Brits turn to travel agents for UK holidays

Customers want to feel reassured that accommodation is safe and their money is protected. By Anthony Pearce

There has been a “considerable rise” in UK holiday bookings during week ending 26 June, particularly for breaks during July, August and September 2020, according to a leading travel agency.

Compared to week ending 19 June, staycation bookings increased by 263 per cent for departures in July 2020 and by 145 per cent for August 2020, the Personal Travel Agents At Co-Operative reported.

Bookings for UK holidays departing in September 2020 saw the biggest increase, with sales up 550 per cent compared to the previous week.

“The overarching trend I see is that if customers feel reassured the accommodation is safe and their money is protected, there is a strong desire to head to the UK’s beautiful coastline or countryside, to spend quality time as a small unit of family or friends, and to explore local things to do,” said Ginette Steele, the group’s top seller of UK breaks.

Sheena Whittle, head of the Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel, which is part of Midcounties Co-operative and has more than 170 homeworking agents, said: “As soon as the government announced that hotels, restaurants, pubs and  attractions could open from July 4, and that people living in England could travel around the country more freely from this date, our agents saw a significant spike in demand for summer 2020 UK breaks.

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“Customers are keen to travel, but cautious too, so we’re finding that properties which allow for social distancing are booming. The majority of the UK summer 2020 bookings our agents are receiving are for lodges in more remote destinations or for individual holiday home rentals. Holidays offered by Hoseasons are performing particularly well, with a sales increase of 493 per cent, versus the same week last year. We’re really pleased to see the surge in UK bookings and that there is so much appetite for the many different holiday experiences our own country has to offer.”

Steele added: “The question everyone asks, and which is without doubt the most important factor to all my clients, is ‘will my money be safe?’. To sell to them, I need to show that, should problems arise, their holiday dates can be moved or I can secure a refund for them”

“My other priority when I speak to customers is to set their expectations. I can’t sell staycations based on the facilities or the restaurants on site – spas may be closed, activities may not be possible or will be a different experience to usual, and restaurants may be closed or only offer takeout. But most of my clients aren’t looking for these facilities this year – they simply want to be somewhere different to home, somewhere with fresh air and somewhere to spend quality time together. Hot tubs are much in demand though!

“I’m selling staycations to a broad range of ages, with families keen to travel in July and August, as well as during October half-term. I’m also selling to groups of family and friends in summer and into September, some of who want to take several units of accommodation in the same place, so they can holiday and socialise together but from a safe distance. Understandably though, the over 65s are the most cautious. I’m not selling much to my customers in this age group.

“As a personal travel agent, my customers look to me for advice and so I’m also keen to stress to them that they should be as sensible as possible in the run up to their holiday this summer. If they were to be called by the NHS Test and Trace service and told to isolate during the time their booking is for, they wouldn’t be able to go. But by avoiding gatherings or going to busy places, their chances of this happening are small.”

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