Lancashire travel agents celebrate holiday booking boom as Government announces plans to relax international travel rules
Lancashire travel agents have welcomed Government plans to relax international travel rules - with some local businesses reporting huge increases in bookings just one day after the big announcement was made.
From October 4, the current 'traffic light' system will be replaced by a single, reduced 'red list' of destinations from where travellers arriving in England will have to quarantine in a Government-supervised hotel.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the new rules yesterday, which also state that fully-vaccinated people will no longer need a pre-departure PCR test before returning from non-red list destinations, and from the end of October they will be able to use a cheaper lateral flow test instead.
Phil Nuttall, of The Travel Village on Highfield Road, Blackpool, said: "I think it's well overdue and about time. There's no reason not to open up international travel. We have had no support or grants to keep us going from the council. We have been the worst hit. I employ about 30 people in Blackpool, and we've had no help whatsoever.
"For us, the opening up of international travel, as a family business of over 60 years on the Fylde coast, is great news.
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"It has been a horrible 18 months. There are no other words to describe it. It has been horrible for both us and our customers.
"But on the back of this recent accnoundement we're actually trying to increase our staff. It has been busy this morning; the office was packed. People have been coming in because they are desperate to get away. It's really fantastic news for us. Hopefully we can start moving forward now."
Maureen Evans, of Freedom Travel Penwortham, said: "For the industry, it's amazing news. It's really, really good. Obviously it has opened up a lot of places we couldn't go before; there's still some confusion, but I'm sure that will all be settled in the coming days."
Big travel firms such as Thomas Cook and TUI UK reported a marked increase in holiday bookings for the October half term, while online travel agency Skyscanner said it saw a 133 per cent spike in traffic in the 30 minutes following Mr Shapps’s announcement, with 'huge increases' in searches for Turkey and the Maldives.
Maureen Evans, of Freedom Travel Longton, said: "For the industry, it's amazing news. It's really, really good. Obviously it has opened up a lot of places we couldn't go before; there's still some confusion, but I'm sure that will all be settled in the coming days.
"We were quite busy last night after the announcement. My mobile phone was ringing until 9pm, and we've had quite a few more inquiries today, so we're hoping it lasts.
"Since yesterday, a lot of people are wanting to book during the October half term. But there's not much space left at the minute; we're hoping the airlines will expand their capacity.
"The Maldives is the most popular destination, closely followed by Dubai. We're hoping the USA will be opened up next.
"The last 18 months have been absolutely horrendous for the travel industry. We have had to refund holidays that have been paid for. Luckily we have kept our cool and now we're ready to crack on. I'm feeling very much optimistic.
"There's still a lot of agents that are closed, but I don't see any point in being closed any longer. People want to travel, so let's get on and give them what they want, and make it good for our businesses."
James Cole, managing director of Panache Cruises in Chorley, said: "We have seen demand steadily increasing over the summer for holidays this year, next year, into 2023 and 2024, but this latest announcement is hugely welcome news across the cruise industry and wider travel industry.
"It gives people the increased confidence to commit to travelling in the years to come, and builds that positive momentum that has been building up the last couple of months.
"For immediate travel we have seen people looking to cruise around the Greek islands, and UK-based cruises that don't leave our waters. Cruise passengers have been booking all over the world for 2023 and 24; we are seeing demand for places like Australia and the Galapagos Islands. Customers are looking to get into travelling father afield, pushing the boundaries, spending more money than they have previously. It's looking really optimistic."