Tui has said UK customers’ holiday bookings this summer are nearly a fifth higher than before the pandemic, with a rise in long-haul trips to the Caribbean and Cape Verde thanks in part to less strict Covid rules.
The travel firm has had a total of 6m bookings for this winter and the summer. In November and December, bookings were affected by the spread of the Omicron variant and fresh Covid-19 restrictions, but Omicron is no longer an issue, its chief executive, Fritz Joussen, said.
Holiday bookings have picked up since the start of the new year, as people grew more confident about travelling and the government relaxed testing requirements for travellers. UK summer bookings are up 19% on the summer of 2019 and Tui expects summer bookings overall to be close to pre-pandemic levels.
Joussen said many UK households had accumulated high savings during the pandemic and were eager to travel. Long-haul destinations such as the Caribbean and Cape Verde were popular, he said, and customers were buying more upmarket holiday packages as they wanted to treat themselves after two years of the pandemic.
“People are selecting holidays that are more expensive. Rather than going to the Canaries, they are going to the Caribbean,” Joussen said.
Those destinations are also popular because restrictions are tougher in typical destinations such as Spain, which has banned unvaccinated travellers including children over 12.
The worsening cost of living crisis “is of course an issue, but at the same time the savings ratio of households is incredibly high”, he added.
He said last week bookings returned to the levels before the pandemic, and that many places would be fully booked at Easter.
Germany and other European countries are lagging behind the UK. German bookings overall are 20% below pre-pandemic levels, while package holidays are 20% higher.
Tui reported revenues of €3.4bn (£2.8bn) for the three months to 30 September, compared with €1.2bn a year earlier, as more people were vaccinated against Covid-19 across Europe and leisure travel bounced back. The company moved closer to breakeven, with a loss before tax of €71m compared with a €836m loss a year earlier.