Summer holidays: NI travel agent says vaccinated old folks and ‘fatigued’ NHS staff fuelling surge in demand

Northern Ireland travel agents are seeing an upturn in demand from older people who have already had their vaccines and tired frontline health staff who “need a break”.

The chair of ABTA NI has said there is optimism about summer holidays this year
The chair of ABTA NI has said there is optimism about summer holidays this year

That is according to Londonderry-based travel agent Heather Wilson, who chairs ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) in Northern Ireland.

She spoke to the News Letter following reports from England of a surge in holiday bookings in the aftermath of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of a ‘road map’ out of lockdown.

While the Executive has to agree a road map out of lockdown of its own, Ms Wilson said there is already a growing sense of optimism here about the prospects of a summer holiday abroad.

“There are a lot of people still aiming to go on holiday this summer,” she told the News Letter.

“People are a bit more hopeful, and we’re hopeful things will get back to something a bit more like normality. We have consciously not been advertising for this summer but it’s something we will look at now once we hear more about what the Executive here are planning to do.”

The prime minister said on Monday that a government taskforce will produce a report by April 12 recommending how international trips can resume for people in England.

Foreign holidays could be permitted from May 17.

In the hours after the announcement, easyJet said bookings by UK customers for the summer season were more than four times higher compared with the same period during the previous week.

The Luton-based firm’s holiday division saw an even larger rise, with demand up seven-fold.

Ms Wilson, who is managing director of Gallagher Travel, said: “I think it’s a good sign and we have to take every chink of hope that we get. There is optimism out there right now, definitely.

“What we’re finding is that the older people, the people who have already been vaccinated, they’re the ones that are ready to travel now. We’ve definitely seen an increase in demand from them.”

She continued: “It’s maybe the family market that are a wee bit more hesitant. There’s definitely a pent-up demand there. I’m not saying that 100% of people are keen to go away, but I think the majority are.

“We’re hearing it from a lot of frontline workers in the NHS who have had their leave cancelled down, who are mentally and physically fatigued.

“They need a break and they want to get away as well.”