News that Britons are likely to be among the first in the world to receive a coronavirus vaccine has provided a long-awaited boost in confidence for our return to normality; and not least for the travel industry.
So what does it mean for your well-deserved holiday next year? Is it now safe to book? Will resorts sell out? Will prices soon shoot up? The only certainty these days is that nothing is certain. But here’s what our experts have to say.
Book now before the rush
A spokesperson for the UK Travel Association (ABTA) told Telegraph Travel: “There have been positive developments this week in terms of securing a vaccine and this will no doubt go some way to restoring consumer confidence in travel. We know our members have reported people are booking for 2021 and we expect the news of a vaccine will see future bookings increase further, as people are keen to catch up on what they’ve missed this year. It remains the case that booking early gives people the greatest choice and booking a package holiday offers the highest level of protection.”
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, says: “The vaccine development is the fillip that the travel sector was needing; a small boost in confidence to show people that 2021 will be better. Across the sector, I’m seeing that summer 2021 bookings are flowing in as consumers realise that things can only get better compared with 2020. There is enormous pent-up demand and there is no doubt that the second half of 2021 will boom in terms of overseas trips as well as staycations. Prices will rise by 10 – 20 per cent to cater for the demand, as operators try to recover lost earnings from this year.”
Gary Lewis, CEO of The Travel Network Group, states: “We’re really encouraged by the news of a Covid-19 vaccine being made available early next year, and understandably people will be very excited to make plans to travel again. Capacity and pricing for 2021 are under pressure not just because of the excitement to travel again, but because of the shift of existing bookings from this year moving to next year, so if customers haven’t got a holiday booked for Summer 2021, planning and booking early is essential.”
Michael Vinales, Managing Director, Olympic Holidays, says: “On Monday, we saw a double-digit increase in holiday searches compared to the previous Monday; with Greece, Cyprus and the Canary Islands being most in demand. Prices haven’t inflated hugely yet, but holidays are starting to sell fast and there is no doubt that the news of the vaccine is going to bring a greater level of confidence and certitude to people looking book their holidays for next year. Now is the time – there are currently some amazing value deals to be had for summer 2021.”
Looking to escape further afield? Jordyn Mackenzie, sales and marketing manager, at Alphonse Island in the Seychelles, remarks: “Due to our remote location and limited accommodation offering, we are encouraging guests to book now for summer 2021. We have already seen a spike in enquiries for 2021 since the announcement of the vaccine, and to avoid guests missing out on our Explorer Season (June-September) we strongly encourage guests to book now for this period.”
Hold fire on booking
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, weighs in: “At present, I think it’s premature to start booking holidays for a couple of key reasons. Top among them is the availability of the new vaccine – the UK has committed for around 20m doses for now, which would only inoculate one-third of the population and even then, this will be targeted to key NHS workers as well as those in higher age group categories.
“Secondly, if people start booking 2021 holidays now, not only do they risk forcing prices up as everyone tries to do the same with limited availability, but the very high risk that other nations, particularly would-be tourist hotspots, may themselves not yet be capable or ready for an influx if they don’t have access to the vaccine in greater numbers too.
“There’s no question that this vaccine is a game-changer. The challenge now becomes two-fold – managing the supply chain so that enough vaccines can be manufactured and then secondly, the distribution of said vaccine. It’s worth remembering that two doses are required, three weeks apart. Given there are more than 7 billion humans on the planet, we’re going to need close to 15-billion-or-more vials of this vaccine just to inoculate the current global population – and of course, beyond that, supplies and spares will be required. And all of this is dependent on how quickly supplies can be manufactured.”
Book now, with caution
Telegraph Travel’s consumer expert Nick Trend advises: “It’s a gamble to book a holiday nine months ahead when so much uncertainty remains. But if you do come across a particularly good deal that requires little or no deposit, includes a flexible cancellation policy with a bonded tour operator, there’s no harm in securing a trip now.”
Commenting specifically on flight prices, John Grant, senior analyst at OAG, tells us: “The news on a possible effective vaccine will certainly encourage the public to think about travel in 2021 with a lot more optimism, and for the brave and confident, booking now could see some bargains available across all airlines. It is however unlikely that there will be a stampede of demand, and the peak summer school holiday season remains nearly nine months away, so there could be lots of twists and turns before then. But for the airlines, travel industry and most importantly the traveller, Monday’s news brings a strong ray of light at the end of a very long tunnel.”
Sonia Davies, CEO of luxury tour operator Scott Dunn, states: “Further to yesterday’s announcement of a breakthrough with Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, we have seen an encouraging spike in enquiries. However, these are still early days and we are waiting for a definitive plan of action from the government for recovery, including robust testing, reductions in quarantine and a more nuanced approach to FCDO advice.
“We expect pent-up demand for travel to be substantial in 2021 with close to two years of bookings possible. The same will apply to specific destination experiences with capacity constraints, such as limited permits for gorilla trekking in Uganda, Machu Picchu restriction on numbers, and National Parks in North America.
“We are particularly advising families looking to travel over peak school holiday dates in 2021 to book early, due to the number of postponed holidays and limited spaces within our Explorers Kids Clubs. Airlines have had to take drastic steps to ensure survival during the pandemic so flight volumes are expected to be significantly lower, therefore availability will be tighter.”