‘Close to home’ destinations likely to be in vogue, says Cosmos and Avalon Waterways chief executive Giles Hawke

At some point – as yet unclear and very much a moving target – we will be going on holiday again. Brits will be looking for escapism, relaxation, discovery, excitement, wonderment and the pure joy of being somewhere else. They will want to experience different things and enjoy carefree time to live a different life to normal, even if only for a week or two.

It’s unclear exactly when we’ll be able to start travelling for pleasure again. And having been told recently by our own government not to expect ‘lavish foreign holidays’ this summer, it seems unlikely we’ll be jetting off to sunnier climes any time soon. That said, I am hearing from friends, and from within the industry, that people are expecting to go away in July and August.

So, when it does come back – and come back it will – where will there be demand for? My money is on the UK and Ireland being the first choice for millions of Brits. Stay where you know and where you are covered by the health service; visit places you may not have been before or go back to places you remember from your childhood.

I see domestic hotels, holiday parks, holiday lettings and tour operators having a boom period over the next 12 to 18 months. This will be buoyed by the likely regular spikes in Covid-19 cases in different countries and changes in FCO travel advice, challenges in obtaining travel insurance and concern over how safe air travel is perceived to be.

Destination choice

My money would also be on countries ‘close to home’, perceived as ‘safe’, easy to access and relatively easy to get back from if we see a renewed spike worldwide. It wouldn’t surprise me to see demand for France, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria and possibly Germany coming back fairly quickly, along with some long-haul demand for Canada.

I would imagine self-drive, villas and self-catering will be popular. Eurostar travel and rural holidays will be quicker to bounce back than large hotels and resorts, and possibly even cruise.

That said, we know from past crises that the travelling public are not easily deterred in the medium term.

Now, as an industry, we have an opportunity to share what cruise lines, hoteliers, coach companies, airlines and airports are doing to reduce risk, and to demonstrate to customers the work being done to ensure their next holiday is as safe as it can be.

Safety measures

Clia is working on protocols for all cruise line members; river cruise lines are coming out with a raft of measures; and coach operators are doing the same. Airlines and airports are working together and with governmental bodies. It isn’t realistic to expect social distancing to be achievable in the long term, so other measures are going to have to be put in place to enable people to travel cost-effectively and enjoy our amazing world.

Most travel companies are preparing their bounce-back plans now, alongside how their operation will be suitable for this new reality, to ensure customers understand the work being done to maximise their health and safety when they do travel again.

From my perspective, Cosmos, Globus and Avalon go to pretty much every destination in the world and we have a significant UK and Ireland programme. We are also very agent‑friendly, so we would love to talk to agents about how we can maximise opportunities together when the time is right.

I’m sure many other operators are in the same place, so agents should look at what partners have done for them before Covid-19 and during this challenge, and work with them on plans that are, as Boris Johnson might say, oven‑ready. We must be prepared to place some bets on which destinations will be popular when we can all travel again.

A return of travel will come. We can prepare for where it will come. And we can start to create our future destiny now.