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The boss of one of Europe’s biggest airline and holiday companies has said that UK travel destinations can only meet a “small fraction” of the demand for bookings this summer.
Tui chief executive Friedrich Joussen said that demand for staycations would be unlikely to be able to replace the foreign travel that his company offers.
“Even if you took all national destinations together, it would meet a small fraction of the demand,” he said on a call with reporters on Wednesday.
He added: “When you think about how many Brits travel abroad. If just a fraction would do the vacation at home, everything would be occupied. And the interesting thing is that in summer the local destinations are full anyway.
“If you don’t open the borders there will be no additional holidays at home because things will be booked.”
He said that the UK has been an “obstacle” because despite high vaccination rates and low numbers of Covid “the country is very cautious”.
The company has swapped its normal 737 planes for the larger Dreamliner on flights to Portugal – the only holiday destination that is on the UK’s green list at the moment as bookings skyrocket.
Travel costs for the summer are a little cheaper than usual, but customers are spending around 22% more with Tui as they upgrade to nicer hotels and buy package holidays in larger numbers.
However, customers have started to defer their travel plans as messaging from governments remains uncertain.
The number of bookings for the summer months has fallen from 2.8 million to 2.6 million, and is 69% down from pre-pandemic levels in the summer of 2019.
The drop reflects “customers choosing to defer their booking to future seasons due to the lack of clarity provided by governments on lifting of travel restrictions”, said London-listed Tui.
The company saw a collapse in the amount of money coming through its doors in the last six months as the pandemic reduced international travel to a trickle.
Revenue reached just 716 million euros (£615 million) in the six months to the end of March, down 89% from 6.6 billion euros (£5.7 billion) a year earlier.
It also recorded a 1.5 billion euro (£1.3 billion) loss, up 82% compared with a year ago.
However, customers are clearly raring to go once restrictions lift once and for all.
Nearly three times as many Britons have decided to book with the travel giant for the summer of 2022 compared with 2019.
Holidaymakers also seem optimistic that they will be able to travel abroad this winter, with UK bookings up 17% compared with before the pandemic.
However, Tui claims that, with vaccinations being rapidly rolled out, it should be possible for customers to start travelling again sooner than that.
“The continued vaccination progress across our key customer markets and destinations, combined with more testing, and comprehensive hygiene measures throughout our eco-system, should enable the safe return to holidays this summer,” it said.
The business will focus on countries such as Greece, Majorca and the Canary Islands when it reopens its portfolio in the peak summer months.