The summer holidays are not over yet, but travel agencies and their clients are already thinking about trips to warm countries in the winter season. The two leading tour operators already have tens of thousands of bookings.
There was no such great interest even before the pandemic. Tourists are not discouraged by high inflation. They don’t skimp on money. They are also not afraid of the coronavirus. From the financial side, you can fully protect yourself against it.
More European countries are recording a surge in coronavirus cases during the summer holidays. In Germany or Italy, tens of thousands of cases are diagnosed daily. There have been several thousand infections in Poland in recent days and it is unlikely to end there, because we are on an upward wave.
Doctors warn that autumn may bring further spikes in the disease, but also new variants of the coronavirus. As a result, winter will probably be marked by an increased number of patients. The possible return of restrictions and lockdowns will depend on the number of hospitalizations and mortality.
It seems that Poles are not afraid of the re-closing of borders or the return of restrictions. At least, this does not prevent tourists from planning trips abroad in the winter season. Top tour operators point to a three-digit increase in bookings compared to last year and a return to record-breaking pre-pandemic results.
Going for the winter trips record
– As of July 31, the number of bookings for the “winter 2022/2023” season was record-breaking at Rainbow . However, it is worth remembering that half of the events are booked and bought six weeks before departure, so the peak of interest will occur when you return from vacation – Maciej Szczechura, member of the management board of Rainbow Tours, indicates in an interview.
By the end of July, 28,472 Rainbow customers booked a trip from November 2022 to March 2023. Compared to the same period last year, this means almost 150% increase. Also in relation to the pre-sale from the record-breaking 2019, the current bookings are 37.5 percent more.
A direct competitor can boast of similar statistics. The information provided to us by the Itaka travel agency shows that compared to the previous year, the number of bookings for the winter season increased by over 130%, and in terms of value (in terms of turnover) the progress is nearly 150%.
With regard to the “winter 2018/19”, which, like the summer season in 2019, was one of Ithaca’s better seasons, the company records a similar number of bookings, but with an amount of over 30% bigger.
The most frequently chosen directions
Where are the record numbers of bookings coming from? Experts indicate that two factors determine the volume of sales: demand and supply.
– Customers are eager for trips through the period of the greatest pandemic restrictions, and we have prepared a record-breaking program for the winter season. This year, for example, our clients will fly from Gdańsk overseas for the first time – comments Maciej Szczechura.
He adds that paradoxically, exotic trips have gained popularity in the pandemic. People were fed up with being locked in their homes, and when much of the world was inaccessible, the Dreamliners were fully occupied, especially in destinations where there were no pandemic restrictions.
– It looks like this year there will be an open part of Asia, where we are strong, and this should also translate into final sales results – he emphasises.
Last year’s most popular destinations at Rainbow were: Cancun (Mexico), Puerto Plata (Dominican Republic), Hurghada (Egypt), Varadero (Cuba), Marsa Alam (Egypt), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Mombasa (Kenya), Fuertaventura, Tenerife (Spain) and Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt). This year they will be joined by Bangkok, Phuket (Thailand) and Phu Quoc (Vietnam).
– Little changes in the ranking of “classic” destinations popular in the winter season. As usual, Poles choose to spend their holidays in Egypt en masse, Spain and the Canary Islands ranks high, as well as Portuguese Madeira, admits Piotr Henicz, vice president of Itaka Holdings and deputy head of the Polish Chamber of Tourism, in an interview.
He adds that the directions conventionally called exotic have an increasing share in the winter season. Ithaca customers eagerly choose Oman , and apart from the beaches of Salalah, the Muscat area was enthusiastically received.
– Zanzibar, Maldives and Cape Verde are still favourite exotic destinations . We strongly focus on Madagascar – enumerates Henicz.
How much money will we spend on trips?
Despite the rapidly rising prices and the ubiquitous high prices, Poles planning winter trips to warm countries do not spare money.
– A trend that is very clearly marked since the lockdown in 2020 is the clear advantage of top-shelf hotels. Not only four-star, but also five-star. Apart from inflation and rising flight costs, this is the main factor contributing to the dynamic increase in turnover year on year, admits the vice president of Itaka.
In turn, the vice president of Rainbow notes that about 8 percent leave travel agencies. Poles and it is a relatively richer part of society. Inflation affects their home budgets to a lesser extent.
– Of course, the customers are very different. Statistically, more people are looking for cheaper options, such as going to Egypt for 3,000 PLN, but there are also those who spend over 10 thousand PLN per person for a five-star hotel in Mexico – says Szczechura.
How to protect your trip against the coronavirus?
A dream exotic vacation when it is gray and cold in Poland may be spoiled by the next wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Even if it is not possible to carry out the trip or we fall ill, we can get back all the money paid. The tour operators themselves are also secured against such an eventuality.
When the travel agency cancels the trip, the customer will get a 100% refund paid money. Or, she or he can choose a replacement party elsewhere. It is worth noting that in 2020 customers, due to the special act, had to wait up to 180 days for the refund. Now the offices make settlements with clients almost immediately.
What if one of the participants of the planned trip becomes ill or is in quarantine? The solution is insurance offered by travel agencies prepared by insurance companies.
These are additionally payable options, but at the cost of the event at the level of e.g. 10 thousand PLN, several hundred PLN for the insurance it is not a particularly heavy burden. Most customers choose this expense.
Travel agencies are prepared
What about the security of the tour operators themselves? Itaka emphasises that it is a company with solid financial security that guarantees liquidity. It also points to an effective and extensive customer security system for European countries, which includes the Insurance Guarantee, the Tourist Guarantee Fund and the Tourist Assistance Fund.