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    Vaccine boosts holiday confidence among older travellers

    Holiday company Saga has experienced a notable increase in interest for holidays in recent weeks.
    This comes as those aged over 50, who will likely receive the Covid-19 vaccine ahead of some younger groups, look ahead to future trips.
    Saga said it had noted growth in the number of people booking long-haul and ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trips.
    Bookings for 2022 are up over 90 per cent on the same period last year, suggesting an appetite to travel, the company added.

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    People also seem to want to go away for longer, with bookings up from a previous average of 13 to 18 days – a nearly 40 per cent increase.
    There has also been a 16 per cent increase in traffic to the Saga website, with a 98 per cent increase in conversion to sales – suggesting those searching for trips are now more confident to book.
    Chris Simmonds, Saga chief executive of holidays, has said that the people over 50 are “hungry to travel”, with once-in-a-lifetime trips next winter to destinations such as Uzbekistan and Uganda proving particularly popular.
    He added that Saga’s customers are “very adventurous and thinking about spoiling themselves”.
    UK and Ireland trips are also seeing an increase in interest.
    Titan Travel
    Titan Travel has noted similar trends.
    Despite having only just said goodbye to 2020, bookings for next year are beginning to take-off, with the company announcing one of its 2022 tours – Wild Costa Rica – has already sold out, 13 months prior to departure.
    Andy Squirrell, managing director, Titan Travel, commented: “Having conducted consumer surveys over summer last year we recognised that travellers are looking ahead to future trips earlier than ever before.
    “To help satisfy this increase in demand from early bookers we launched our 2022 worldwide and European product in autumn last year.
    “Since the launch we have seen a great uplift in bookings for future holidays, which has led to one of our 2022 tour dates selling out 13 months before departure.
    “The vaccine rollout is undoubtedly bringing greater confidence to travellers who are itching to book a holiday and travel once again.”
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    Al-Khalifa to run for UNWTO secretary general

    Shaika Mai Al-Khalifa from the kingdom of Bahrain will challenge the incumbent, Zurab Pololikashvili, for the role of secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
    Pololikashvili was appointed to the role in 2017 and will seek a second three-year mandate during an executive council meeting of the body in Madrid this month.
    Al-Khalifa is currently in the Spanish capital for the event, presenting her candidacy for the role.
    During her stay, she has met with a wide range of representatives from member states to set out her vision for the future of the tourism sector.
    Last year was a hugely challenging one for tourism, with international arrivals falling by 72 per cent over the first ten months of 2020.
    The sector was hit by restrictions on travel, low consumer confidence and a global struggle to contain the Covid-19 virus, all of which contributed to the worst year on record in the history of tourism.
    According to the latest tourism data from the UNWTO, destinations welcomed 900 million fewer international tourists between January and October when compared with the same period of 2019.
    This translates into a loss of US$935 billion in export revenues from international tourism, more than ten times the loss in 2009 under the impact of the global economic crisis.

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    Ahead of the meeting, Al-Khalifa said: “I am enjoying the beautiful city of Madrid, and my visit so far has been very successful.
    “I am confidently approaching a winning majority based upon the commitments of those who believe that it is time for a paradigm shift for the tourism sector.”   
    Al-Khalifa promised a dynamic and transparent leadership of UNWTO.
    In her vision statement, she states that within the first twelve months of her term she will have listened to every member state of the organisation and drafted a strategy based on what the members need.
    She also pledges to work tirelessly to secure the resources required to realise those aspirations.
    Al-Khalifa added: “I am confident that the tourism sector will recover from this crisis as it has recovered from many previous crises.
    “I believe that we need to work closely on the issue of travel protocols, in addition to working with governments on fiscal support schemes.
    “It has been extremely difficult due to travel restrictions to travel to the member states and meet the national tourism organisations in person; but I have done the most I could do given the limitation of time and the circumstances of the pandemic.
    “I am grateful to the commitment I received from so many countries and look forward to starting a new era.
    “We are now confident we have a winning majority to deliver on this mandate.”
    The Arab Tourism Ministers’ Council earlier unanimously approved the nomination of Al-Khalifa for the role.
    She is currently president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture & Antiquities (BACA).
    More Information
    For more information on the 113th executive council meeting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, set to take place on January 18th-19th in Madrid, head over to the official website.
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    CHTA asks Canada to reconsider Covid-19 testing plans

    The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) has made its case to the government of Canada to reconsider new pandemic testing rules.
    The body argued the move will strain already stressed Caribbean public health systems and cause further damage to the local economy.
    From January 7th Canada has required all residents and travellers entering from the Caribbean provide proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test before their departure.
    “This policy is creating challenges and places even greater economic hardship on the people and governments of the Caribbean and on the thousands of Canadians currently in the Caribbean who are scheduled to return home in the coming weeks,” said CHTA acting chief executive, Vanessa Ledesma.
    The mere announcement of the policy has resulted in a rash of cancellations by Canadians who had been scheduled to travel to the region, Ledesma observed, further harming already fragile businesses and economies and keeping more employees from returning to work.

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    “As the policy takes effect, we anticipate many stranded Canadians being unable to return home due to their inability to get tests in the required time,” she lamented.
    Ledesma added that this is further reinforced by the low tourism-related transmission rates in the region.
    “On behalf of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association and the 33 national hotel and tourism associations throughout the region, which are part of our Federation, we respectfully request reconsideration of this policy for the Caribbean,” CHTA stated in a submission to Canada minister of transport, Marc Garneau.
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    Leo Burnett wins TUI contract in Europe

    TUI has selected Leo Burnett as its creative agency across Europe.
    The company was selected after a four-way competitive pitch between incumbent VMLY&R London, Leo Burnett, Fold7 and TBWALondon. 
    Leo Burnett will handle all aspects of the TUI brand in Europe, spanning creative output and strategy across the UK, Germany, France, the Nordics and Benelux.
    TUI said the pitch signifies its development of a unifying brand purpose and strategy that will enable it to stay connected and engage on a more emotional level with customers throughout the year, not just around the usual booking spikes.
    Leo Burnett, which represents businesses including McDonald’s and Vision Express, impressed TUI by demonstrating an innate understanding of the tourism industry, passion for the brand as well as a proven track record for building populist brands to positions of leadership and trust, despite the uncertainty of the last 12 months. 

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    Katie McAlister, chief marketing officer at TUI Group, said: “We’re delighted to have appointed Leo Burnett London to be TUI’s Group advertising agency and look forward to start working with them.
    “The pitch process and meeting the wonderful agencies short-listed was one of the most enjoyable parts of what was an awful 2020.
    “It was a very competitive pitch, and we’d like to thank all the pitching agencies for their hard work; it will be no consolation, but it made our decision really difficult and demonstrated the quality of advertising agencies in the market.
    “We know that customers can’t wait to travel again this summer and beyond, so this appointment is the first step to reignite everyone’s passion to travel again.”
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    ABTA confirms agents are eligible for new government grants

    The government has published amended regulations that explicitly reference retail travel agents as businesses that are required to legally close in tier four areas within England.
    Trade body ABTA argued the confirmation was a welcome step in ensuring agents in England are eligible for grant support under the localised restrictions support grants regime.
    The previous exclusion of travel agents from the regulations had resulted in agents being denied much needed funding from local authorities under the scheme.
    Following lobbying from ABTA, the devolved nations had already clarified that grants support for businesses in the highest levels of restrictions would be extended to retail travel agents, but the UK government had previously failed to provide this clarity for businesses in England.

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    ABTA has been having ongoing discussions with officials in the government to argue that this approach must be matched in England.
    Luke Petherbridge, ABTA director of public affairs, said: “Securing grant funding for travel businesses has been a key focus of ABTA’s work in recent months.
    “The confirmation from the UK government today builds on actions by the devolved administrations on this matter and should bring an end to the postcode lottery of grants experienced by agents.
    “We are pleased to see the government has listened to our calls for clarification and acted on it today.
    “We also believe it should mean that travel agents are eligible for the retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses grants, although we are still awaiting the specific government guidance on this.”
    All areas of England entered the revised tier four under the latest national lockdown.
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    Tour operators cancel trips until mid-February

    Virgin Holidays has become the latest travel firm to cancel holidays after new Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were imposed in part of the UK.
    The tour operator said refunds would be offered to travellers due for departure before mid-February.
    Rivals Tui Group, Jet2 and Thomas Cook have announced similar moves in recent days.
    The recently relaunched Thomas Cook said it would call customers to offer refunds or rebooking.
    Tui added it was “cancelling all holidays in line with international travel restrictions”.

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    The travel giant added that customers due to depart from England, Scotland and Wales would be contacted to discuss options.
    The company said that customers due to travel from an English airport before mid-February, or from a Scottish or Welsh airport up to January 31st, would not be able to do so.
    In a statement, Virgin Holidays said: “In line with the new national lockdown restrictions we have reviewed the upcoming holiday schedule and will be cancelling all holidays up to and including February 14th.
    “To simplify the options and to provide immediate peace of mind for customers whose holidays will no longer be going ahead, we are automatically providing a digital voucher for the value of their trip, redeemable up until September 30th, which they can use to rebook a holiday, departing any time before December 31st.”
    Virgin added that customers “may also request a refund”.
    However, the company has been criticised for failing to issues timely cash to passengers in the past.
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    TUI Group wins approval for latest rescue package

    TUI Group has finalised a €1.8 billion financing package led by the German government as the company battles the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
    The deal, originally announced in early December, involves cash from the German Economic Support Fund (Wirtschaftsstabilisierungsfonds or the WSF), a syndicate of underwriting banks, Unifirm Limited, and the German state-owned development bank KfW.
    Fritz Joussen, chief executive of TUI, said of the deal: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, TUI was a very healthy company.
    “The market is intact; the demand is there.
    “But we have not been able to generate any significant revenues since March.

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    “Our integrated business model allows us to react very flexibly to short-term changes in the pandemic situation, just as we successfully ramped up our travel programme for a few weeks in July after the first wave.
    “People want to travel; tourism remains a growth industry and an important sector for stabilising the southern euro area.”
    The package consists of silent participations of the WSF, a further credit line of the KfW, guarantees and a capital increase with subscription rights.
    The Mordashov family, owners of Unifirm, have made a long-term strategic investment in TUI and has agreed to participate in the capital increase with its company.
    Joussen added: “The financial package provides the security to look consistently ahead and to prepare the group strategically and structurally for the time after the pandemic.”
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