New UK travel campaign, Save Our Summer (SOS), is increasing pressure on the UK government to allow holidays abroad from 1st May, and is calling for a roadmap to open up travel and reassure UK holidaymakers it is safe to book their summer holidays.
1. The campaign
The Save Our Summer group is calling on the government to ensure holidays at home and abroad are possible from 1st May, and guarantees that anyone booking through its members will be entitled to either a refund or a change of date for their holiday if travel is cancelled or not possible due to the government’s Covid-19 restrictions.
The campaign accuses the UK government of conflicting advice and is advising people to ignore this and book their trips with confidence. In a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson they called for a clear government roadmap, setting out the return to travel from 1st May onwards, in order to help the sector and the millions of jobs within it. The group is also calling for quarantine measures to be replaced by an extensive testing programme, with rapid testing on arrival and departure.
The organisation stated in the letter that, ‘By 15th May 15 million of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens will be fully vaccinated’, adding, ‘This group accounts for 88% of all deaths and 55% of all hospitalisations.’ They also said, ‘In addition, all over 50s will have had at least one vaccination. We therefore ask that on 22nd February, the Prime Minister sets out a specific roadmap for the travel and aviation industries to resume operations responsibly from 1st May.’
2. Campaign members
The campaign now has the support of more than 800 business signatories, including large companies such as easyJet Holidays, Trailfinders and DialAFlight, all of whom are ‘united in outrage’ at the government’s handling of the crisis and failure to support the tourism industry.
Over 800 of the finest names in travel are united in calling for a re-opening of travel from May, and signed a letter to @BorisJohnson to outline why the timing is safe, sensible and responsible. #SaveOurSummer https://t.co/J3Ja4FuMVL— SOSTravel (@SOSTravel3) February 20, 2021
4. Plans for Easter
Boris Johnson is due to give details on the easing of lockdown in England in an announcement today, and is under pressure from the tourism industry and lockdown sceptics to commit to a timetable to allow domestic trips in time for Easter. Leaders of the Covid Recovery Group are calling for pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues to be able to open in a way that is Covid-secure but still allows them to operate ‘in a commercially viable manner’. Overall domestic tourism fell to £30bn in 2020, down from £91bn in 2019, and Easter is a very important time for the travel sector, indeed for many the period could set the precedent for the year.
5. Criticism for the campaign
However, according to senior figures in the industry, Save Our Summer is inviting criticism. They warn that setting a deadline by which travel should resume is inviting criticism and could be regarded as ‘over-indulgent’.
The #SaveOurSummer campaign is well intentioned but by setting a deadline to restart travel (summer) it inevitably invites criticism.— Derek Jones (@Degsy_DJ) February 17, 2021
Calling for a roadmap to restart travel is fine but only when it’s safe to do so. We all hope that’s before summer but we can’t will it to be so.
Kuoni UK Managing Director Derek Jones warned on Twitter that calls for such a specific timeframe could backfire. Another industry worker showing concern for the campaign is TourHound Managing Director Laurence Hicks, who warned that such an approach by Save Our Summer may be misjudged and may become indulgent. He stated, ‘We can make demands on the gov for a roadmap for travel but the fact is that travelling is a global issue with border opening globally being the key not just a UK gov roadmap!’
Travel Consultant Gillian Farr added, ‘A fixed date will just lead to more heartbreak if it’s not achieved I’d settle for a roadmap based on level of vaccination and a commitment to not enforce quarantine with little or no notice. That’s what’s putting folk off booking right now.’ Another industry worker also distanced herself from the campaign, stating on Twitter, ‘I’m glad to see I’m not the only one in the industry feeling uncomfortable with the arbitrary date proposal. Some of the tone of messaging around the campaign has made me feel uncomfortable tbh.’