On the Beach removes all summer holidays from sale amid travel ‘uncertainty’

Grant Shapps reveals countries on UK's red and green lists

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Holiday company On the Beach has announced it will not be selling summer holidays for June, July and August “until further notice”. The decision comes amid ongoing “uncertainty” around travel restrictions and “traffic light list” changes.

Some holidays which have already been booked will continue to go ahead as planned, though travellers destined for “amber list” countries will have the option to amend their booking fee-free.

Customers who have their holiday cancelled by the firm will be offered a refund to be paid within “14 days”.

Simon Cooper, CEO and founder of On the Beach, said: “There’s nothing we want more than to be able to send customers on holiday, but with the current number of unknowns we don’t think that now is the right time for customers to book new holidays departing in the next few months.

“We don’t know enough yet about how the traffic light system will work in practice, and it doesn’t currently give any certainty or clarity beyond a three-week window.

“In the coming weeks and months – until vaccination programmes across Europe and beyond are further along in their rollout – it is very likely that we will see regular fluctuations in destinations’ traffic light classifications, and so there is likelihood of disruption or even cancellations for the many customers who want to book more than three weeks in advance.”

At the time of writing, just 12 countries are on the UK’s “green list”.

The list is set to be reviewed “every three weeks” according to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps.

Alongside the ongoing changes to travel restrictions, the travel provider also said there was not enough confidence among holidaymakers.

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It cites recent YouGov research which found that less than a third of English people would feel comfortable about travelling internationally once travel restrictions are lifted.

Approximately 85 percent of consumers said that they would not want to travel to an Amber destination under current guidelines.

Just 33 percent said that they thought travel to a ‘green’ country would be worth it if it meant taking COVID tests before departure and after arrival.

Mr Cooper continued: “Given this, there is too much uncertainty for us to take new bookings with confidence that they will go ahead, or for us to know the potential inconvenience or incremental costs that customers might experience or incur.

“As a result, we have taken the decision to stop selling holidays for this summer until customers have greater clarity and can make more informed booking decisions.”

Mr Cooper added: “Unlike many of our competitors, we have no interest in selling holidays that are unlikely to happen, as our business model enables us to put customers first, rather than needing to get cash in the door to contribute to high fixed costs, and offering refunds in the form of a voucher when holidays get cancelled.

Customers with existing bookings should contact On the Beach for the latest update on their specific journey and to find out the options available to them.

“This is a temporary measure that we will review in line with the next Government announcement,” said Mr Cooper.

“In the meantime, we will focus our efforts on helping and advising our customers who already have bookings of their options to either still go on their holiday, amend their holiday or, where the holiday is cancelled, refunding them in cash within 14 days.”

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “While several holiday companies are encouraging trips to amber list destinations, On the Beach’s decision to remove these from sale reflects the reality that most customers don’t want to travel against government advice.

“It’s also right to warn travellers about the risk of disruption and increased costs this summer.

“Travellers can make up their own minds about whether a holiday is right for them, but only if restrictions and risks are honestly explained to them – and this is often not happening.

“Anyone who is booking a holiday should look for a flexible booking policy that covers them against countries changing from green to amber or red between booking and travel.”

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