Europe’s largest travel agency says Omicron is hurting winter bookings

By Walé Azeez, CNN Business

TUI announces an increase Covid-19 infections and the Omicron variant wreaked havoc on winter vacation bookings.

Europe’s largest travel agency said on Wednesday it saw “positive momentum” in bookings, but weakened due to “increased media coverage of the hike [coronavirus] incident rate and the emergence of a new Omicron variant.

The company said if “the current sentiment prevails” it would likely only operate about 60% of its capacity before the pandemic, down from what it had hoped to be. Bookings for this winter were currently at 62% of levels seen in 2018-2019, he added.

“In light of recent trends, capacity will likely shift towards the lower end of our winter capacity plans between 60% and 80%. We expect the current short-term booking behavior to continue, ”TUI said in its annual report..

Covid-19 infections have increased in some of TUI’s most important markets. Germany on Wednesday recorded its highest number of daily deaths from Covid-19 since February, as it struggles to bring a fourth wave of the pandemic under control.

In the UK, pressure is mounting on the government to introduce tougher restrictions in an attempt to limit infections amid rising cases. The seven-day moving average on November 29 was over 45,000, the highest since a peak around October 17.

The travel industry had seemed to rebound in recent months, after nearly two years of huge losses – until the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was discovered in South Africa in November.

Now several countries, including the United States, have banned flights from southern African countries and introduced stricter conditions for passengers. These measures threaten the recovery of the travel industry. United States had only recently opened the country to vaccinated visitors, after a ban of nearly 20 months. Airline stocks recover in preparation for the move earlier this month.

TUI is not alone. British Airways from IAG canceled 2,144 flights between December and the end of March 2022 due to the pandemic, according to a new study from aviation analysis firm Cirium. The airline canceled 1146 january flights last week, Cirium said.

British Airways told CNN Business that the itinerary the reductions were not a reaction to the Omicron variant in particular, but were part of an 18-month review of all flights.

“Like other airlines, due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic, we are operating a reduced and aggressive schedule,” the company said in a statement.

EasyJet also said last month it saw “some slowdown in trade” for the first quarter of next year.

Julia Horowitz and Marnie Hunter contributed to this article.

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