A campaign action group, which started last Friday from Mallorca, calling themselves “SOS Travel” is continuing to grow having gained support from several UK tourism companies and the south of Spain’s Asociación Provincial de Hoteles y Alojamientos Turísticos de Alicante (APHA – Alicante Provincial Association of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations). They are fighting to advocate for a tourism sector that finds itself against the ropes, particularly when it comes to seasonal destinations like the south of Spain and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean. Tour operators and airlines like Easyjet, retail agencies and British companies that work with inbound tourism from London and other points of origin in the United Kingdom have launched the SOS “Save our Summer” campaign to apply pressure on the government of Boris Johnson to find pathways to a return to normality and recover tourism from May 1 2021.
Reporting: Timon .:.
Cover Image: Bård Ove Myhr
Some formidable UK travel companies, with pre-Covid-19 revenues of more than £11 billion annually, are said to be “united in outrage” following conflicting advice, last week, from UK government ministers regarding the reopening of the hospitality and tourism sector.
The action group, which is telling consumers to ignore ministers’ “don’t book” travel advice, is supported by travel firms large and small who have guaranteed that anyone booking through them will be entitled to either a refund or a change of date for their holiday if travel is cancelled or not possible due to government Covid-19 restrictions.
Save Our Summer, or SOS Travel, also urges prime minister, Boris Johnson, to set out a very clear roadmap for opening up the travel sector, for staycations and overseas trips, from May 1st.
British travel agents are somewhat reliant, of course, on the rate of vaccination in Great Britain, often confusingly reported, where almost 16 million citizens have already received their first dose of the vaccine, however, right now, less than 600,000 individuals have been given a second dose to achieve supposed immunity. The health problem caused by the pandemic in the United Kingdom, like everywhere, is compounded by the economic problems associated with lockdowns and restrictions, so not only are businesses not able to operate, and unemployment rising faster by the week, but those who still hold on to their jobs are either still furloughed and so on reduced incomes or are simply being very cautious with so much uncertainty around. Nevertheless some in the UK press claim to know that there will in fact be international tourism this summer, however there is scant evidence that anyone can rely on, and we can be sure that every summer destination is desperately looking for some sign, any sign, that the tourists are coming back.
British tour operators and airlines move millions of UK citizens around the world every year, The Canary Islands in recent years have received around 5 million British tourists annually, with nearly 1.5 million of those choosing Gran Canaria. The numbers were rising for many years, but then started to slow down even before the pandemic. Everything has now been pretty much stopped for a year, with visits to the Canary Islands over the last 12 months barely in the hundreds of thousands, and most resort areas remain all but empty, with the rare exception of those few hotels who have found other ways to survive, including rebranding for Digital Nomads and assisting Spain with its humanitarian efforts. All in all, in the archipelago, we have so far lost 35% of GDP, 40% of employment which supports up to 60% of our population. Though many sectors have been able to continue, due to our relatively low infection rates, the simple fact is that Gran Canaria and the islands needs to see a return to tourism too, and up to a third of all our tourism comes from the UK. Nevertheless, Canary Islands tourism has one strength over most other destinations in Europe, and that is that we are a speciality winter tourism destination, with all round sunshine and the only sub-tropical climate in the EU, so many businesses here, who are able to, have already started to plan for a return after this coming summer, in the hope of capitalising on our uniqueness in this market.
The tourism sector is desperately looking for movement, but UK reservations for the summer this year are just not looking good, although there has been a small increase, over recent weeks, and some tour operators do report that there are more hopeful reservations for Autumn and Winter, which of course bodes well for The Canary Islands, many say that where they are currently seeing the greatest interest for holiday bookings, is for 2022 onwards.
With non-essential international travel currently restricted from the UK and Spanish restrictions also in place to try to avoid transmission of the British variant, UK tourism right now is all but impossible, however many are hopeful of being able to set a date in the future at which everyone can aim themselves. The Johnson government are scheduled to explain their “de-escalation plan” next Monday, February 22, so that the UK can start to organise for their hoped-for return towards normality. Tour operators are now looking for travellers to book from the May 1, and they are (at last), according to industry sources consulted in the last couple of days, offering guarantees that any bookings made now will come with the right to a full refund (didn’t they always!?) or a change of dates, if necessary.
Paul Charles, chief executive of the PC Agency and co-founder of SOS Save Our Summer, is reported to have said: “Give us all a break Boris.
“The industry is united in outrage.
“Senior government ministers have done a good job of torpedoing recovery in the travel sector and threatening jobs across travel and tourism.”
“UK citizens should ignore their conflicting advice and book summer trips with confidence, knowing that they can get a refund or refix their travel dates if booking through a reputable travel provider signed up to SOS.”
The SOS Save Our Summer campaign is supported by more than 120 travel companies, including Easyjet Holidays, Trailfinders and DialAFlight, as published this week by the British newspaper he Guardián. “The message is that’ UK citizens should ignore the conflicting advice of government ministers and book summer trips with confidence. Today the travel industry is on the edge of the abyss” they say . “There should now be a clear roadmap established as of May 1 specifically for travel, in order to restore consumer confidence and protect millions of jobs at stake.” The group is also calling for quarantine measures, currently in force to enter the country, be replaced by an extensive testing program, with rapid tests on arrival and departure.
The protest movement has also extended to the hospitality sector which calls for restaurants to be able to open in a way that is safe but allows them to operate “in a commercially viable manner”, a problem analogous to the one faced by the hoteliers.
Over 120 SOS Travel supporters currently include Trailfinders, easyJet Holidays, Travelopia, Mr & Mrs Smith, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, DialAFlight, Sykes Holiday Cottages, Audley Travel, True Travel, Wild Frontiers, &Beyond Group, Elegant Resorts, Campbell Gray Hotels, Celebrity Cruises, Steppes Travel, YourGolfTravel, Ski Solutions, the Turquoise Holiday Company, Teletext Holidays, Plan South America, Oxford Ski, the Thinking Traveller, Bellini Travel and True Luxury Sport.