Despite UK domestic travel demand in the UK being strong, the rise in Covid-19 infections and the requirement to self-isolate if ‘pinged’ could throw summer plans out of the window, and tourism operators could miss out on much-needed revenue this summer.

According to a live GlobalData poll, domestic holidays are set to be the most popular in the coming 12 months with 43%* of global respondents opting for this type of trip. With restrictions continuously changing for international travel, domestic holidays seem a safer bet in the immediate term. Despite high demand, the large spike in cases across the UK could reduce some traveller’s confidence. With cases rising, travellers are more likely to adopt a cautious approach towards summer travel. Travel businesses preparing for a busy summer could experience a wave of cancellations or postponements as some shy away from crowded tourism areas as cases rise, despite restrictions easing.

Domestic travel restrictions have mostly eased

Domestic restrictions mostly ended on July 19 in England with other UK nations to follow soon and even with the success of the vaccination programme, a surge in the delta variant could jeopardise tour operator’s income this summer.

Tour operators had been gearing up for a bumper summer with airlines launching new domestic flights and lodging providers preparing for near-capacity over the normally busy summer travel period. However, the delta variant poses a real threat and some may no longer be able to travel due to the new variant’s increased threat. A rise in cases and the number of prospective travellers now self-isolating could result in cancellations and lenient refund policies could see operator’s income fall and financial struggles continuing.

Staff shortages could also pose difficulties

The UK is struggling to recruit hospitality staff and, according to UK Hospitality, one in ten roles are currently vacant. Self-isolation rules look set to see struggling firms struggle further as cases skyrocket and more self-isolate as a result.

A combination of recruitment difficulties and self-isolation measures could spell disaster for some hospitality businesses in the short term. Just when many have resumed operating at full capacity, reduced operations and closures could occur as cases soar and close contacts have to isolate. Employees working in hospitality are already stretched and as tourists arrive at major hotspots, there is a real threat that Covid-19 could cause serious operational challenges. If a worker contracts the virus, the business in question may have to temporarily close if too many must self-isolate. The virus will cause significant disruption this summer and with a limited furlough scheme to fall back on, some domestic operators could continue to struggle.

Summer 2021 was coined to be the summer of booming demand and a chance for the UK travel sector to begin its recovery. These issues paint an uncertain picture for the coming season, although a more positive one than 2020, and as Covid-19 cases continue to rise, domestic travel looks set for disruption.

* Live GlobalData Poll, 1,442 respondents, live since 17 Nov 2021