With borders expected to be open by the end of January 2021, tour operators are beginning to see a slow and steady increase in consumers’ interest in travel next year.
Joanne Adolphe, ceo of Thompsons Holidays, told Travel News that there had been a noticeable increase in the consumers’ appetite to explore holiday options for travel periods going into 2021. “Although many are financially impacted by our current economy, South Africans are very resilient and have a love for travel,” she said.
Joanne said that during July, the operator had seen an increase in quotes and payments for leisure trips. “As soon as level-3 intra-provincial travel was announced last Thursday, our call centre experienced an immediate surge for domestic quotes and bookings. This was enhanced with the upcoming long weekend, and the school holidays lasting until August 24.”
She said the interest in international destinations was mainly for 2021, due to the uncertainty of a) the reopening of borders (so far, January reopening of borders has only been casually mentioned by the Deputy Minister of Tourism Fish Mahlahela, and is by no means a done deal) and b) whether South Africans will be welcome at the time of travel, according to different countries’ assessments of SA pandemic conditions and active COVID-19 numbers.
Thompsons Holidays is currently working with both new bookings and re-bookings. “We have worked on securing flexible booking options with the majority of our suppliers, and every supplier has its own policy in place for rebooking, which we are guided by,” said Joanne.
Matthew Fubbs, sales director of The Holiday Factory, told Travel News there was demand for travel, but still uncertainty, with little insight as to when borders will reopen. “We are getting bookings, with the majority for travel in 2021,” he said.
Matthew said The Holiday Factory sold Mauritius, Zanzibar, Maldives, Seychelles, Thailand and Bali, and so it had been rebooking, and would continue to rebook, tens of thousands of clients whose holidays had been affected by the current crisis. “Well over 80% of our clients have chosen to move their travel dates. We are also processing some new bookings from December onwards – a slow but steady stream.” The Holiday Factory’s policy states that for current bookings affected by travel bans, customers can either rebook the land arrangements for a later date, or receive a credit note that can be used for future travel. The air portion of a package is subject to each airline’s policy, and the operator is assisting its agents and clients with these.
New bookings (from August 1) that are affected by travel bans are subject to the operator’s new ‘COVID-19 land and air cancellation policy’, which will apply on a selection of preferred properties (this will be confirmed on the customer’s quote/invoice, or by their consultant). For the land portion, The Holiday Factory will not charge any cancellation fees if cancellation is due to travel bans imposed by government, and all bookings will be refundable (excluding service charges and travel agent commissions). For the air portion, airlines will have different rules and policies. Airlines were not offering refunds, but were permitting clients to change their travel dates, Matthew said.
Terry Munro, md of Beachcomber Tours, told Travel News that bookings were coming in very slowly. “We need to be allowed to fly into Mauritius from South Africa before the booking pattern will grow substantially,” he said. “Mauritius has virtually no cases of the virus, and with all the safety measures in place, clients would be very happy to fly to this beautiful island and holiday with us.”
He said that where clients booked with Beachcomber Tours in the future, and could not travel due to COVID-19, Beachcomber would refund them in full for the land arrangements.