Holiday bookings for next summer jump 145 per cent: Tui

Travel firm Tui has seen a sharp jump in bookings for 2021 as customers make early plans for next year.

The UK’s largest tour operator said bookings for next summer were up by a “very promising” 145 per cent.

News of a bounce-back came as Tui posted a €1.1 billion (£995 million, $1.3 billion) loss for the three months to June as lockdowns brought the travel industry to a halt.

Tui’s travel operations restarted in Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and Egypt in mid-May.

Some of the new holiday bookings for 2021 are either amended bookings or holiday voucher bookings made by customers whose trips were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

In late July, Tui said it would shut 166 High Street stores in the UK and Ireland. Bookings plunged 81 per cent for this summer and are 40 per cent lower for a scaled-back winter programme.

And the industry’s hopes of saving the rest of this summer were dealt a blow with new travel restrictions to Spain and France.

But Tui said on Thursday it was now seeing “encouraging signs of customer demand” as travel restrictions globally start to ease.

Some travellers who have skipped holidays this summer or opted for staycations have said they intend to splash out on foreign breaks this Christmas and next summer.

Last month, travel firm Kuoni said bookings for December departures to Barbados were 30 per cent up on the same point last year, while demand for the Maldives has increased by 20 per cent.

In June, Kuoni said bookings for the Maldives were outperforming every other destination in its collection, accounting for 56 per cent of bookings for 2021.

Recent Google search data has also shown the Maldives as the top holiday destination among Europeans for next year.

These positive developments come as the Maldives reopened its borders to visitors on July 15.

Resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands as well as liveaboard vessels can now host tourists.

Guesthouses and hotels located on inhabited islands will be allowed to reopen later. Passengers on cruise ships and yachts will be barred from disembarking at inhabited islands until then.

Thirty-day free on-arrival visa will be issued to all tourists with a confirmed booking for a stay at any registered tourist facility in the country. The entire holiday has to be booked at a single facility except for transit arrangements.

There will be no mandatory quarantine or testing on arrival. Tourists will only have to complete a health declaration form.

But visitors with symptoms of the Covid-19 respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus or those travelling with someone who has similar symptoms will be tested at their expense.

The coronavirus outbreak has hit the Maldivian economy hard, as travel restrictions and other preventive measures affect the country’s lucrative tourism industry, which contributes the bulk of the island nation’s state revenue and foreign reserves.

Before the pandemic, the government had been bullish about tourism prospects, targeting two million, high-spending holidaymakers this year after last year’s record 1.7 million.

However, only 382,760 tourists visited the Maldives before the country closed its borders on March 27. It was a 40.8 per cent decline over the 646,092 that visited the Maldives from January to March last year.

With arrival numbers falling, several resorts across the Maldives had been closed.

Tourism has been the bedrock of the Maldives’ economic success. The $5 billion-dollar economy grew by 6.7 per cent in 2018 with tourism generating 60 per cent of foreign income.

However, the government is at present projecting a possible 13 per cent economic contraction this year — an estimated $778 million hit.

On March 8, Maldives reported its first cases of the novel coronavirus, as two hotel employees tested positive for Covid-19 at a luxury resort in the archipelago.

Eighteen more cases — all foreigners working or staying resorts and liveaboard vessels except five Maldivians who had returned from abroad — were later identified.

A six-case cluster of locals, detected in capital Male on April 15, confirmed community transmission of the coronavirus. Several more clusters have since been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed case in the Maldives to 5,494.

Twenty-two deaths have been reported, while 2,920 have made full recoveries.

The Maldives announced a state of public health emergency on March 12, the first such declaration under a recent public health protection law.

The public health emergency declaration allowed the government to introduce a series of unprecedented restrictive and social distancing measures, including stay-at-home orders in capital Male and its suburbs, a ban on inter-island transport and public gatherings across the country, and a nationwide closing of government offices, schools, colleges and universities.

Non-essential services and public places in the capital such as gyms, cinemas and parks were also shut.

Restaurants and cafes in the capital were asked to stop dine-in service and switch to takeaway and delivery.

A nationwide shutdown of all guesthouses, city hotels and spa facilities located on inhabited islands was also ordered.

The restrictions are now being eased in phases, with the third phase measures now active.

Note: This article contains reporting by BBC and Reuters.

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