Air chaos bonus?

It’s good to see so many coaches on the roads as spring gives way to summer, with touring having picked up and, as Marksman reports in On Target, even signs of the inbound market recovering.

Tour companies report buoyant overseas sales for events centred around the Platinum Jubilee, Tours International selling out of places on its departures. But in the pre-Covid year of 2019, the UK hosted 41 million inbound visits. This year, VisitBritain predicts 21 million, so well short of where we should be.

It doesn’t help that the systems which connect our island with the outside world are in disarray. The airlines and tour companies hit the headlines last week for last-minute cancellations which left hundreds of holidaymakers stranded at home and abroad.

Allegedly, the airline disruption was being caused by extreme weather at airports elsewhere, preventing aircraft from coming to the UK and meeting the intensive schedules they are on. If that’s the case, air passengers can look forward to more of the same, as extreme weather events are on the rise across the planet.

Personally, I think the airline industry has cut too deep into staffing and is now struggling to recruit, while at the same time setting itself challenging targets. The slightest ripple in a nose-to-tail operation will run right through the system. Now, the airlines have joined road transport industries in asking the government to relax visa rules so they can recruit from abroad.

So where does this leave the coach industry? Undoubtedly holidaymakers will be jittery about booking flight-based holidays until the spectre of these cancellations disappears. Perhaps some sections of the public will be attracted to staycations, having got a taste of them during the pandemic.

Any thoughts of coaches stepping into the breach for short-haul flights must be tempered by the delays at ferryports, which have caused their own problems, and Eurotunnel quadrupling fares. Those problems were, allegedly, caused by the sudden rush to France, and onwards, as restrictions were lifted, but other blame French border officers for being too picky.

It’s definitely going to be a stuttering restart to the broader holiday market but, from what I am seeing at resorts and attractions, the domestic tour market has come back with a bang, as our traditional (i.e. senior) market regains some confidence in travelling. The European touring market may well be back on song this autumn if the numbers booking currently are any guide.

It’s challenging out there for tours, but there’s little doubt that, right now, air travel isn’t flavour of the month. Let’s hope coaches get some of the overspill

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