THE re-opening of the USA's borders to fully-vaccinated UK travellers has helped Swindon travel agents recover from the pandemic's challenges.

The last 18 months have been tough for the tourism industry as lockdowns came and went, border closures varied, and the government's red and amber travel lists caused confusion.

Sue Sheppard manages Astral Travel on Cricklade Road, which has been arranging holidays for people in the town for more than 25 years.

She said: "It has been really bad but hopefully things will now improve, week by week, provided we don't get another lockdown, onwards and upwards.

"It's been rather tough through the lockdowns because no-one could or wanted to go anywhere, it was disastrous but we hung in there and now hope for better times.

"More people are booking holidays in places like the Canary Islands and the USA for next year, which is encouraging."

Claire Waldron runs Highworth Travel and is similarly encouraged by the first flights to and from the USA taking off for the first time in 600 days.

A total of 3,688 flights are scheduled to operate between the countries this month, according to travel data firm Cirium.

She said: "We have been getting USA bookings ready for a few weeks now because we knew the ban was being lifted - though, for trips in the near future, we held off on them until the US government confirmed the details last week.

"Bookings are definitely picking up. Like everywhere else, there are requirements for people travelling to America. People are booking holidays and then getting a bit worried afterwards but we're here to reassure them and provide the information they need.

"Most holidays are being booked a few months in advance.

"The requirements will still be here for the foreseeable future but if people are happy to comply with them, they can get away and enjoy themselves.

"We hope the number of new cases still don't carry on rising and that other countries don't close their borders to us."

Thousands of new coronavirus cases are still being confirmed in the UK each day along with around 100 deaths of people who tested positive for the disease.

The government has played down the possibility of another lockdown and urged people to book a booster jab for their Covid-19 vaccine if possible.