Britons are planning holidays later than ever before as they seek to limit the risk of disruption.
Travel agents and airlines are reporting that holidaymakers are now booking holidays only a couple of months before departure as they monitor destinations’ coronavirus policies.
Passengers are also reducing the number of short trips they take and opting instead for one longer break, partly to reduce their air miles but also to avoid Covid bureaucracy.
Members of Advantage Travel Partnership, the UK’s biggest consortium of travel agents, said that 40 per cent of all bookings were now for travel within the next 12 weeks.
Before the pandemic, the majority of Britons booked summer holidays in the first quarter of the year, especially during the January “peaks” window, usually least six months before departure. There was no post-Christmas surge this year as the Omicron variant surged around the world, closing borders at the turn of the year.
Delays in applying for passports may cost UK holidaymakers more than £1.1 billion in cancelled trips, a new report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has said (Ben Clatworthy writes). The Passport Office is facing a backlash from holidaymakers unable to renew documents in time for holidays.
There is a backlog of 700,000 applications. Last month the agency issued more than a million passports, a 13 per cent increase on the previous record.
The Cebr report came as officials said the agency was ramping up the number of fast track appointments and also extending opening hours at its seven sites across the UK.
The report said: “Now that international travel has largely normalised, the number of people applying for passport renewals has surged which, combined with various reported inefficiencies at the HM Passport Office, has created significant delays. The potential losses to households are substantial. Cebr estimates that the cumulative loss for UK consumers stands at £1.1 billion, due to holiday cancellations.”
After two years of lockdowns and severe travel restrictions, there is significant pent-up demand for overseas travel. Data from the VisitBritain Covid-19 Consumer Sentiment Tracker shows that more than two in five people are planning an overseas trip in the coming 12 months. Travel agents have said that the “mess” at the Passport Office threatens to undermine the recovery of international travel.