Normally Tui sells more summer holidays to British travellers than to Germans. But in July, Europe’s biggest holiday company took twice as many people from Germany away than those from the UK.
Tui’s chief executive, Fritz Joussen, has told The Independent that “short-term decision-making” by the UK government was responsible for the slump.
International leisure travel from the UK was banned completely for 19 weeks until 17 May, and then holidays were available quarantine-free only to “green list” countries – of which Portugal was the only significant and accessible destination.
But within three weeks it was back on the amber list at short notice, triggering a rush to the airports.
Last weekend there were similar scenes after holidaymakers in Mexico were given 78 hours’ warning to avoid hotel quarantine, with the country moved to the “red list”.
For much of the early summer, cancellations and postponements among British customers were outnumbering new bookings.
“We had a big booking base, 1.5 million guests booked in the UK, but then when you change the programme so often then people cancel and amend and move bookings forward,” the Tui boss said.
The Department for Transport tells travellers: “The risk posed by individual countries and territories is continuously monitored and the green, amber and red lists are reviewed every three weeks.
“Countries and territories can be moved between lists if conditions change.”
The proportion of seats filled on Tui flights from the UK, known as the “load factor,” has increased from 47 per cent in June to 71 per cent in July, but remains well below levels in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Mr Joussen also criticised the requirement for vaccinated British holidaymakers returning from green and amber list locations to take tests before departure and after arrival, typically adding £100 to the cost of a trip.
“We subsidise [testing] in the UK but of course it is adding cost,” he said.
“If you increase prices by 10 or 15 per cent, what happens to demand?”
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, has asked the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate whether testing companies are making excessive profits.
Florida, which would normally be a thriving location for European holidaymakers, remains off-limits because of President Biden’s travel ban on arrivals from the UK and the European Union.
The Tui chief executive said there was “no indication that it will change”.
He also said that demand for the Canary Islands is very high, and added: “Fuerteventura is full.”
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