It comes after changes to testing rules for UK arrivals have been announced
Travel firms are anticipating a surge of summer holiday bookings this weekend, with one company predicting it will be the busiest two-day period in its history.
Demand has been high in recent days after Monday’s announcement that coronavirus testing for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK will be dropped from February 11.
But holiday sales are expected to increase dramatically this weekend as it follows the first pay day after Christmas for millions of workers.
Simon Cooper, chief executive of online travel giant On the Beach – which launched in 2004, said he believes the coming days will be “the busiest we’ve ever been in our history”.
He added: “We would expect it to be a bumper weekend, with people who’ve been researching holidays all the way through the month jumping on and booking.
“The overall volume has been warming up through the month.”
Scrapping the requirement for fully vaccinated arrivals to take a pre-departure test earlier this month sparked the rise in demand.
Mr Cooper said he believes the number of people going on foreign holidays this summer will be “as big, if not bigger” than before the pandemic.
The Greek islands, Turkey and Dubai are among the destinations selling strongly.
Bookings for Spain are “lagging behind where they should be” because the country’s requirement for all arrivals aged over 12 to be fully vaccinated is putting many families off, Mr Cooper explained.
The UK’s biggest tour operator, Tui, predicted this will be its busiest weekend for bookings since the pandemic began.
Chief marketing officer Katie McAlister said renewed confidence is “releasing pent-up demand for sunshine holidays”.
She added: “Appetite to travel is stronger than ever and customers who may not have been abroad for more than two years are now taking advantage of flexible booking and payment options, as well as some excellent deals, to book a well-deserved summer break.”
Luxury travel company Kuoni is also anticipating a busy weekend, with popular destinations including the Maldives, Mauritius, the Caribbean, Africa, Italy and Greece.
Sales director Helen Roberts said sales have been “steadily building” in recent weeks, and the firm has produced lots of quotes for “bucket list” holidays.
“The easing of testing measures combined with a January pay day means lots of people will be ready to press the book button this weekend,” she said.
“Many of our customers haven’t been away for two years or more and are ready to splash out and have a holiday of a lifetime to look forward to.
“Our stores have got appointments lined up over the weekend and our call centre is buzzing with calls already – it’s the moment our travel experts have been waiting for.”
Paul Charles, boss of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said many people will book trips this weekend as they “realise they need something to look forward to”.
He continued: “Airlines, hotels and tour operators are seeing booking levels returning and I’m expecting summer 2022 to be the busiest ever for overseas trips as consumers spend after two years of mostly being locked down.”
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren announced on Thursday that the easing of coronavirus restrictions means the UK is “leading on bookings versus Europe for the first time since spring 2020”.
The low-cost airline plans to operate its largest number of summer flights between the UK and beach destinations this year.