On the Beach has started selling holidays again having halted summer bookings earlier this year due to uncertainty around the traffic light system.
The online travel agency will provide customers with free Covid-19 tests for new bookings made before 30 September, after research found the cost of PCR tests was a booking barrier for those wanting to go abroad. On the Beach said the provision of free Covid-19 tests will cost the company in excess of £1 million.
In May, the online travel agency stopped selling holidays during the peak summer season (June to August) as uncertainty and confusion around international leisure travel grew, and the likelihood of disruption for holidaymakers mounted.
It will provide free Covid-19 tests with all bookings made in September for holidays in 2021 to Spain, Greece, the Spanish and Greek Islands and Cyprus. The company said the move has been taken to help remove the financial and administrative barriers of PCR testing as customers acclimatise to the ‘new normal’ of holidaying abroad, and includes both antigen and PCR tests.
To fund the free tests, On the Beach has created a £1.5 million fund dedicated to helping rebuild consumer confidence in travel as part of its commitment to supporting the long-term and sustained return of tourism.
Customers’ tests will be ordered automatically following their holiday booking and delivered a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure, with one antigen test to be taken on holiday prior to return to the UK and one PCR test to be carried out on or before Day 2 following arrival in the UK.
On the Beach has partnered with travel testing provider Collinson to send test kits via tracked delivery. Initially the free tests will be available for those residing in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland only, and for bookings made in September for departures in 2021.
Research conducted by On the Beach found that a third (32%) of people cited the cost of PCR tests as one of the main reasons why they had not booked a holiday for 2021, second only to concerns that the holiday would not go ahead as planned.
A quarter (25%) of people who are not currently planning holidays this year said that free Covid-19 tests would make them more likely to book for 2021.
Overall confidence to book a holiday has increased in recent weeks, with 53%of Brits now feeling confident about booking a holiday for the remainder of 2021. In contrast, a survey conducted by On the Beach in July found that just 34% would consider booking a holiday this year.
On the Beach CEO Simon Cooper said: “We are thrilled to launch this industry-leading offer for our customers and remove the financial burden of PCR testing for holidaymakers as they get to grips with the new normal of holidaying.
“Having carefully monitored the ongoing travel updates, the data at home and in our key destinations, and the sentiment among our customers, we feel that the time is now right to welcome them back to the beach.
“We’re encouraged by the easing of travel restrictions for the fully vaccinated and the rollout of vaccination programmes in the UK and in our most popular destinations. This has also settled the traffic light system in recent weeks. And, whilst demand has a way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels, we are seeing green shoots and a growing appetite amongst consumers to make up for missed summer getaways.
“The financial and administrative implications of PCR testing are still a barrier for many to booking a holiday abroad, and we are therefore delighted to provide free Covid-19 tests to our customers booking in September for holidays this year.”
On the Beach has also launched its New Normal Booking Pledge which aims to reassure customers should their booking be impacted by Covid-19.
Cooper continued: “The traffic light system is likely to be with us for a while longer yet, so our New Normal Booking Pledge offers additional reassurance and transparency to help our customers with their holiday planning, and to help build back their confidence in the travel industry.”