Travel companies are getting a much-needed boost from this weekend as thousands of vaccinated Britons head to mainland Europe for the mid-term school holidays, kicking off what could be a bumper year for travel as coronavirus concerns ease.
Eurostar International Ltd. expects the biggest increase in customer numbers since October in the 10 days to February 20, with more than 125,000 people booked to board its Channel Tunnel express trains, surpassing the total for the entire month of January. Many of the nine daily services from London to Paris are fully booked.
The UK arm of TUI AG, Europe’s biggest tour operator, said booking levels for its flight and hotel packages were comparable to 2019, before the virus hit, with Spain’s subtropical Canary Islands the most popular destination. EasyJet Plc reports a series of late sales leading up to school recess as families take a long-awaited break.
Demand has been fueled by the easing of travel restrictions as the omicron variant of Covid-19 peaks. The UK scrapped testing for fully vaccinated passengers from Friday. The tourism boom will be particularly welcome after the new outbreak deprived beleaguered airlines and travel agencies of income over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“We are seeing an increase in both short-term and longer-term leisure traffic in spring and early summer,” said Eurostar commercial director Francois Le Doze. “We will continue to add trains to our main routes and look forward to returning to our pre-pandemic frequency of service.”
Influx of passengers
Eurostar, which is operating at 50% of its pre-virus capacity, said passenger numbers were double what they were last summer.
Friday was expected to be the busiest day, with over 16,000 people booked in, most departing from the UK Although that’s 1,000 less than the October school holidays, it’s ‘almost more impressive’ since people traveling to France must now take a test before departure, a spokeswoman said.
While Paris is the first Eurostar destination from the UK, there are also four daily return journeys on the London-Brussels route, including two to Amsterdam. A weekly ski train to the alpine resorts of Moutiers or Bourg St Maurice was relaunched on January 28 after being halted before the pandemic, and has very strong bookings for the school holidays, according to operator TravelSki.
The port of Dover, where cars cross the English Channel to France, said it was preparing for an increase in tourist flows mid-term, although volumes remained below normal, according to a spokeswoman.
Mexico, Cape Verde
There are six times more international flights from the UK than during the 2021 mid-term holidays, but frequencies remain down nearly half from 2020, just before lockdowns came into force against coronaviruses, according to the analysis company Cirium.
TUI UK has seen “solid and sustained booking patterns” since the end of testing was announced, chief executive Andrew Flintham said in a statement released by the UK government. Bookings are also supported beyond Europe, with Mexico, the Dominican Republic and the Cape Verde Islands the most popular.
Like EasyJet, British Airways said it saw sales rise as restrictions were lifted, although London Heathrow Airport, which relies heavily on long-haul travel, warned on Friday that business demand and incoming tourism to the UK remain weak in a high global context. rates.
The leisure center in Britain’s capital Gatwick said on Friday it would reopen its second terminal from March 27 as BA resumes short-haul services.
Some travel-related complications also remain, mainly due to differences in testing requirements.
France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune said on Tuesday the country would scrap testing for fully vaccinated visitors, but gave no date. Eurostar said it hoped the change would come this week, in time for families for whom the school holidays fall later in the month.
Spain said on Friday it will allow unvaccinated young people aged 12 to 17 to visit countries, including the UK, from Monday if they present a negative Covid test.
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