It has just been announced that soon travellers returning to the United Kindgom will no longer need to take any tests on their return. For travellers and the travel industry, this is wonderful news! One of the biggest barriers to people booking holidays has been lifted, so now is the time to look back at the last two years and what it’s been like for Balkan Holidays, our partners and of course, our customers.
In January 2020, we began to hear about a virus looming overseas. At the time we didn’t give it too much thought, but it soon spread quickly across the world and by the last week of our 2019/20 ski season, we had to fly our clients home early. At the same time, our summer 2020 bookings slowed down to almost nothing and in late March, the country was suddenly locked down. So we were, very few bookings being made, uncertainty concerning the summer season, hotels and planes to fill or to keep busy if there were no tourists from the UK to Bulgaria, so many questions, but there were no answers.
Concerning Balkan Holidays UK staff, some of us were put on full-time furlough or reduced working hours, some of us kept working full time from home, and unfortunately, others were made redundant. Our office is based in Conduit Street in central London, we are quite a small team made up of people from all over Europe including the UK, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania and Lithuania to name a few and we work very well together, so for some of us to be made redundant was hard for everyone, but of course especially hard for those who lost their jobs. Our resort staff, which is mainly our reps, faced uncertainty too, but we are pleased to say many found work in the hotels on the Black Sea Coast.
No sooner had all this happened than we had to decide whether or not to operate the first part of the summer season. In reflection, it was unlikely to happen, so we made the difficult decision to cancel flights up until mid-July. We informed our customers, who were very supportive, most agreed to rebook for the next season. Others wanted to cancel with a full refund, which we did. This process brought us closer to our customers, who were very supportive and kept faith in us, and we will always be extremely grateful for this.
Not long after, we had to cancel the rest of the summer 2020 season. Who would have thought we wouldn’t operate a single flight or holiday during that summer? As we continued towards the winter ski season of 2020/21, the situation got worse. Unfortunately, as winter arrived, it was clear there was no way we could operate a ski season, especially with the country going into a second full lockdown in December. So again, we had to inform our ski customers, who, like our summer customers, luckily kept faith in us, and many decided to move their winter ski holiday to the following season.
By now, we are in early 2021, we hadn't operated any fights for nearly a year. We thought surely we could operate a summer season. January and February are traditionally good months for summer bookings, but unfortunately, there were very few bookings, just a handful. We were now experiencing a serious case of déjà vu, and in April of 2021, we had to start cancelling the first part of our summer 2021 season. This pandemic had now claimed two summers and one winter season. How long would this continue? That was the question everyone was asking…. We ended up cancelling the rest of the summer 2021 season, but with the vaccination programme, there was hope for a good winter ski season. To be honest, our early bookings were okay, but nothing like they were pre-pandemic, but we decided to continue with the full programme.
We have been rewarded with excellent booking volumes, thanks again to our wonderful customers and some fantastic skiing conditions. It looks like this season will be a very good one - we are all certainly due for one! We now look to summer 2022, our early bookings are very good with people wanting to get away on holiday after two lost summers. We're hoping this summer will be the best one yet! We look forward to being of service to you in booking your winter ski and summer holidays this year.
FYI, our Valentine's Summer Sale is on now!