The sudden nature of the first lockdown left once-frequent travellers itching to go on holiday again

In March 2020, strict travel restrictions were implemented to and from the UK over just a few days, shattering travel plans and causing national chaos. The last minute nature of these restrictions caused large-scale disruption for travellers and companies, where mass refunds had to be issued for all kinds of travel cancellations.

Airlines and travel agencies struggled to keep up with immense cash burn, where revenue was dramatically reduced as travellers were no longer booking holidays and refunds were eating into remaining cash reserves. Many travellers were offered vouchers for booking value rather than cash refunds to maintain cash flow.

Initially, this worked well for travel companies as many travellers were under the impression that by summer 2020, restrictions would be lifted and travel could resume. Due to millions of travel vouchers to be used and months of lockdown measures, there was significant pent-up demand for summer holidays after a bleak few months following on from March.

Incremental travel restrictions that came into place ruined any desire to travel

The return of the summer holiday was short-lived after quarantine measures were put into place on travellers returning from important UK outbound markets. Every week more countries were removed from the ‘quarantine-free’ list, leaving it impossible for travellers to book holidays without the risk of it impacting their life on return.

As a result of this, domestic travel saw an increase in the UK. It was much safer, more convenient and less stressful for travellers to stay within their own country. This severely impacted UK-based airlines, where capacities that had just been increased were forced to reduce again and cancel further flights, offering more refunds and furthering cash flow issues.

The second UK lockdown will eradicate any short-term desire to travel internationally

The tiered lockdown system that was introduced in the UK in October was a sign that the second wave was looming. The lockdown that will start on 5 November would have come as no surprise to English citizens, as Wales and Northern Ireland have already announced lockdowns.

Confidence in international travel was already at a very low point before the lockdown was introduced. Travellers had postponed booking trips for the near future, and many have not booked any more holidays until at least 2021. The global pandemic has had more time to impact daily life. In the GlobalData COVID-19 Recovery Survey in Week 9 (7-11 October), 25% of respondents were ‘extremely concerned’ regarding their personal finance situation, 28% ‘quite concerned’. This shows that as restrictions continue, financial budgets are tighter and safety concerns continue to rise.

As the second lockdown was expected and not sudden like the first, pent up demand for travel after lockdown may not be at similar levels to the first. The general attitude for traveling abroad is negative, where travellers would rather not have money tied up in a trip that may not take place. Travel in the UK both internationally and domestically is unlikely to resume to any substantial level until restrictions are gone, as 47% of UK-based respondents in the GlobalData COVID-19 Recovery Survey (week 9) ‘Strongly Disagree’ that they would book an international trip this year. The financial and health risks are too high for restrictions that have the possibility to change so frequently as they did in the summer.

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