Europe's summer time has come, says TUI, the world's largest vacation firm

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen from outside the TUI travel center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Harpenden, United Kingdom, on March 24, 2021. REUTERS / Paul Childs

By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – TUI Group, the world's largest vacation company, anticipated a strong holiday season in 2021 and stuck to a plan to run 75% of its pre-pandemic capacity as rising vaccination levels mean Europe will be open to travel Summer.

However, the ongoing restrictions and uncertainty of COVID-19 have so far curbed the expected surge in demand for travel. TUI said there were a total of 2.6 million bookings this summer, 69% less than at this time of year 2019.

TUI, which took 23 million people on vacation annually before the pandemic, was disappointed with the limited reopening of travel in the UK, which is one of the two largest markets alongside Germany.

The UK said people could travel to Portugal without quarantining themselves, but kept some of TUI's most popular destinations such as Spain and Greece off the green list of low risk destinations.

However, TUI said it expects these destinations to open in the next few weeks and that demand has picked up recently and new bookings have doubled since April.

"We are now at the beginning of the expected restart. The anticipation is palpable, these are opportunities for tourism and for TUI," said managing director Fritz Joussen in a statement.

Since the pandemic hit Europe last February, Germany-based TUI has been hammered and relies on several federal government bailouts to survive.

TUI reported on Wednesday on the results for the half-year ended March 31, 2021 and announced that the EBIT loss on revenues, which fell by 89% to 716 million euros, fell to 1.3 billion euros.

($ 1 = 0.8249 euros)

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