Tour operators have to remain resilient in preparing for multiple scenarios in 2021, as European lockdown restrictions once again tighten.

The start of the new year brought high hopes for tourism with Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out, but a surge in national lockdowns across Europe may mean further headwinds are imminent.

In order to remain bright in the public eye, tour operators should be prioritising flexibility in order to retain positive sentiment as travel attempts to recover during 2021. Contingency planning is critical as even when the UK’s lockdown measures are lifted, other European hotspots for UK travellers may still be enforcing their own restrictions, further delaying travel recovery throughout this year.

Contingency planning remains critical

Preparing for multiple scenarios in how 2021 will pan out is critical for company strategy due to the uncertainty of the current situation. Tour operators need to remain proactive to changes in their micro and macroeconomic environments and high-qualit contingency planning will allow them to do this.

In light of the UK’s national lockdown launched on 4 January 2021, tour operators are cancelling trips until mid-February. Virgin Holidays is one of the latest travel firms to cancel holidays after the new Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were imposed. TUI Group, Jet 2 and Thomas Cook have also released announcements on making similar moves over the past few days. The swift moves of these operators will have eased consumer anxieties regarding cancellations and refunds.

Through prioritising and promoting flexibility within the booking process, this will help restore customer confidence for when it is possible to travel again. Any negative sentiment towards a brand such as lack of refunds, negative customer service or misleading advice could deteriorate brand image, causing further troubles for operators down the road.

Restrictions are likely to be eased gradually

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared that Europe was at a ‘tipping point’ in the course of the pandemic as the second variant of Covid-19 continues to spread. Governments across Europe are stating that restrictions will be aimed to be lifted gradually, reflecting that operators still need to proceed with caution and that the situation continues to be highly uncertain.

Whilst the roll out of vaccinations across Europe is a step on the road to recovery, it remains clear that this will take time and tour operators still remain in the dark regarding when a sustained increase in travel demand will reoccur, meaning that contingency planning remains of paramount importance.

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