Kentish Express Ashford & District

Travel experts set for holiday rush as restrictio­ns eased

Dreaming of eventually being able to jet off to sunny climes again? Sam Williams speaks to industry insiders about how it will bounce back from the pandemic

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Holiday plans are put on hold. Planes are grounded. In fact, it is currently illegal to travel abroad for a bit of sun and sand.

But with the vaccine roll-out gathering pace, should we start digging out the suitcase again any time soon?

The travel industry has taken a huge hit in the last 12 months, with many working in the sector still on furlough and facing an uncertain future.

But Bianca Whalley, from Folkestone, who has more than 20 years experience in the industry, believes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

She currently works as an independen­t travel counsellor from home and has taken a second job - answering calls over Covid-19 - since the start of the outbreak to top up her income.

Miss Whalley is hopeful about the future as she says there is a ‘pent-up demand’ for holidays.

She said: “I’m ready for the time when restrictio­ns ease and we can bounce-back and meet the pent-up demand for travel again.

“Many of my customers are telling me that they are craving something to look forward to, and the chance to spend quality time with extended family and friends again.”

Miss Whalley says people are still booking holidays, including for this year and next.

She added: “I’m seeing bookings for summer 2021 onwards and for 2022.

“The UK is proving popular this year indicating that we may once again see staycation­s on the rise, particular­ly in the school holidays.”

Dierdre Wells, from tourism organisati­on Visit Kent, said the county has a lot to offer people when tourism picks back up but there are hurdles to get over first.

She said: “One thing that is quite striking at the moment is a significan­t drop in consumer confidence. When asked if people are going to be taking a trip in the UK this year only 14% said they’d do it in April.

“It rises to about 30% in

June and then 54% from July. People are very nervous even about travelling in the UK.”

Holiday Extras, based in Newingreen, specialise­s in booking airport hotels, parking and travel insurance.

It cut more than 200 jobs last year as a result of the pandemic and has undergone a restructur­e.

Group CEO Matthew Pack says when restrictio­ns were temporaril­y lifted last year “demand outstrippe­d supply”.

He said: “We are expecting the same trend this year and hope to see more of the UK breaks market - especially indoor attraction­s and theatres - open back up as the vaccines are rolled out.

“Despite pent up demand, bookings so far this year are the lowest they’ve been since the start of the crisis.

“Some 80% of UK holidaymak­ers consistent­ly tell us in our monthly survey that they’re planning to travel once it’s possible, and that they’re waiting either for the end of lockdown, to receive the vaccine or for the summer.

“It’s vital that the government continues to offer full support to our industry for as long as it keeps the planes grounded.

“But so long as the government’s support continues to match up to the restrictio­ns imposed on travel, our business and our whole industry will come out of this crisis in good shape.”

 ?? Picture: Vikki Lince ?? The airports have been almost empty over recent months as all holiday plans are put on hold - but there’s growing pent-up demand
Picture: Vikki Lince The airports have been almost empty over recent months as all holiday plans are put on hold - but there’s growing pent-up demand
 ??  ?? Bianca Whalley is a travel counsellor
Bianca Whalley is a travel counsellor

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