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Coronavirus Kent: A summer holiday abroad looks unlikely as Kent travel agents tell clients to gear up for an autumn break

By Sean Delaney and Oliver Kemp

Holidaymakers are unlikely to be jetting off overseas in the coming months and should now be looking ahead to next year.

That is according to director of Travel Vogue Ltd in Meopham, Andrew Baker, who says there is no hope of travelling abroad at the present time.

Is a late summer holiday still on the cards? Photo: iStock.com
Is a late summer holiday still on the cards? Photo: iStock.com

"It is a pretty bleak outlook," he said. "The travel industry is always the first to be hit and the last to recover.

"In the travel world, we are forever the optimists but I think we should now start being pessimistic.

"I think we should be writing off 2020 in the hope that a drug or a vaccine will be available."

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV’s This Morning "big, lavish, international holidays" are unlikely this summer.

The Meopham travel agent said social distancing would be at the heart of any plans to reopen but could not see holidaymakers swarming back to resorts this summer.

Andrew Baker, the director at Travel Vogue Ltd in Meopham says there is no hope of a summer holiday abroad
Andrew Baker, the director at Travel Vogue Ltd in Meopham says there is no hope of a summer holiday abroad

He said there would be concerns about catering facilities such as buffets using utensils that 200 other people have used already.

"It is so fluid at the moment," he said. "Lots of things will have to be ironed out."

However, he said there was the prospect of a break around October if the situation was too improve.

"In the coming months people will start to look ahead and that is when we will be ready," said Mr Baker.

In the meantime, the travel agent says he is continuing to advise existing customers on how to claim refunds from operators for upcoming trips but said there was a huge backlog as people rush to get their money back.

Travel Vogue Ltd in Meopham
Travel Vogue Ltd in Meopham

A decision to reopen borders and allow holidays would have to be based on policy, he says, rather than any "airy fairy" advice or a single minister's opinion.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel for British nationals.

However, this travel restriction can be removed at any time, so travel companies are continuing to advise and manage arrangements for customers.

Personal travel agent Paul Wells has been working in the industry for more than 20 years and is based in Staple, near Dover.

He is advising people to talk to their travel agent to explore their options regarding cancelling or postponing trips.

"Speak to your travel agent and they'll do the legwork for you," he said.

Paul Wells is advising all people who have booked trips to contact their agents to discuss their options before cancelling
Paul Wells is advising all people who have booked trips to contact their agents to discuss their options before cancelling

"And if it comes to it and you're not able to travel the following year, the last resort, rather than lose the deposit, is to pay for the holiday, and when the government comes through you may be entitled for a refund or be able to go on the holiday."

Last week it was reported the government would be bringing into force a 14-day quarantine period for all passengers entering the UK as lockdown measures are eased.

It comes as countries across the EU begin to ease restrictions and open their borders from June 16, paving the way for international trips should the FCO change advice on essential travel.

But Paul remains cautious about the prospect of people wanting to enter into quarantine for the sake of a holiday.

He said: "The EU are looking to open up the borders on June 16, that's their current plan, and they would allow EU country members and would allow an exception to allow UK members to enter the countries as well.

"We're a little bit behind in this country, in terms of when we would be allowed to travel.

Paul Wells says it is unlikely people will want to travel if they then face two weeks in quarantine
Paul Wells says it is unlikely people will want to travel if they then face two weeks in quarantine

"The 14-day quarantine side of it really throws a spanner in the works – with that in place, as it currently stands, no matter whether you went for a short break or a longer holiday, you'd need to go into some kind of 14-day quarantine on your return.

"It doesn't look like exceptions in France will be tourism related, so if the tourism side isn't exempt you could end up going on a two to three-day break to Disneyland Paris and then have to do a 14-day quarantine on your return. That would definitely put people off from travelling."

Tim Harden, owner and manager of Harden Holidays in Dartford, remains cautiously optimistic at the prospect of future travel and has even taken on new bookings for the winter.

He said: "We’re seeing a great deal of pent-up demand for holidays, as people postpone their 2020 travel until 2021.

"In fact, we’ve been making plenty of bookings departing from this winter onwards.

"Everything is very fluid and is changing rapidly day by day," he adds. "What gets written about today will be out of date tomorrow."

Tim Harden, owner and manager of Harden Holidays in Dartford says he is advising each client on a case-by-case basis
Tim Harden, owner and manager of Harden Holidays in Dartford says he is advising each client on a case-by-case basis

Once restrictions on foreign movement are eased in the coming months he believes the appetite for travel will boil down to each person's "individual capacity for risk".

As a local travel agent he says they are tailoring their advice to each one of their clients.

"We do not believe that a one-size fits all approach is appropriate," he adds.

"There is so much misinformation flowing through the internet that having a good old-fashioned chat with a client soon cuts through the noise and helps them make realistic plans for the future."

He did not believe the current situation would lead to a so-called "staycation boom", where residents choose for financial or other reasons to holiday in their home country.

Tim said: "People will do whatever they are capable of. Once borders are open and restrictions are lifted I think people will travel if they can."

"Once borders are open and restrictions are lifted I think people will travel if they can"

The travel planner was also unconvinced the impact of the crisis would push prices up once holidays did return.

He adds: "Yes, it is down to supply and demand and recovering losses, but also what people are willing to pay. Travel is often an emotional purchase.

"I don't agree with the 'new normal'. I think we will continue to evolve and we will return to where we were before."

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