Travel agents see demand for flights take off after restrictions ease

The SPAA said there has been a surge in holiday enquiries and bookings since travel changes were announced on Thursday.

Travel agents see demand for flights take off after restrictions ease Spooh via iStock
Taking off: The SPAA said there has been a surge in holiday enquiries and bookings.

There has been a surge in holiday enquiries and bookings following the easing of Scotland’s Covid travel restrictions, according to an industry body.

Within a day of the changes being announced on Thursday, travel agents reported a near 100% increase in business on the previous week.

Mike Tibbert, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), told STV News: “The travel trade in Scotland are delighted at the recent update in the change in rules.

“It’s reinvigorated the traveling public and there’s a lot more confidence now.

“We can see almost a 100% increase from [the previous week], although nowhere near as high as previous years.

“I mean, the travel industry hasn’t been allowed to trade for the last 24 months, and it’s had a real impact on the industry. A lot of the companies have been borrowing heavily. They’ve dipped into pensions etc.

“So fundamentally, the industry was in crisis.

“But now with the recent developments, and obviously with the rollout of the vaccination, that has helped and we are confident that we’ve turned the corner and hopefully things will start to progress.”

The changes – announced by transport secretary Michael Matheson on January 6 – saw the removal of pre-departure tests for fully vaccinated adults and those under the age of 18 travelling into Scotland.

The requirement to self-isolate until a negative PCR is returned has also come to an end.

From Sunday, those travelling into the country will also be able to use a lateral flow test instead of a PCR as their post-arrival test, taken on or before the second day of their stay.

Mr Tibbert said: “People are still, well, hesitant, but they are more confident now. And let’s face it, everyone is desperate to get away now – not only on holiday, but also for business and essentially to visit family and friends as well.

“So there has been a big uptake in the number of inquiries and hopefully that will convert to bookings in the near future.”

Mr Tibbert highlighted that Scots remain hesitant over whether to book a holiday given the recent threat of the Omicron variant, but he hopes “things will start to move”.

The changes have been brought in across the country following an agreement between the UK Government and the three devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr Tibbert added: “Well, fundamentally what we need is to establish the four-nations approach.

“Any decisions that are made in the future must be from a four-nations perspective. Having Scotland trailing behind the other nations isn’t going to work from a practical perspective.

“If there are more restrictions of traveling in and out of Scotland, then people will just travel in and out of the other countries.

“We need that consistency [of the four-nations approach], but let’s hope that the vaccine is working and people do get the booster and that will continue to reduce the impact of the virus.”