Tour operator and travel giant TUI said customers have started to defer their travel plans as messaging from governments remains uncertain.
The German-owned company told shareholders that it has 2.6 million bookings for this summer, a small drop since an earlier update but 69 per cent down from pre-pandemic levels in the summer of 2019.
The reduction reflects “customers choosing to defer their booking to future seasons due to the lack of clarity provided by governments on lifting of travel restrictions”, said the firm.
The company, which is the UK’s largest tour operator, saw a collapse in the amount of money coming through its doors in the last six months as the pandemic reduced international travel to a trickle.
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Revenue reached just £615 million in the six months to the end of March, down 89 per cent from £5.7 billion a year earlier. It also recorded a £1.3 billion loss, up 82 per cent compared with a year ago.
However, customers are clearly desperate to travel once restrictions lift once and for all. Nearly three times as many Britons have decided to book with the travel giant for the summer of 2022 compared with 2019.
Holidaymakers also seem optimistic that they will be able to travel abroad this winter, with UK bookings increasing 17 per cent compared with before the pandemic.
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However, TUI claims that, with vaccinations being rapidly rolled out, customers should be able to start travelling sooner.
“The continued vaccination progress across our key customer markets and destinations, combined with more testing, and comprehensive hygiene measures throughout our eco-system, should enable the safe return to holidays this summer,” it said.
The business will focus on countries such as Greece, and the Spanish resorts of Majorca and the Canary Islands when it reopens its portfolio in the peak summer months.
The number of people that TUI employs has fallen from 53,525 at the end of March 2020 to 36,029 on the same day this year.