Is it possible that travel will return to normalcy this summer?
Airlines and tour operators are scrambling to increase employee numbers in the hopes that loosening travel restrictions would result in a surge in summer vacation bookings. All travel testing requirements for fully vaccinated people will be abolished in the United Kingdom on Friday.
However, travel brokers warn that the Covid requirements in some countries are still deterring some Brits, and that many continue to book last-minute. As the sector grows, there are also concerns about recruitment issues.
Michael OLeary, the CEO of Ryanair, was the latest travel executive to forecast a significant rebound as people return to vacationing. He stated that the airline expects to add 115 percent more capacity in summer 2022 than it did in 2019. Ryanair is hiring 1,000 additional pilots and 2,000 cabin crew members.
However, he cautioned that much hinged on Covids progress, saying, “I believe caution is the prudent course of action”. Other travel companies have stated that they plan to put on a summer offering at least as large as Covids.
Jet2, a tour provider and airline, told the BBC earlier this month that it was planning a larger summer vacation package this year than in 2019.
In anticipation of increasing demand, it is selling additional seats on an expanded fleet of planes and hiring for more than 1,700 positions. Ground operations in the UK and abroad, cabin crew, and office workers are all examples.
Johan Lundgren, the CEO of EasyJet, predicted that pent-up demand will push summer capacity closer to 2019 levels.
EasyJet is looking for 1,500 seasonal cabin crew members and 1,000 pilots in the next five years.
British Airways, which has lost a fifth of its workforce (10,000 jobs) since the epidemic began, has lately advertised for tens of thousands of cabin crew members in order to expand services. This involves inviting back certain employees who had previously left but expressed a desire to rejoin.
Hundreds more are needed for the carriers new Gatwick short-haul subsidiary, which will launch at the end of March.
TUI, the largest travel operator in the United Kingdom, is also looking for cabin crew for what it anticipates to be a busy summer.
Bookings made at the last minute
Consumer confidence must increase, according to Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO of independent travel agent network Advantage Travel Partnership, for a bountiful summer to materialise.
Many people were hesitant to schedule trips well in advance in case laws changed again, she said, and onerous Covid procedures for visiting popular countries like Spain were also deterring families.
“A third of everything sold [by our members] is currently classified as late departures, meaning travel after March 31st. Thats quite rare “she went on.
“School holidays would generally account for 40% of what youd ordinarily sell now; at the moment, its closer to 15%.”
She also believes that a considerable number of people who planned to go this summer did so last year – or even 2020.
Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel, stated that while many clients book last-minute, the summer season is “by far the most popular.”
Dame Irene said Hays Travel has experienced week-on-week rises since the second week of January, the biggest of which occurred after last Mondays news that the UK will eliminate travel testing for fully-vaccinated people.
Dame Irene said this weekend was the same as the one in 2020, which she called “amazing.”
“The majority of short-haul holiday bookings are for Spain, Turkey, and Greece,” she continued, “but there has also been a fantastic surge in long-haul holidays for longer periods.”
“Now that people are ready for the holidays, many are taking advantage of the opportunity to spend more on a holiday that has been long overdue.”
Struggles with recruitment
Following the removal of the UKs travel restrictions, ABTA, a trade organisation for travel agents and tour operators, claimed its members had observed an increase in business.
However, the group believes it is still too early to predict how the summer would unfold.
The travel business, like many other industries, is facing recruitment issues, according to ABTA spokesman Emma Brennan.
“Hundreds of thousands of employment were lost as a result of the pandemic, and many people moved to other industries. We now confront the problem of luring them back and attracting new talent as a sector.”
The aviation industry was one of the most hit by the pandemic, with thousands of jobs lost. Indeed.com said that as a result of Omicron, vacancies in the industry only rebounded to pre-pandemic levels in December 2021, before nosediving again. There were now signs of a recovery, according to the report.
The drive to hire more staff to meet the British publics pent-up desire for travel, according to James Reed, head of recruitment Reed.co.uk, has generated a jobs boom. He did say, though, that the aviation industry, like other industries, was experiencing labour shortages.
“The contemporary labour market is a sellers market, not a buyers market,” says the author. “This means that job searchers hold all the cards, and it is up to businesses to make themselves as appealing to new talent as possible.”
Although “there are areas,” Ryanairs Michael OLeary said he did not see staffing difficulties hurting the ramp-up of operations.
Other means of transportation have voiced hope for the future months as well. Last week, Saga reported that cruise bookings for 2022 and 2023 were at an all-time high.