Fiona Anderson, GEC PR Company Director: A lot has changed for the travel and tourism sector in 2020 – and we are (unbelievably) only halfway through the year.

Our industry started the year confident that Brexit uncertainty had stabilised and consumer confidence had returned, enough for UK tourists to book holidays to the extent that tour operator TUI announced in early 2020 that they’d had their ‘strongest January yet’ bookings-wise.

Fast forward to lockdown in March then… and not only did holiday bookings come to a halt, but UK travellers were advised against all but non-essential travel, a huge blow for the lucrative summer holiday market.

As the UK government eases holiday and lockdown restrictions, Brits do appear to be returning to the air and to favourite holiday destinations as permitted, so should hotels, airlines and tourist boards now be preparing for a surge in winter sun bookings, despite the COVID-19 threat still not being over?

It’s a yes from me – and here are four reasons why:

  1. The UK has been the biggest outbound travel market in Europe for some time. The Winter Sun holiday is a huge part of that, and the feedback from a variety of UK travel agents my agency speaks to regularly is that there is pent up booking demand just waiting for FCO advice to change to be unleashed.
  2. Retired Brits in rude health have not had their finances impacted in the way that younger generations may have – and it is these travellers who have the time and money to enjoy a winter sun break, whether that’s solo, with a partner, or even to treat extended family.
  3. Those who have managed to work throughout the lockdown – especially those working from home – have had the bonus of fewer financial outgoings for five months or more. We can expect this unplanned for savings pot to benefit the funding of winter sun holidays.
  4. Brexit may complicate travel from the UK to mainland Europe from early 2021. Whether it is the fear of longer queues at immigration, or EHIC insurance being no longer valid, for ‘peace of mind’ Brits may head further afield for their first holidays in the new year to avoid potential issues altogether.

It has been a difficult year for the travel industry, but the signs are favourable for the year to end positively for UK long-haul travel.