The travel industry is no longer just about selling dreams – it’s also about allaying fears. The big question for consumers: can we trust this company with our money, and our family’s health?
Find out what tour operators are doing to entice us back into the skies and travel abroad.
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Mark Hodson, Editor of 101 Holidays, discovers what tour operators are doing to entice us back into the skies.
If you’re confused by when and where you can next go on holiday, you’re not alone. While the government sends out a series of mixed messages, some people are hopefully snapping up cheap flights to resorts in the Mediterranean while others have completely written off the idea of going abroad until 2021.
The government’s 14-day quarantine for international arrivals has been widely derided and is expected to be abandoned shortly, or replaced by a series of “air bridges” with “friendly” countries. Many travel companies, who have been briefed privately by Whitehall officials, are planning to resume operations by mid-July. The Foreign Office is expected soon to drop its blanket advice against all non-essential foreign travel, which currently invalidates travel insurance.
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The next big question: are people ready to fly?
There are two significant issues in travel right now: safety and trust. A holiday isn’t any fun if you don’t feel safe. But we also need to know which operators can be trusted. Some travel companies have refused to issue refunds for cancelled trips. Good will has been eroded.
The best tour operators – and there are many – are working hard to offer new safety measures, flexible booking terms and low deposits. It is an incredibly difficult time for them, but their futures may depend on getting this right.
Now is not the time to snap up the cheapest holidays you can find on the web. Instead, book with a company that offers financial protection and has an experienced, dedicated team of experts who will have your back at every stage of the journey.
We’ve worked with the companies mentioned below for years and in many cases we know the owners and managers personally. We trust them, and you should too. They aren’t in the business of slashing prices to the bone, but many are able to pass on discounts from hotels and airlines, knowing their customers may need a little enticement to book this summer.
Isolate in the Maldives
In the luxury holiday market, the most popular destination right now is the Maldives, the very epitome of splendid isolation. Many island resorts are offering up to 45% off their regular rates. Turquoise Holidays has seven nights B&B; at Velassaru from £1,799 pp including flights and speedboat transfers (saving £475 pp) for travel in 2020 or 2021. If you book in June, your deposit is fully refundable.
At the top end of the luxury scale in the Maldives, the Inspiring Travel Company has seven nights half-board in a beach bungalow with private pool at Huvafen Fushi from £4,695 pp (saving £2,165 pp) including flights and speedboat transfers, for travel between January and April 2021. Book by 31 October 2020.
Up to 40% off Abu Dhabi
The wealthy Emirate of Abu Dhabi looks good for a blast of desert heat later this year. Etihad Holidays already has some attractive deals including three nights at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr with flights from Heathrow or Manchester and free room upgrade from £549, for travel between October and April. There’s 40% off Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island, now from £759 all-inclusive. The deposit is just £50 pp with full payment due 30 days before travel.
Hiking trips in the UK
Many of us long to go hiking in the great outdoors. Ramblers Holidays hopes to have its Lake District trips running by mid-July and says group walking tours in Ireland and on Scotland’s West Highland Way are selling well. It has early booking discounts of up to £100 on next summer’s holidays in the UK and abroad.
Get ready for Scotland
Scotland tops many people’s travel wish lists right now. The specialist tour operator McKinlay Kidd recommends a 13-night self-drive tour along the North Coast 500, one of Europe’s most beautiful coastal roads. It is allowing one free date change. St Hilda Sea Adventures is taking bookings and deposits for its small-boat cruises around the Hebrides, for both 2021 and later in 2020.
Iceland opens for tourism
Further north, Iceland has re-opened for tourism and all international visitors will get a Covid-19 test at the airport on arrival. Discover the World is taking bookings from July with discounts of up to 30%.
A seven-night self-drive tour Wonders of the South West costs £1,215 pp (saving £409 pp) including car hire and hotels but excluding flights. The company also has a new flexibility promise.
Luxury villas in the Med
For families and couples planning to travel abroad this summer, villa holidays are particularly appealing, particularly when you have your own private pool. CV Villas has a raft of special offers including 20% off Yialiskari House in Corfu on all 2020 dates.
It has also selected the best villas for seclusion and multi-generation groups. Virgin Limited Edition’s luxury villa retreat, Son Bunyola, in Mallorca will re-open to its first guests on 4 July.
Club Med is ready
Club Med has introduced new safety measures at its all-inclusive resorts in the Mediterranean and the Alps, and is running a Thank You Summer promotion saving up to £620 per person if you book by 26 July for travel in summer and autumn. Children up to six stay free.
Skiing via Eurotunnel
Skiers should consider Peak Retreats. It specialises in high-end self-catering accommodation in smaller alpine resorts and self-drive using Eurotunnel, both of which will now be increasingly popular.
It has seven nights in the French village of Le Grand Bornand for £341 pp (was £372 pp) based on four sharing a two-bedroom apartment including Eurotunnel crossing with FlexiPlus upgrade. If you book by 30 June, you can cancel for free before 17 October.
Gentle cycling in France
Inntravel – which specialises in “slow holidays” – says its self-guided cycling holidays in France and Northern Spain are getting a lot of interest, particularly as it’s possible to reach them by car or train.
Its six-night La Rochelle, Island & Beaches trip offers gentle coastal cycling in Western France from £830 pp, available until 30 September 2020 and again from 10 April 2021.
Free Asia flight upgrade
Wendy Wu Tours has a free one-way business class upgrade on 2021 tours to China and Japan, or you can save up to £500 off in its Early Bird Sale. Book by 30 June (and they’ll also throw in a free subscription to Netflix, Amazon Prime or Audible).
New booking policies
Abercrombie & Kent has a new flexible booking policy for tailor-made tours of the UK including this gorgeous Best of British itinerary.
Mahlatini, the Africa and Indian Ocean specialist, has a new Travel with Confidence policy with free cancellation, refundable deposits, 100% financial protection and Emergency Medical Care.
Transindus, the Asia specialist, has introduced some of the most flexible terms in the industry. Its Covid Promise includes the option to postpone a holiday any time until September 2021, or switch to another destination altogether.