THE travel and tourism industry is “at a dangerous level” according to a Salisbury travel agent, as international holidays and trips continue to be cancelled and changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Portugal moved to the UK’s amber travel list, being one of the only viable major tourist destinations this summer, the travel sector has been hit once more with the halting of foreign travel, after months of the coronavirus lockdown.

While amber-listed countries can still be visited, those returning from these places must self-isolate for at least five days and take two tests – losing the holiday appeal and therefore visitors.

Traveller’s World in Salisbury was not directly impacted by the Portugal changes but partner of the business, Peter Eastaugh, said trip bookings are still being postponed, changed and refunded on a regular basis.

'Wanting that summer beach break'

He said: “For us there is basically nowhere that anyone can travel to apart from Gibraltar, Israel and Iceland, which just do not have the same appeal – people want that summer beach break, these places are limited.

“Travel is at a disastrous level.

“The industry is decimated for now, people don’t want to do the amber-listed countries so we’re not booking anyone to go away in the immediate future.

"It’s just so much money lost for tests and the inconvenience.”

Bookings for autumn onwards

Since reopening in April, Peter says between four and six people pop into the store each day.

Talking about the future, he said: “How we’re operating isn’t that good right now and people aren’t booking for now or the summer, unless they are booked from last year, but they are booking for autumn, winter, Christmas time and next year.

“The phone constantly used to be ringing but we’re hopeful this will get better.

“Because people are looking forward to nice things and a first post-Covid trip, more money and effort is being put in as well which is good for us.

“Of course it’s a long way off and things can change, but people are happy to make deposit commitments to these places and experiences. They want to have something in the bag.”

The Caribbean and Maldives are two spots which are looking to be popular tourist destinations next year.

'Trickle of income' from staycations

With a rise in staycations this year, as these are not affected by the travel traffic light system, Peter said these holidays had brought “a trickle of income” to the business, but more people are able to book holidays in and around England independently and without the support of a travel agent – another blow to the tourism business.

“Quite a lot of people book staycations themselves so there has been a reduction in that naturally over time, but they are coming back as this is the main holiday type at the moment.

"People want that reassurance and protection if something goes wrong,” Peter added.

'A lot of work for nothing'

Returning to the current issues of booking international travel, Peter said: “Everything we do needs to be ready to be completely changed – one customer booked five trips in one day with us, planning their arrangements for summer, and every one of those has now been cancelled.

"The whole process of booking, administration and then reversing it – it is just a lot of work for literally nothing.

"Although we’re not doing much business we have got to give out these refunds – it is a really tough time for the industry.”

More support needed

The partner of the independent travel agents on Catherine Street, which has been in business now for around 40 years, feels the sector has not been given enough support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “Pubs and restaurants were fed money into their establishments which is great, but the travel industry had nothing.

"If you can imagine that all the people last year who bought a meal out, that the businesses were then told to refund all the customers – that is pretty much what we’ve had to do.”

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