Lancashire folk are cruising for a holiday despite the doubts cast by coronavirus on the summer getaway
The sun has not set on hopes of a hot holiday abroad this summer despite the coronavirus turmoil say Lancashire travel experts.
Foreign destinations could be in doubt as Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Spi-M modelling group which advises the Government, said there was a danger that new variants brought in could jeopardise the vaccination programme later in the year.
It comes as a rise in coronavirus infections has led to countries across Europe imposing tougher restrictions, with scientists concerned about outbreaks of the South African variant.
Dr Tildesley said: “I think we are running a real risk if we do start to have lots of people going overseas in July and August because of the potential for bringing more of these new variants back into the country."
Despite the Government this week threatening to fine anyone £5,000 jetting off overseas without good reason before May and doubtful noises from Westminster about booking holidays, travel agents in Lancashire were remaining positive about the annual getaway.
Many are warning that the staycations could be at a premium as people avoid the risk of flying, but some are saying a safer option could be taking to the waves with a cruise.
Phil Nuttall from the Travel Village Group based in Highfield Road, Blackpool, said that many people are waiting to see how the vaccine rollout and the virus numbers respond before making hasty decisions.
He said: "It's very hard to predict anything, as the last 12 months have proved. The situation changes daily and reading between the lines, I think it's safe to say what the scientists are telling us is that travel will be dependent on two key things.
"The first will be opening destinations that have a very high rate of vaccination and a very low rate of infection. The second is that as other countries catch up on vaccinations, the opportunity to travel will steadily open up.
"On the plus side, cruising has been given the green light for UK residents to cruise from the UK ports and that is fantastic news.
"Proof that a cruise ship is a safe way to holiday and many of the cruise lines will be sailing with some demanding vaccinations, others not and some allowing children and others not. There will be something for everyone this summer on a cruise ship sailing from the UK.
"We already know the travel ban will remain in place until at least May 17, and as a responsible business, The Travel Village Group has only been taking foreign holiday bookings from the end of summer 2021.
"On a more positive note, the Government’s Travel Taskforce has been in talks with ABTA, the airlines and travel companies and an announcement is likely to be made on April 12."
Irene Hays, owner of Hays Travel which has sites in Preston and Kirkham said that they were already taking booking for cruises whihc were being seen as safer options.
She said: "We have had thousands of enquiries already. Our customers are desperate to have a holiday and to be able to have a staycation in the UK combined with the luxury of a cruise is a real addition to the UK holiday offer.
At the same time there is peace of mind – the government is only allowing this within the highest standards of health and safety.”
In most cruises, everyone on board will have been vaccinated and tested before boarding and physical distancing means ships will not be filled to capacity so won’t be overcrowded.
Dona Kirkham who has run Travel Councillors in St Annes for 13 years, said she was hopeful of a more normal summer but was looking forward to more clarity from the Government in April.
She said: "I have worked in the travel industry for 31 years and never sen a year like the last one. We coped with the tsunami and Nine Eleven but this just seems to have no end.
"But my customers I know are desperate to feel some sun on their skin and people have been coming forward to book holidays. I have sen a lot of group bookings where families want to spend time together since they haven't been able to do that last year.
"August and particularly October half term are getting booked up quickly. There is also demand for the Christmas period too. But we have to be honest with people for this summer and tell them we just don't know what will happen. I do know that lots of cruise ships are relocating to the UK for round UK cruises, but people will have to be vaccinated."