A travel boss has just returned from a fact finding mission to the Costa del Sol to allay customers’ fears about holidaying in Spain.
According to Don Bircham and his wife, Ruth, who run Wrexham-based Hays Travel North West which has branches across North Wales and the North West, they had a “brilliant time”.
The couple flew with Ryan Air from Manchester to Malaga for a week in the popular resort of Cala de Mijas, half way between Fuengirola and Marbella.
It was in many ways, said Don, the best possible time to go on holiday to Spain where everywhere was open but the beaches, restaurants and bars were a bit quieter than they’d be at this time of the year in normal times.
The experience gave Don renewed confidence the industry will bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.
Last year the couple celebrated 20 years in the business and said the fact Hays Travel was a successful stable business would stand them in good stead.
All of the company’s 44 branches are now open and Don said bookings are starting to increase again with pent up demand from customers who were desperate for a break in the sun after a nightmare year and a half caused by the Covid pandemic.
Bookings were particularly strong for winter breaks and holidays next year, although more and more customers were after summer holidays.
Don said: “The trip to Cala de Mijas was a recce or a fact finding mission to establish what things are really like, from the point of view of travelling and the experience in the resort.
“I am happy to report I can allay all concerns and that my wife and I had a wonderful holiday right from the word go.
“Contrary to the rumours stories going around about queues at airports I thought it would be a good idea to find out myself exactly what it’s like.
“The reality was unbelievably fantastic from start to finish. It was a really simple process throughout – at the airport, on the aircraft in the resort and the journey home
“I can tell people hand on heart that I’ve done it myself and I can thoroughly recommend it. I’ve been there, done that and got the Spanish T shirt.
“All my staff at Hays Travel are delighted because they are able to reassure our customers that they’re going to have a great holiday.
“To give yourself complete piece of mind you should always book an ATOL protected package holiday with a reputable high street travel agent and ensure you have covid holiday insurance.”
The outbound trip was, said Don, perfectly straight forward with all the shop and duty free section at Manchester Airport open.
The only difference was that everybody was wearing masks but other than that the experience had been smooth and trouble-free.
Don added: “My wife and I were wearing masks but we’re all used to that now – that’s the new normal.
“Food and drink was served on the plane as normal so you could sip your gin and tonic or whatever else took your fancy.
“After landing, it could not have been simpler. You now have to have your passport stamped because we’re non-EU now but that’s nothing to do with Covid – that would be the case anyway.
“Just at the point where you come out of the airport, they take your declaration form off you, scan it and off you go.
“It’s so much quieter and easier out there now. In the resort, you wear a mask indoors – but no bars in restaurants or bars on the beach.
“Coming back was the journey we were most concerned about because you have to have the Covid test in resort but it is so simple. You can be tested in pharmacies and clinics.
“You just need to make sure you get your timing right because the test has to be done within 72 hours of your journey home.
“After having the test, we sat back in the waiting room and the result came back in 15 minutes. We were given a print out of the result and also sent an email so we had a backup on our phone.
“At the airport, they check that you have had the 50 Euro test in resort and that you have the test, costing £49, booked and waiting for you at home when you return. They also check your passenger locator form.
“Coming back was just so incredibly simple and when you got the gate the staff just checked you’d got your double vaccination, you present your boarding pass as normal.
“Everybody has been talking about three or four hour delays at Manchester so I decided to time it.
“We were straight down the stairs, straight to passport control, through the electronic gate as normal. We only had hand luggage so we were straight through.
“From walking off the aircraft to get into my driver’s seat in the car took just 19 minutes.
“After all the silly rumours, I’ve heard I was just gobsmacked how easy it all was.
“It’s actually a really good time to go to Spain on holiday because airports are quieter, resorts are quieter.
“In Spain everywhere is open, the bars, restaurants and coffee shops are all open and the service is even more attentive than usual because it is a bit quieter. Who would have a problem with that?”