Covid travel rules: Preston and Chorley travel agents hopeful 2022 will see more holidays despite recent Omicron wave

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Independent travel agents are feeling “optimistic” about 2022 holidays.

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have stopped many travelling over the last two years. But, as we enter 2022, Lancashire travel agents think things may be starting to brighten up.

It comes as a change in Government rules means from 4am on Friday guidance states that if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England you no longer need to take a Covid-19 test before travelling nor will you need to quarantine, although a PCR test is required upon arrival.

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Then from Sunday, a lateral flow test can be taken instead of a PCR test. It does however have to be privately bought with NHS tests not allowed.

James Cole of Panache CruisesJames Cole of Panache Cruises
James Cole of Panache Cruises

James Cole, 46, founded Panache Cruises during the pandemic, selling their first cruise in July 2020, a time when travelling was rare. The company specialises in ultra-luxury cruises including elite ocean, luxury river, yacht-style, and expedition cruises.

Mr Cole, who is also the managing director, thinks that despite the ongoing rise in Covid cases, people still want to get away.

He said: “People have been, undoubtedly, a little bit cautious but the demand is definitely returning, we are confident, the market is becoming more buoyant, and we see it returning over the period of the next few weeks.

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Travel agents are optimistic holidaymakers will be jetting off in 2022Travel agents are optimistic holidaymakers will be jetting off in 2022
Travel agents are optimistic holidaymakers will be jetting off in 2022

Chorley-based Panache Cruises is set to be busy again this summer, with Mr Cole saying that although some people “haven’t had the confidence to travel” he thinks that for the most part, people are “very optimistic about travelling in the summer and beyond”.

He added: “It’s not just about this summer, cruising is on sale with many of the cruise lines right through to 2024 and we are seeing demand for 2023 and 2024 and what we are seeing is that people are spending more money than they’ve ever spent before, they’re going for longer, they’re going further, and they really want to make up for that lost time over the last couple of years.”

Sandra Ollerton, 52, is the company director of Preston Travel Centre, who book different types of travel across the world.

For her, most of her bookings are people who couldn’t get away due to the first lockdown in 2020.

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“We’re now on the second year of roll-ons so new business for 2022 is quite scarce anyway because the majority will be transferred from last year anyway,” she said.

“In September and October when restrictions were lifted throughout Europe quite a lot, and in the UK as well…we were able to travel without doing a lot of testing.”

Now, tests are once again required for certain travel and some countries have tightened restrictions for UK travellers, something which Ms Ollerton feels has affected her business.

“As soon as they started the pre-departure tests again and the UK Government started making more restrictions for coming back into the UK, any new business fell off again then and hasn’t really picked up since because of the uncertainty.”

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But as far as cancelling summer plans, she adds: ““It’s far too early. I do understand people’s concern, people are concerned and they’re asking questions, but refunds aren’t appropriate at the moment for summer holidays.”

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