“We are seeing a sudden spike in demand with many making late bookings as they plan their holiday within a few weeks,” said Iain Tonna, president of the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents Malta (FATTA).
He said that bookings through travel agencies this summer have returned to 85 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
Enquiries and bookings are varied, mostly from couples, small groups of friends and families with children. Older people are a little more cautious but their bookings are increasing gradually too, he said.
Tonna said that, while the surge was encouraging, there is still no guarantee it will last as it depends on external factors such as the pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war.
But, as things stand, even though the number of COVID cases has been on the increase, people appear to want to seize the window of opportunity to take a long-awaited vacation out of the island.
The most popular destinations remain Italian resorts, including Sicily, and the UK, followed by countries where there is a direct flight, like Turkey and Slovenia.
Some are also opting for long-haul flights – to destinations that include Asia, the Maldives, Africa and the Americas – with many making use of deposits they had made on holidays that had to be postponed.
One of the biggest issues faced by holidaymakers planning a getaway is the lack of flight availability and the spiralling cost of flights.
There is also a backlog at Identity Malta caused by the sudden rush of people needing to renew passports. Identity Malta has announced that it has extended opening hours to address this demand.
But, at a time when people can research and book their own holidays online, Tonna says that people find a sense of reassurance when booking through travel agencies.
“I believe people are booking through travel agencies as they feel more secure about getting updated information on specific travel requirements in various destinations and also they may feel more secure in getting assistance in case of late changes (such as a cancellation or retiming of flights, changes in destination entry and travel requirements etc.),” he said.
“People also feel their prepayments and rights are more protected under the package travel directive, particularly in the case of insolvency.
“Nonetheless, online booking is still very popular, too, and we estimate that the growth in that market mirrors the growth in bookings through travel agents,” Tonna added.