The hospitality industry was dealt a further blow yesterday when Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was ‘too soon’ to book a holiday in the UK or abroad, despite vaccine take-up being higher than expected.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Shapps said: “People shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally. It’s too soon.”
His comments were met with backlash from a number of senior travel executives, with one telling the Independent that his comments were ‘misguided’.
Hoteliers in the UK have told BH that bookings are building for the spring and summer, gaining positive momentum as the vaccine roll-out continues, however this confusion could spark a loss in confidence for an industry already decimated by the pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson didn’t clarify Mr Shapps’ comments at a televised Downing Street briefing last night, instead reiterating that it is currently illegal to go on holiday and promising more detail when he announces the roadmap for reopening from February 22.
He said it was “just too early for people to be certain about what we’ll be able to do this summer” and added that he understood “why people want to make plans now, but we’re just going to have to be a little bit more patient”.
In a spectacular own goal, it emerged that health secretary Matt Hancock has booked a holiday to Cornwall for this summer, and when pressed on the issue on this morning’s BBC Breakfast he confirmed he had booked the trip ‘months ago’.
He added that the government was doing ‘everything we can’ to allow summer holidays this year.
Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, said the government’s mixed messages were ‘sinking the travel trade’. “This inept government failed to secure our borders last year and despite longstanding cries for help has still not provided sector specific support for our travel trade.
“Companies, jobs and whole swathes of the industry will be lost forever. This is devastating for those who work in travel but it’s also dashing the hopes of so many of us who want to know we can take a break – in the UK or abroad – to ease recovery from this dreadful virus.”