Spike in holiday bookings as COVID-19 pre-departure tests scrapped

Holiday bookings have seen a sharp bounce-back after the lifting of travel restrictions unleashed pent-up demand for breaks, the boss of travel operator Jet2 has said.

Chief executive Steve Heapy told Sky News that bookings climbed by 150% earlier this week as the government scrapped pre-departure tests for passengers arriving in Britain and eased requirements for post-arrival tests.

His comments represent the latest evidence that the travel industry has seen an immediate bounce-back thanks to the changes.

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Govt on relaxing travel testing

Easyjet said on Thursday that it had seen UK bookings climb by almost 200% with demand to some destinations rising by 400%.

Pre-departure tests have been scrapped from 4am on Friday while from 4am on Sunday, people testing on arrival will be able to take a lateral flow test rather than the more expensive PCR test.

The changes are expected to save a family of four around £300.

Mr Heapy said there had been an “immediate and dramatic spike in bookings” with volumes climbing towards pre-pandemic levels and destinations such as mainland Spain, the Balearics, the Canaries, Turkey and Greece proving popular.

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He told Sky News that the rule changes “make it a lot easier and a lot more convenient for people to go on holiday and also a lot cheaper”.

Mr Heapy added: “There is no risk of people being stranded abroad in a hotel and they don’t have to bear the cost of the test that they did, so it’s great news.

Image: Easyjet has also seen bookings pick up

“From literally a minute after the announcement was made a couple of days ago, we saw bookings increase and on that day they increased by 150%.

“We saw a further increase yesterday.

“It backs up what we have been saying for a long time, that people just want to get away and have their holiday.

“Many people haven’t had a holiday for two or three years, so that pent-up demand is certainly there.”

Tour operator Tui – which acknowledged last month that business had been hit as new restrictions were announced – said after the announcement it had seen an “immediate and strong uptick” and now expects summer bookings to be “normalised”.

Its biggest spikes have been for Mexico and the Canaries.

Derek Jones, chief executive of luxury travel company Kuoni, said the easing of testing rules “should be the beginning of the end of COVID as a blocker to international travel”.

He predicted travel would be 90% back to 2019 levels before the end of spring and said the form was “already seeing increased call volumes and inquiries about trips for the year ahead as confidence builds”.

British Airways said on Thursday that its holidays arm had seen a rise of almost 40% in web searches on the previous week – with New York, Dubai and Barbados the most searched destinations.

Shares in travel firms have rallied this week as it became clear the restrictions would be eased – following a gloomy past few weeks in which the impact of Omicron cast a pall over the sector as it struggles to recover after the restrictions of the last couple of years.

Ryanair was among those affected, disclosing just before Christmas that it had seen a “sudden downturn” in bookings.