Holiday bookings surge in UK after lockdown exit plans revealed

Airlines and travel companies have reported a surge in holiday bookings after the Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown.

EasyJet, Tui and Thomas Cook all reported a jump in bookings to destinations including Spain and Greece after the prime minister said that international trips could potentially resume from 17 May, subject to review and assuming there is no resurgence in coronavirus and vaccination programmes go well.

The surge pushed shares in airlines and travel companies sharply higher on Tuesday. EasyJet and Tui were among the top risers on the FTSE 250, up 8% and 6% respectively. On the FTSE 100, British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group, was up 6%.

EasyJet said flight bookings from the UK jumped 337% and package holiday bookings surged 630% compared with a week earlier, with Malaga, Alicante and Palma in Spain, Faro in Portugal and the Greek island of Crete among the top destinations. August breaks are the most popular, followed by July and September.

Johan Lundgren, the easyJet chief executive, said: “We have consistently seen that there is pent-up demand for travel and this surge in bookings shows that this signal from the government that it plans to reopen travel has been what UK consumers have been waiting for.”

Tui and Thomas Cook also reported a surge in bookings. Tui, the world’s largest travel company, said demand for breaks in Greece, Spain and Turkey from July onwards were the most booked overnight, with bookings up 500%.

As part of the government’s planned easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the prime minister said a travel taskforce would set out plans on 12 April on the return to international travel “so people can plan for the summer”. The ban on international travel will not be lifted until 17 May at the earliest, however, which means Easter breaks are off the table.

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Andrew Flintham, the managing director of Tui UK and Ireland, said: “The announcement from the prime minister was positive and shows that by working with the travel industry on a risk-based framework our customers will have the opportunity to travel abroad this summer. We will continue to work closely with the government so people can look forward to a well-deserved break away, after what has been a very difficult year for many.”

Thomas Cook said website traffic was up by 75% on Monday and bookings tripled from the day before. Turkey was the number one destination followed by Greece and Cyprus, but people also booked long haul to Dominican Republic and Mexico. The company said customers were also booking well into 2022. “Felt like the cork had popped on all that pent up demand for holidays,” a spokesperson said.

The Thomas Cook chief executive, Alan French, said: “The government’s announcement is good news for those of us desperate to get away on holiday. While we await more details, it’s clear that the government’s ambition is to open up international travel in the coming months and hopefully in time for the summer holidays.”

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