‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ following easing of travel restrictions

Senior figures from the luxury sector have said there is “light at the end of the tunnel” following the UK government’s recent easing of international travel restrictions.

Kerzner International’s UK account director Craig Jeffs, Elegant Resort’s managing director Lisa Fitzell, and Bernard Carter, senior vice president and managing director for EMEA at Oceania Cruises, agreed the decision to scrap the amber list, reduce the red list and minimise testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers was positive.

Speaking on a webcast with Aspire, Jeffs said: “[Before], we were sitting in that perpetual three-week cycle where you’d have pick-up for two weeks, and then an announcement would come and it would slow. You just couldn't plan anything, you had to live in the now.

"For us as hoteliers, cruise lines and tour operators, it’s hard to live in the now, because you need to think about what is [happening] going forward. 

“What the announcement on September 17 has done is allow us to look further ahead and start putting plans and strategies in place. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and this time it's not an oncoming train.”

Carter said the traffic light changes had had an “immediate” effect on bookings for Oceania, which resumed sailing in August following a 524-day pause.

“Particularly for us with Caribbean seasons, flying to and sailing out of Miami, it was almost immediate, we saw a great response,” he said.

“Obviously, we're looking at the places we cruise to from Miami and there are still some areas, some of the Caribbean islands, that are not quite ready yet. But a lot of South America is getting better and getting to a place where they'll be ready for us in the winter season.”

Asked if it was difficult to plan around the red list, he added: “It is but thankfully we can move the ships and even on a sailing around South America, you can still move things if you need to but maintain the most part of the itinerary, so having the flexibility as a product actually helps. 

“Yes, it's frustrating, but we're just glad to have ships back in the water with guests on board, it's an amazing feeling.”

Meanwhile, Fitzell said Elegant Resorts had seen a 40% increase in bookings and air quotes in the last week, of which 60% are for this year and travelling within the next five weeks.

“We've been quite restricted on what we can sell and when we can sell it,” she said.

“The Caribbean has always been a big part of Elegant Resorts’ business so that's stayed consistent throughout as our number one area.

 “We've got really good forward bookings for quarter four, and really good business on the books, but we're not out of the woods yet so we've got to be realistic. 

“Until we get decent numbers again, we're not making money so we need those good months to really come through towards the end of this year, and to have some stability. We're cautiously optimistic.

“I think it's good that we've had all this lifted, and we can focus on planning meetings, strategising, building and looking forward. We're not just in crisis mode anymore. Like everyone, we want to capitalise on as much as we can for the future but it's still hard going.”

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