Summer holidays: what financial risks do UK travellers face?

News that an increasing number of Tui customers have been booking summer holidays may be something of a surprise, given that ministers have repeatedly warned that travel abroad this summer is very much in the balance. Yesterday Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said it was too early to say whether the public should be making holiday bookings.

“I can’t give people a proper answer at this point because we don’t yet have the data,” he said.

If you are desperate to get a trip in the diary, what do you need to consider?

Tui says it expects Covid vaccine will restart summer travel

Package or self-book holiday?

Over the past decade package holidays have been falling out of favour as travellers opted to book their own flights and accommodation separately using the likes of Airbnb or This year, however, a package holiday could be the way to go – for one simple reason. If the tour operator is forced to cancel because travel restrictions are still in place, travellers are entitled to a full refund via the package tour regulations. If the company goes bust before you head off to the airport, you are similarly protected.

Book your own trip, and it’s a very different story. While plenty of hotel reservations are 100% refundable, Airbnb bookings are subject to cancellation charges that can be as high as 50%. If the airline’s flight runs but you can’t be on it, you will face a struggle to get your money back. Those with European train bookings in 2020 struggled to get refunds. Ferry passengers were mostly offered vouchers.

The cost of all the tests could be more than the holiday

This is one of the biggest risks of booking a trip now. Currently those heading to Europe on business are required to have a PCR test 72 hours before departure which costs £100-£180. They also have to take a fast, 30-minute Covid-19 test which costs a further £50-£75 at the airport – before they have left the country. If they face the same on the way back, the trip becomes massively expensive.

And, on Tuesday, the government said it would expect travellers returning to the UK to have two further tests once they return home. If passengers were forced to pay for those as well, it could easily double of the cost of the holiday.

Vaccine passports

The thing that could save this summer – a passport that would enable passengers to show they had had the jab. Several European countries have indicated these could be the way forward. However, the UK government has, so far, been very cool on their implementation on the basis that they would discriminate against those unable or unwilling to be vaccinated. However, faced with the bill to keep the travel industry going in the event that travel bans have to stay in place for a further year, ministers might overcome their objection. The travel industry is unlikely to survive another year like 2020.

If I don’t book now, will there be any holidays left?

A good question: possibly not. Many of those who had trips cancelled last year were shunted on a year, meaning that a lot of capacity is already taken up. There’s a lot of pent-up demand to get abroad, and if travel does go ahead, it is unlikely that everyone will get their first choice of holiday, and prices may be significantly higher. Those who booked in January could be sitting on a bargain, but don’t bet on it.

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