifted, the odds that testing will be a hardcore requirement for UK international tourists is high, which will put off a significant chunk of outbound travelers.

News of a Covid-19 testing strategy called ‘Test to Release’ was welcomed on 15 December, where travelers can pay to shorten their self-isolation period to five days. However, many may perceive this to be just another cost that now makes travel too expensive in the current economic climate.

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All travel companies now need to tread with caution including airlines, travel intermediaries and hoteliers as it is clear this on-going battle with Covid-19 is far from over. It is now critical for them to be open and flexible in order to remain desirable for when traveler confidence begins to recover.

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