‘Real desire for travel’ seen by airlines and ferry operator

A STRONG demand for travel is being reported by Channel Island airlines.

CEO of Aurigny Nico Bezuidenhout. (29280278)
CEO of Aurigny Nico Bezuidenhout. (29280278)

So far, authorities have ruled out producing a road map to show when border restrictions could be eased, but there have been calls from the travel industry for more clear guidance so they can prepare.

One deputy has claimed that the island’s borders would open in August, but this has been denied.

Condor Ferries has already put its cards on the table asking for both Channel Islands to put forward plans for their exits from lockdown to boost confidence in the travel industry, and now Aurigny and Blue Islands have responded.

All three have reported an increase in interest following Monday’s announcement by the UK government that international travel could resume mid-May.

‘We watch with interest how the pandemic ebbs and flows and it is certainly encouraging to see the volume of infections coming down on the island,’ said Aurigny chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout, who said there was a ‘real desire for travel’ with ‘pent-up demand’ for both personal and business reasons reaching ‘unprecedented levels’.

‘This is indeed a necessary and welcome first step to normality and our appreciation goes out to the Guernsey authorities and residents for getting us here.’

He said they continued to closely monitor how the pandemic affected other jurisdictions, especially those on the island’s route map and continued to look for opportunities in the short term, including air bridges to safe destinations, such as the successful Isle of Man link last year.

They understood that different locations might develop pandemic emergence plans at different rates and in different forms.

‘Whilst these plans provide cause for optimism, it remains important to note the fundamental caveat that underscore any pandemic-related recovery plan: the overriding need to, in practice, have an environment that is safe for our employees, our passengers and the communities in which we operate,’ added Mr Bezuidenhout.

The UK government’s plan for exiting lockdown shows international travel could happen from 17 May.

Deputy Charles Parkinson, former president of Economic Development, tweeted that he had it ‘on senior authority’ that the Guernsey’s borders would be open by 1 August.

It led deputy chief minister of Guernsey, Heidi Soulsby, to reply that no decision had been made. ‘If we see prevalence rates in the UK go right down and we get vaccine rolled out to all adults by end July restrictions should ease considerably,’ she said. ‘The hard bit is deciding when to start easing off and how.’

Blue Islands CEO Rob Veron was optimistic that travel would resume this summer, boosting Channel Island travel.

‘While exact dates are still to be confirmed of the planned easing of restrictions we have seen a significant increase in website visitors and bookings,’ he said.

‘This is indicative of the pent-up demand we are expecting to see as travel restrictions begin to ease and confidence to book returns.’

Guernsey and Jersey being in the Common Travel Area should mean fewer restrictions compared to international destinations once local controls were lifted.

The hope being that reuniting with loved ones, missed celebrations, or a relaxing summer break would soon be possible.

Condor has seen traffic to its website grow by 46% in the past 24 hours, particularly for travel to the islands from the UK.

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