The rise of the staycation is a perennial story. In the past five years, heatwaves, Brexit, the weak pound, overseas terrorist attacks and, more recently, the climate crisis have all boosted UK holiday bookings. This year, coronavirus looks set to do the same as British travellers swap holidays abroad for a break closer to home.
Figures released on 4 March by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that January saw the lowest monthly increase in global airline passengers since 2010, when the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud led to massive airspace closures and flight cancellations. Demand for flights increased by just 2.4% compared with January 2019, where year-on-year growth had been 4.6%.
“January was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the traffic impacts we are seeing owing to the Covid-19 outbreak, given that major travel restrictions in China did not begin until 23 January. Nevertheless, it was still enough to cause our slowest traffic growth in nearly a decade,” said IATA chief executive Alexandre de Juniac.
Global travel companies are already feeling the negative impact of coronavirus: Booking Holdings (which owns booking.com, priceline.com, kayak.com, cheapflights and momondo.com, among others), is predicting a 15% drop in total bookings in 2020. But UK tourism businesses are reporting a rise of up to 40% in traffic to their websites.
“For the period 1 January to 24 February 2020, we are, on average, 40% up on web visitors compared with the same period in the previous year,” said Steve Jarvis, owner of Independent Cottages. “Initial analysis of the most recent enquiries is that they appear to all be domestic – overseas enquiries have reduced significantly.”
The Italian government has announced it is making available 7,5 billion of euros to help families and companies, as parents are struggling to cope with the decision to close all schools nationwide until 15 March.
Italy grapples to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus, which so far has claimed 107 lives.
Rome on Thursday revealed that is evaluating the possibility of providing support to families, including reimbursements for the baby-sitter costs and unpaid leaves of absence from work.
“We should not assume that people are home using up holiday pay or paid leave,” Elena Bonetti, minister of family affairs, told Radio Capital.
The Scottish government has not raised the country’s coronavirus alert status from contain to delay, unlike health chiefs in England and Wales, because the number and type of Covid-19 cases are not yet significant enough.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, said on Thursday morning the number of confirmed cases in Scotland had doubled overnight to six after three people came into contact with the three previous Covid-19 patients.
By 2pm on Thursday, there had been 1,250 negative tests according to the first bulletin in a series which ministers in Edinburgh said will be published at 2pm every day.
Scottish government officials said there was not yet evidence in Scotland of community transmission involving patients not in direct contact with known carriers or a sufficiently high infection rate to raise the alert from its lowest status, containment, up a step to delay.
The delay phase is focused on slowing the virus’s spread through the wider community, and could involve banning or delaying large scale public events, to buy time for medical supplies to be built up and reduce the risks of the coronavirus coinciding with the peak occurrence of routine winter illnesses.
Officials said they expected that to change a matter of hours or days. “We’re under no illusion that it’s only a matter of a short period of time before we move it to ‘delay’,” said a government spokeswoman.