Travel companies have reported their biggest Saturday sales ever as bargain hunters rushed to book before a ‘traffic light system’ letting Britons go on holiday to the safest destinations without having to quarantine is unveiled on Wednesday and comes into force on July 6.
The partial dismantling of Priti Patel’s quarantine scheme means UK holidaymakers will be able to return home without having to self-isolate for 14 days. The Foreign Office will also lift its advice against ‘all but essential travel’ to low or medium-risk destinations, making it possible to obtain travel insurance.
Spain-holiday.com, the third biggest holiday rental site in Spain, said it had a record-breaking Saturday morning while TUI, Britain’s leading tour operator, reported a rise of 50 per cent in bookings compared to last week.
Tour operators were yesterday offering record discounts of up to 70 per cent for trips to France, Spain, Italy and Greece. The changes will also let foreign tourists visit the UK, giving a boost to the beleaguered hospitality sector.
Head of International Brands at Spain-holiday.com Peter Jarvis said: ‘We’re already seeing a huge increase in online interest in our holiday homes from the UK market, with pool properties being the most popular (up 104 per cent).
‘Vigilance is absolutely still needed but with sensible precautions on either end we are confident we will see a safe summer in the sun for Brits again this year.’
Under the traffic light system, drawn up by the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England and set to be in place by July 6, countries will be rated green, amber or red based on coronavirus infection levels, the reliability of official data and confidence in test and trace systems.
The automatic 14-day quarantine requirement will remain only for ‘red-rated’ countries such as the US and Brazil. Travel between ‘green’ and ‘amber’ countries will be quarantine-free, but passengers will have to fill in a ‘locator form’ to trace their movements.
‘Green’ countries include Austria, Croatia, Greece and Germany while ‘Amber’ countries include France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain. It is hoped an agreement will be reached with Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks to add them to the list of ‘green’ countries.
Travel companies have reported their biggest Saturday sales ever as bargain hunters rushed to book before a ‘traffic light system’ is unveiled on Wednesday (pictured: beaches are jam-packed on the beach of Calella in Barcelona on June 20)
Under a traffic light system (above), countries will be rated green, amber or red based on infection levels, the reliability of official data and confidence in test and trace systems
Managing Director of TUI UK & Ireland Andrew Flintham said: ‘We’re pleased the Government has finally confirmed that holidays overseas will be able to go ahead, and the full list of green and amber destinations will be released on Wednesday.
‘It’s a hugely positive step forward for the travel industry and I know our customers will be ecstatic that their summer is saved.
‘We’ve already seen bookings increase by 50 per cent this week, verses last, with holidays to Spain and Greece looking the most popular this summer. We know there were a lot of people hoping to travel and waiting for certainty that would be possible.’
Spain-holiday.com, the third biggest holiday rental site in Spain, said it had a 42 per cent surge in bookings – 24 per cent higher than any previous Saturday.
Mr Jarvis said: ‘So we would advise anyone who fancies falling back in love with Spanish paella, beaches and sangria this year to move fast.’
Tour operators were yesterday offering deep discounts to lure travellers abroad. A family of four can save well over £500 on headline prices to Greece.
Emma Coulthurst, of the holiday comparison site Travelsupermarket, said: ‘There are prices as low as £140 per person for a week to Corfu in September and around £200 for a week in the Mediterranean in August. This is unheard of.
‘For the height of summer in August, there are definitely some of the best prices on offer which we’ve seen. With talk of high demand and prices for holidays in the UK, it seems it is currently cheaper to book a holiday abroad than at home.’
TUI, Britain’s leading tour operator, is offering as much as 68 per cent off breaks to Europe and Trailfinders is offering reductions of a third on villas that would usually have been booked up months ago.
Countries across the world are highlighted in green, amber or red based on the infection levels, the reliability of official data and confidence in test and trace systems
The partial dismantling of Priti Patel’s quarantine scheme means UK holidaymakers will be able to return home without having to self-isolate for 14 days (pictured, people enjoy the warm weather at the beach in Barcelona)
Chairman Mike Gooley said: ‘Bookings made now are benefiting from huge discounts.’
Downing Street warned it was ready to apply a ‘handbrake’ at short notice – meaning families could find the quarantine rules reinstated while they are abroad if there is an outbreak in the country they are visiting.
All travellers returning to the UK will have to provide contact details in case an outbreak is traced to their flight and they have to self-isolate. Failure to comply could result in a £1,000 fine.
And they will have to follow social-distancing measures on flights and ferries, including wearing face coverings.
How will flights look different?
Socially-distanced queues at check-in and security.
Passengers must wear masks throughout the flight, including children.
There will be temperature checks on arrival.
Passengers will fill out contact tracing forms and give their holiday address and home address.
A detailed list of travel corridor destinations will be finalised next week but sources said it would include the most popular Mediterranean hotspots.
Portugal is in doubt following an outbreak in Lisbon that has led to the imposition of a curfew. Sweden will not be included and Turkey is also ‘doubtful’.
Despite being touted by the Government as a country which could benefit from the new arrangements in little over a week’s time, Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis indicated it could be up to three weeks before his country was happy to open up unrestricted travel with the UK.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I feel the way things are now – and we always have to put this asterisk that the health situation has to continue to be on the same track as it is now – that we can certainly lift the restrictions in the next few days or, you know, two to three weeks.’ Long-haul flights will be possible provided that any transit country is also deemed safe.
The moves pave the way for foreign holidays this summer, with travel corridors set to be in place by July 6.
A Government spokesman said last night: ‘Our new risk-assessment system will enable us to carefully open a number of safe travel routes around the world – giving people the opportunity for a summer holiday abroad and boosting the UK economy through tourism and business.
‘But we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if any risks re-emerge, and this system will enable us to take swift action to re-introduce self-isolation measures if new outbreaks occur overseas.’
Jonathan Smith from the Association of British Travel Agents welcomed the move, telling the Today programme: ‘I think this is incredibly welcome news for the travel industry which has had a very difficult time these past few weeks and months and will encourage people to book and allow them to enjoy a summer holiday.’
But he warned travel firms still faced going bust with the huge numbers of redundancies seen in recent months set to continue.
He added: ‘What is important now is that travel agents and operators have the opportunity to restart their businesses and the sector can start to recover because they have been having an incredibly difficult time.
‘There have been many redundancies and firms have been unfortunately made bankrupt and that will continue to be the case for some time before we see a proper recovery.’
A Whitehall source acknowledged many families ‘may not choose to travel’ this summer.
The air corridor scheme raises questions about the initial decision to press ahead with a blanket quarantine regime that has been in place only since June 8.
The plan, which was championed by Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings and Home Secretary Ms Patel, led to an immediate backlash from Tory MPs and the travel industry.
Since June 8, all passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – have been required to go into self-isolation for a fortnight at a declared address when they arrive in the UK.
Those who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, and police are allowed to use ‘reasonable force’ to make sure they follow the rules.
The International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) branded the blanket quarantine measures ‘illogical’ and budget airline Ryanair labelled them ‘idiotic rubbish’.
Paul Charles, from pressure group Quash Quarantine, also hit out at the policy delays, telling the Sun: ‘The Government has abandoned air bridges for this traffic-light system. This symbolises the made-up policy, lack of visibility and a lack of clarity, which is hurting our industry.
‘Why are decisions being pushed back further? July is ebbing away in terms of bookings, half the summer is gone, and the longer this goes on there will inevitably be more job losses.’
But with Home Secretary Priti Patel promising to review the restrictions every three weeks, the Government has signalled that the quarantine will be lifted for a host of destinations in time for the holiday season.
Under the change all Britons will have to supply an address and a telephone number on their return, enabling them to be tracked and told to self-isolate in the event of an outbreak at their holiday destination.
Spain’s tourism leaders says all hopes are pinned on UK’s crucial decisions on safe corridors and quashing quarantine
By Rita Sobot
Spain says its tourist season this summer is hanging on a knife-edge as the holiday industry awaits the UK’s decision on air corridors and the lifting of its 14-day quarantine for Brits returning from abroad.
Turespana, the national agency responsible for marketing Spain’s tourism around the world, says it is almost certain that Spain WILL be included in the list of air corridors to be announced any day now by Boris Johnson.
But the organisation says the position of the 14-day quarantine has also to be clarified if British holidaymakers, already ‘chomping at the bit’, are going to put their desire into practice and finally book a break in Spain.
In a comprehensive report on the UK market, Turespana says the Brits are desperate to return and internet searches have revealed Benidorm is top of their list. The Canary Islands and Balearics are also hot favourites for UK holidaymakers, either in Augut or September or towards the end of the year.
The Brits form Spain’s biggest market by far, representing more than 21 per cent of the total and bringing in over 18 million visitors.
Turespana says the Boris Johnson has promised to look at the quarantine rule every three weeks and the first review is on June 29th. Any decisions taken on this day will be crucial to Spain’s tourist prospects, it stresses.
The agency says all the major airlines are ready to take off again, with most resuming flights from July 1st, including Ryanair and EasyJet.
But it says the UK’s quarantine decision was like a ‘jug of cold water’ being thrown over holidaymakers and led to a barrage of cancellations.
Turespana says it notes the efforts of the Quash Quarantine group which is threatening to take its challenge to the courts and the pressure group’s own survey has shown that 59 per cent of Brits are in favour of safe corridors.
Now, it says, all eyes, including those of hoteliers, restaurants, bars and businesses in Spain, are on what the British government does next.
Up, up and away! Country by country, your guide to the destinations and the sunshine deals
By Tom Chesshyre
With much of Europe set to reopen for the summer holidays, here’s our guide to the leading ‘air bridge’ contenders – and the getaway deals that are ALL between 30 per cent and 70 per cent cheaper than usual:
France says ‘Oui’
President Emmanuel Macron had refused to lift France’s quarantine on British visitors unless we did the same for French citizens coming here.
Now an ‘air bridge’ is set to be formed, opening up our second most popular holiday destination.
Expect strict social distancing in restaurants, bars, markets and stores, where shopkeepers reserve the right to demand customers wear face masks. Gatherings of more than ten people in public are banned. Nightclubs are closed.
Holidaymakers are able to book holidays again as ministers agreed last night to open air corridors with dozens of countries, including Spain, who have put plans in place for the tourist season (above)
Bag a bargain: A fortnight at a cottage for four in Brittany from £1,200 in August including Portsmouth-St Malo ferry crossing with car (brittany-ferries.co.uk); A fortnight at a four-star beachfront hotel in Cannes with flights and transfers departing from Gatwick in August from £1,400pp (easyjet.com); A week at a villa sleeping six on the Aigues Mortes Marina in Languedoc Roussillon from £950, excluding flights (holidayfrancedirect.co.uk).
What will hotels look like?
Guests will wear masks at reception and other indoor communal areas.
Receptionists will be behind a Perspex screen, similar to those in supermarkets.
Some will test temperatures on arrival. Different groups should not get in the same lift.
At breakfast, guests will be asked to wear a mask and sanitise their hands at the entrance. Many resorts are handing out disposable plastic gloves.
Some hotels are scrapping breakfast buffets, with staff bringing food to your table.
The hotels which still serve buffets are adopting a one-way system and a limit on the number of people at food counters.
Tables will be 1.5 metres apart and guests will be encouraged to eat outside, if possible.
British annual visitors: 10.3million
Smiling in Spain
After holding back over Britain’s indifferent Covid record, Spain reopened its borders to UK visitors on June 21.
A royal decree to wear face masks has been issued for hotels, restaurants, museums, attractions and shops when social distancing of 1.5 metres is impossible; see spain.info.
Bag a bargain: A fortnight at the Jardin del Sol Apartments on Gran Canaria from £640pp departing from Gatwick on August 8 (tui.co.uk); A fortnight for a family of four from £2,436 at Cristina Villas in Cala Millor on Majorca departing from Manchester on August 16 (jet2holidays.com); A fortnight for a family of four from £2,156 at Villa La Canada, a self-catering property with a pool near Frigiliana in Andalucia with Gatwick flights on August 29 (jamesvillas.co.uk).
British visitors: 18.1million
Gunning for Greece
With fewer than 4,000 coronavirus cases, Greece has avoided the worst of the pandemic.
Since early May it has been relaxing its lockdown rules with shops, archaeological sites, restaurants, cafes, bars, leisure parks, and spas opening.
From July 1, cultural events will be allowed. Ferries have been running for more than a month. Face masks must be worn on public transport, in taxis and in some shops.
Bag a bargain: A seven-night all-inclusive stay at Crete Maris Beach Resort from £3,332 for a family of four with Gatwick flights on August 7 (bestattravel.co.uk); A fortnight-long three-star, self-catering break in Aghios Georgios in Corfu from £438pp with Luton flights on August 1 (travelsupermarket.com); A fortnight at upmarket Villa Penelope I, sleeping four, with a pool, from £4,691 on August 16 (oliverstravels.com); Easyjet flights for family of four from £828 (easyjet.com).
British visitors: 3.4million
Tour operators were yesterday offering record discounts of up to 70 per cent for trips to France, Spain, Italy and Greece. Pictured, a passenger arriving on the first flight from Stansted on 21 June
Italy is ready
Hotels, bars, restaurants, museums, campsites and, even mountain huts have reopened. Face masks must be worn in indoor public places, and in outdoor places where one-metre social distancing is impossible.
What will be the scenes on the beaches?
Masks will not be compulsory on the beach.
At popular resorts, a traffic light system will let people know how busy the beach is.
When it hits red, no more will be allowed on the sand.
In Benidorm, below, visitors will have to book a 13ft x 13ft taped-off area on the beach using an app.
Areas will be colour-coded: blue for general use and red for the over-70s
Big signs have been put up with advice on how to stay Covid-free.
Tourists will be asked to keep a three-metre space between umbrellas and a 1.5 metre gap between towels.
Sunbeds will be spaced two metres apart and fixed down in some resorts. They will be disinfected before reuse. Mattresses will have plastic covers to help keep them sanitised.
Some beaches are banning team games such as football and volleyball. Inflatables are also banned.
Children can bring buckets and spades, but they cannot be shared with other children
At busy resorts, tourists will be asked to wear masks on promenades and will have to follow a blue-arrowed one-way system.
In Lombardy it is still mandatory to wear masks outdoors. Social distancing on beaches is 1.5 metres. Temperature checks may be requested.
Bag a bargain: A fortnight at the four-star Grand Hotel Francia e Quirinale in Tuscany from £952pp B&B on August 22 with Heathrow flights (citalia.com); A week at TUI BLUE Astro Azzurro in Piano di Sorrento from £1,076pp all-inclusive on August 24 (tui.co.uk); A fortnight at Villa Le Vignacce in Volterra, Tuscany, sleeping four, from £3,476 for a family of four including Gatwick flights on August 28 (jamesvillas.co.uk).
British visitors: 5.1million
Portugal at risk
The possibility of an air bridge to Portugal is still in doubt after its infection rate rose, with an announcement expected next week. But authorities there have introduced a ‘Clean and Safe’ standard requiring hotels and B&Bs to maintain stringent hygiene standards.
In public areas, social distance of two metres is required and face masks are mandatory on transport and in busy shops.
Golf courses, zoos, oceanariums, restaurants and cafes have reopened. Some extra restrictions have also been put in place in Lisbon.
Bag a bargain: A fortnight at the Monica Isabel Beach Club in Albufeira, the Algarve, from £1,333pp with Stansted flights on August 14 (onthebeach.co.uk); A fortnight at the Jupiter Algarve Hotel in Praia da Rocha from £1,267 B&B on August 7 from Manchester (firstchoice.co.uk); A week at the upmarket Pine Cliffs Resort in the Algarve from £3,439 B&B for a family of four with Stansted flights and transfers (destinology.co.uk).
British visitors: 3.3million
Cyprus on the map
It will have taken a while for Britain to get the tourist thumbs up from Cyprus – 22 countries in the EU were ahead of us.
But it will be worth the wait, especially as visitors have reassuringly been promised free medical attention in the (highly unlikely) event of coming down with Covid.
Intensive care units have been set aside and the cost of lodging, food, drink and medication will be covered for those affected and their families. Social distancing is required in hotels, restaurants and bars.
All travellers returning to the UK will have to provide contact details in case an outbreak is traced to their flight and they have to self-isolate. Failure to comply could result in a £1,000 fine (above, German tourists arriving in Spain on June 15)
Bag a bargain: A week at the five-star Azia Resort & Spa in Paphos from £697pp B&B with Stansted flights on August 26 (loveholidays.com); A fortnight at the Avanti Holiday Village near Paphos from £3,476 self-catering for a family of four departing Glasgow on August 1 (jet2holidays.com); A fortnight at the Village and Coastal Villas in the Troodos mountains from £1,143pp self-catering with Manchester flights on August 1 (sunvil.co.uk).
British visitors: 1.3million
Croatia wants us
The chief of the Croatian National Tourist Office in London says government officials are ‘actively lobbying Britain – we really value British guests’.
Britons can already visit Croatia, but visitors are required to fill out an online form at entercroatia.mup.hr.
They must also provide proof of accommodation has been booked on arrival. Restaurants, hotels, cafes and beaches have been open since May.
Bag a bargain: A fortnight at Hotel Lapad in Dubrovnik from £1,084pp B&B departing Stansted on July 26 (jet2holidays.com); A fortnight at Villa Ruzica in Trogir from £643pp departing from Stansted on July 26 (onthebeach.co.uk); A fortnight at Villa Konalic on the Dubrovnik Riviera from £2,001 for a family of four departing on August 20 from Manchester (supertravelmarket.com).
British visitors: 898,000
Malta has established an accommodation hygiene standard, with regular audits. Social distancing is required at hotels, restaurants, bars and on beaches.
Pool capacity is capped at 50 per cent. Face masks are required in confined spaces.
Bag a bargain: A fortnight at the ST Bluebay Apartments on the Sliema/Gzira promenade from £471pp including Stansted flights and transfers on August 1 (maltadirect.com); A fortnight at the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Valetta from £909pp from Gatwick on August 1 (ba.com); A fortnight at the Ramla Bay Resort with Stansted flights on August 4 from £3,207 for four (onthebeach.co.uk).
British visitors: 640,000
Customers wear face masks as they wait to have breakfast inside the Nuria restaurant in Barcelona, northeastern Spain earlier this month
Will Turkey take part?
Despite talks between national officials there is a belief that Turkey will not be in the first wave of air bridges.
Nevertheless, preparations have been made, including temperature checks on arrival.
And how about restaurants and bars?
Masks will have to be worn as you enter and hand sanitiser must be applied.
Masks can come off at the table – but worn to walk to the toilet
In some restaurants, diners are handed plastic barcodes which you scan on your phone to access the menu.
Some are placing tables 1.5 metres from each other, although others don’t bother.
All waiters, waitresses and chefs will wear masks
Bars are encouraging drinkers to be served at their tables.
Those who do approach the bar must wear masks.
Masks must also be worn in supermarkets, shops and cafes.
Bag a bargain: A fortnight at Club Candan in Marmaris from £1,051pp self-catering with Gatwick flights on August 7 (firstchoice.co.uk); A fortnight at the Dalyan Resort in Dalaman from £2,608 B&B for a family of four departing from Gatwick on August 1 (ba.com); A fortnight at Villa Ebru in Kalkan from £3,655, for six, in August; flights excluded (oliverstravels.com).
British visitors: 2.5million
A key country for Eurostar services, with Brussels a major hub and many tourists travelling on to enjoy the delightful cities of Bruges and Ghent.
Hotels, restaurants and bars have reopened with social distancing. It is recommended to book tables at restaurants. Wearing face masks is mandatory on public transport.
Bag a bargain: A return journey by train to Brussels from St Pancras with a week at the Aparthotel Adagio Brussels Grand Palace from £504 for two departing August 9 (eurostar.com); A week at the four-star Augustin hotel in Brussels with flights from Glasgow on August 16 from £490pp (lastminute.com); A week’s stay at the Theatre Hotel Brussels from £325pp including Heathrow flights on August 23 (ba.com).
British visitors: 1.8million
Amsterdam is back, one of Britain’s most popular short break destinations. Groups of as many as 30 people are allowed to gather in public places but a strict 1.5 metre social-distancing rule remains.
Hotels, cafes and restaurants are open. Until September 1, cannabis cafes may only provide a takeaway service. Nightclubs are also closed until then.
Bag a bargain: A return by train to Amsterdam from St Pancras with five nights at the Urban Lodge Hotel from £331pp on August 20 (eurostar.com); A week at Hotel de Hallen in Amsterdam from £402pp including Glasgow flights on August 16 (lastminute.com); Five nights at the WestCord Fashion Hotel Amsterdam from £277pp from Luton on August 6 (easyjet.com).
British visitors: 3.5million
EU risks angering Donald Trump with plan to BAN American travellers when it reopens on July 1 but welcome those from countries with lower infections rates – including China
The EU is planning to ban American travellers when it reopens on July 1, but those from countries with lower infection rates – like China – are set to be welcomed.
The decision – which still needs to be formalised in member states’ capitals – risks angering Donald Trump who has been widely criticised for his handling of the crisis.
The United States, Russia, and several other countries are considered too risky because they have not controlled the coronavirus outbreak, EU officials said Friday.
The list of safe countries was put together by senior diplomats in Brussels following discussions on how to reopen the bloc to business and tourism following lockdown.
One of the ‘safe countries’ will be China – but only if it allows European Union travellers to visit as well, the officials said.
EU officials disclosed earlier this week that the US – which has reported more coronavirus deaths and infections than any other country – was highly unlikely to make the final list.
The decision has been made despite the fact that the US is an important source of tourism for the European Union.
On the safe list are countries like Canada and Australia. The countries were judged on criteria including infection rates and the credibility of public health authorities reporting data.
The list will be updated every two weeks, which mean countries excluded at the start may be added to the safe list.