Airlines say they’ve already seen a surge in bookings, following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the road map out of lockdown.
Boris Johnson said a global travel taskforce would put forward a report on how to return to international travel on 12 April.
The government would then make a decision on removing restrictions on international travel.
However this would not happen until 17 May at the earliest.
Tui reported that they had had their best day of bookings in over a month, with strong interest in Greece, Spain and Turkey for the summer.
Thomas Cook said traffic to its website was up over 100% on Monday from 15:00 GMT onwards, with bookings already “flooding in” for countries like Greece, Cyprus, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
EasyJet also reported a 337% surge in flight bookings and a 630% jump in holiday bookings for locations like Alicante, Malaga, Palmo, Faro and Crete. Bookings are strongest in August, followed by July and then September.
“The government’s announcement today is good news for those of us desperate to get away on holiday,” said Thomas Cook’s chief executive Alan French.
“While we await more details, it’s clear that the government’s ambition is to open up international travel in the coming months and hopefully in time for the summer holidays.”
EasyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said Boris Johnson’s announcement had “provided a much-needed boost in confidence” for its UK customers.
“We have consistently seen that there is pent up demand for travel and this surge in bookings shows that this signal from the Government that it plans to reopen travel has been what UK consumers have been waiting for,” he said.
Amanda Matthews, managing director and owner of Ramsbottom-based luxury travel agency network Designer Travel, says her firm has seen double the number of enquiries and new bookings for the summer.
“But we’ve also had hundreds of calls from people who’ve got bookings for travel in March, April, May and June – still very uncertain about whether they will be travelling or not,” she told the BBC.
“Because there’s no concrete date yet for the reopening of international travel, as a travel agent, we can’t answer our existing clients’ questions about holidays they’ve already booked for spring and summer. We’ve got no idea. “
Missing out on Easter
While the roadmap has provided hope for summer holidays, retail expert Kate Hardcastle says there is also “huge disappointment” in the travel industry – particularly domestic overnight accommodation providers like mobile home holiday parks and holiday cottage providers.
“Easter is obviously a critical part of the travel calendar for travel agencies and the industry, so it’s a lost opportunity, one less holiday to be able to sell within,” she told the BBC.
“I also know a lot of families are dependent on Easter holidays as it tends to be cheaper and more cost effective than the summer holidays. It would be awful to think that some people are completely priced out of a holiday this year.”
Ms Matthews said her firm did not believe that Easter “would be on the cards”, but many customers had still been hopeful, and some had even moved their holiday three or four times in 2020.
“If we were to believe that May would enable us to reopen, then I believe we’d have a really strong summer, but the uncertainty and the lack of information about dates, potential quarantine measures and the cost of testing needed to get back into the UK that makes doing our job an impossible task,” she said.
“We’ve got people who are due to pay balances for holidays at the end of May, and we have to hope that the news is positive, as opposed to people getting nervous and cancelling.”
Ms Hardcastle said that travel firms across the industry had told her in the last week that the last 12 months had been a stream of “constant administration”, dealing with cancellations, refunds and enquiries about possible dates of travel, but no bookings.
“I think everyone would like it to be sooner, but what every industry needs right now are milestones that don’t move,” she stressed.
“They have more costs associated with the on-and-off nature of the lockdowns to date than having a clear date to work to and feeling confident in that date.”