Holidays to be close to normal despite Covid-19, TUI chief says
British tourists can expect to experience “90% of normality” as flights and holidays restart for the UK’s biggest tour operator.
Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI UK and Northern Ireland, said holidaymakers would need to be prepared for some changes as operations gradually begin again, but he was confident they would enjoy their trips.
Starting this weekend, the company will run a limited number of flights and holidays to the Spanish destinations of Ibiza, Lanzarote, Palma and Tenerife.
While new British quarantine rules mean travellers will no longer need to self-isolate when returning to or visiting the UK from certain countries, there are still foreign coronavirus regulations to consider.
From Monday, the Balearic Government has ruled that face masks must be worn on its islands at all times apart from at beaches, swimming pools and while doing sports activities.
Anyone breaking the rule in public spaces risks receiving a 100 euro fine.
Travellers arriving to Ibiza have to fill in health check forms ahead of arrival and will have their temperature screened at the airport.
The 90% or the 85% of the normality of your holiday is going to be there
Mr Flintham acknowledge peopled will need to observe local rules but will still “be able to enjoy the major amenities and the things that you really, really want”.
He said: “The 90% or the 85% of the normality of your holiday is going to be there.”
Under Covid-19 related changes, travellers can expect to see TUI flight cabin crew wearing masks and gloves while in the air as well as providing sachets of hand gel to passengers.
Current flight service on planes, that are regularly deep cleaned, does not include hot food or duty free, while QR codes will allow customers to access absent flight literature.
Passengers will be encouraged to check in online, refrain from moving around during flights and limit carry-on luggage to one small item.
Ben Campbell, a 25-year-old cabin crew member at TUI, said he was “really excited” to return to work for the first time since March.
“For me as a crew member this is probably the longest I’ve been in the UK for about six years, so it’s been strange for me,” he said.
Mr Campbell said colleagues were “really prepared” to run flights, but acknowledged “people need to be aware that things are going to take a bit longer”.
“Things like disembarking, that’s going to be a little bit slower. People might have to bear with us a little bit more.”
TUI intends to fill as many seats on its flights as possible and believes a combination of cleaning, staggered boarding, air filters and face masks makes them safe.
Richard Sofer, commercial business development director, said TUI followed European Union Aviation Safety Agency recommendations and that travellers “understand there’s a little bit of risk”.
He argued that there was no evidence that “leaving a seat in the middle is giving you any protection”.
“The recommendation is if you can’t social distance, you’re wearing masks.”
He added: “You are at no more risk than if you’re on a public bus.”
At hotels, where pools are open, customers can expect to see social distancing markers, no buffet service, outdoor entertainment only and socially distanced sunbeds and restaurant tables.
Helen Cooke, TUI’s resort team manager for Ibiza and Formentera, said local communities were “100%” ready to welcome tourists back.
A resident of Ibiza for 23 years she added: “I live and work on this island and I think everyone has a responsibility to take precautions.”
She continued: “A healthy little bit of caution is probably a good thing to maintain the safety of the island.”
But Ms Cooke warned Ibiza “would not survive without some form of tourism”, with people “glad” that the island was “moving again”.
She highlighted that some local Covid-19 restrictions meant large clubs could not open, but bars with terraces were serving socially distanced customers.
Under the Balearic Government’s sanction regime venues risk receiving fines of up to 600,000 euro for breaches of capacity limits that seriously affect the health of more than 150 people.
Ms Cooke said: “100% this island wants to welcome tourism, there isn’t one local businessman who isn’t chomping at the bit and raring to go”.
TUI intends to run flights from London’s Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham airports between July 11 and 24, carrying up to 12,500 customers on holiday on up to 60 flights.
Further airports, including Bristol, Glasgow, Newcastle and London’s Stansted will begin running flights to Turkey, Greece and more Spanish destinations in the coming weeks.
It has also announced it will cover various coronavirus-related costs for customers travelling throughout the remainder of the year.
Some of the items covered include overseas testing for suspected cases, extended stays and new flights home if someone is asked to self-isolate while on holiday.