Simon Calder says current UK travel rules are a ‘mess’
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British Airways are offering seven nights in Tenerife for a rock bottom £269 per person – with a week in Portugal costing just £30 more. Heathrow boss John Holland Kaye declared that travel would start to return to normal as tests are dropped from Monday.
He added: “Well-deserved breaks will once again become an option for millions of hard-working families that have until this point been priced out of trips abroad, separated from loved ones and cut off from the world.
“We will be one step closer to travel as it used to be.”
For many Britons, a late-booked autumn holiday will be their first chance to travel out of the country since lockdown was imposed on March 23 last year – almost 600 days ago.
The Government’s disliked traffic light system, which ranked destination nations in order of their coronavirus threat, will be simplified to “rest of the world” and a red list of countries still causing concern.
Double-jabbed travellers will need to take just one lateral flow test when they return to the UK.
Fully-vaccinated trippers will no longer have to cough up for pre-departure expensive PCR tests or to languish in quarantine once they are back. The changes coupled with unprecedented demand have seen holiday companies competing feverishly to offer the best deals.
Families are grabbing the chance of late-year overseas holidays as a way of celebrating the easing of lockdown – and of escaping the food and fuel shortages currently hitting the UK.
Many are planning a getaway over the half-term school holiday of October 22 to November 1.
See the latest Covid vaccine stats below and visit InYourArea for all the Covid vaccine latest
Tourism chiefs on the Balearic Islands of Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera have extended their free coronavirus insurance scheme until New Year’s Eve.
It gives all British travellers cover for medical, surgical and hospital expenses and repays costs resulting from any stay prolonged by self-isolation or quarantine.
The deal has launched a surge of bookings to the Med hotspots.
Iago Negueruela, the Balearics’ tourism minister, said: “Our islands are the ideal destination for an autumn break.
“Over the last few years, we have been increasing our proposition to attract holidaymakers in the low season. Especially we have developed more experiences in three niches: active, gastronomy and culture.
During the autumn months, the Balearics continue to offer warm temperatures which are ideal for hiking, cycling and outdoor exploration as well as excellent gastronomy, authentic villages and beautiful landscapes.”
Some of the most tempting deals on offer last night included a 10-night stay at a four-star resort in Limassol, Cyprus for less than £300; a seven-night break on the Greek island of Crete from £252 per person – and a week at an all-inclusive resort on Lanzarote for £338 per person.
Claire Bentley, the managing director of BA Holidays, said: “Throughout this last year we have seen surges in holiday searches when restrictions are lifted, so we know there is pent-up demand.
“Following the announcement of the new international travel system, [on September 17] there was an increase of nearly 70 percent in all holiday searches.
“October was the most-searched travel month, which shows our customers are eager to get away.”
She added: “British Airways continues to offer great-value holidays to help people get back to the joy of travel.”
Fritz Joussen, TUI group chief executive, said: “The British Government has taken some positive decisions for holidaymakers and the travel industry.
“More destinations can be visited again, with fewer restrictions – and in time for half-term and bookings for the coming winter months.
“The decision is an enormous leap forward in returning to normality with regards to leisure travel. It eliminates the past uncertainty and boosts confidence and reassurance for overseas travel in the coming months.
“People have gone without for a very long time, missing holidays, the sun and visiting other countries and cultures.
“Now the UK is travelling again to more and more destinations – we at TUI will ensure safe and joyful holidays.”
There are no changes as yet for travellers who have not had the vaccine or are not inoculated fully. Red list restrictions also remain.
Covid and associated travel bans had a massive impact on Britain’s standing as a global aviation hub. In the peak summer season, Portugal was the sole southern European sunshine destination on the Government-approved travel list.
Visitors to Spain, France, Greece and Malta had to isolate for up to 10 days on their return.
For each day that the US and Caribbean remained off-limits, the UK lost £32million – BA could fly to only around five of its 30 American destination cities.
Heathrow was once ranked the world’s busiest airport, but as many countries eradicated testing for fully-vaccinated passengers Britain lagged behind.
The pandemic saw Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt usurp London, which now languishes at tenth in that list.
Since the pandemic erupted in March last year, Saga said it had focused on ensuring that customers whose holidays were cancelled are rebooked or offered a cash refund.
The firm has witnessed high levels of customer loyalty particularly with cruises, where 74 percent of advance payments were switched to another booking.
Bosses said demand was “very strong” for 2022/23 departures, and ahead of two years ago.
Revenue and length of passenger stays are up 58 and 39 percent. While around 37 percent of revenue booked for 2021/22 is from customers choosing to rebook cruises that were cancelled last year at the height of the crisis.
The most popular autumn and winter destinations are the Canaries and Caribbean.
Britain’s domestic tourism sector has been battered by the effects of Covid, with forecasts showing £51.4billion will be spent this year: it was £91.6billion in 2019.
Meanwhile, £5.3billion will be splashed out by overseas visitors – less than one-quarter of the £28.4billion that they brought in 2019. Patricia Yates, the deputy chief executive of VisitBritain, said: “It has been encouraging to hear bookings are looking strong heading into autumn, and interest and inquiries for holidays at home have seen a sustained uptick.
“Domestic travel intentions are also up from the same time last year and most people still plan to continue with their UK trip, even if all overseas travel restrictions are lifted.” She added that “23 percent of people surveyed, representing 12.6 million UK adults, intended to take an overnight domestic trip this autumn.
“This would equate to an estimated £3.1billion in domestic tourism spending with that money going into local economies and supporting jobs.”
Comment by Emma Coulthurst, Ice Travel Group
Psst. Have you heard that summer has been extended this year?
The dropping of pre-departure tests from October 4 has been the biggest of holiday hoorays for people who didn’t get a break this summer and are keen to dip their toes in overseas waters.
Since it was announced that the traffic light system was being consigned to the scrapheap, we’ve seen our sales double.
Holidays are still being booked for this month to Turkey and Portugal. But with no testing requirements to get into Spain and Greece if you’re double vaccinated, the beaches there have been proving popular too.
The fact people have been searching holidays to the US and Turkey all summer, and that they are the two destinations that have been the focus of a booking frenzy in the last week, shows there is a lot of pent-up demand. Britons are also booking winter escapes to the likes of the Canaries, Turkey, New York, Las Vegas, Dubai, The Maldives and Barbados.
The holiday floodgates are yet to fully open, though.
Would-be travellers are still waiting for confirmation of when expensive Day 2 PCR tests will be scrapped.
Yes, the new system is easier to understand, cheaper and will save time.
But people also need to know they will be able to pick up a lateral flow test cheaply and easily. Some people haven’t taken to the skies for a very long time.
But the feedback we are getting from those who take the plunge is that the actual travel experience is a lot smoother than they expected – and when they return, they book to go away again as soon as they are able to.
So what does all this mean?
Well, there are incredible bargains to take advantage of, and you can get a lot of hotel stars and value for your money.
Comment by John Holland-Kaye
After 18 months of postponed plans, cancelled holidays and video calling, we are becoming more confident vaccines are working and can look to the future.
The summer saw the return of gatherings, gigs and weddings, but there are still some people waiting with bated breath to take a trip down a different sort of aisle.
From Monday new streamlined travel rules will come into effect making it much easier to fly abroad.
The traffic light system will be simplified, with several countries now “green for go”, meaning fully-vaccinated passengers will only need to take one lateral flow test after they get home.
If you are doubly jabbed, there will be no more pre-departure testing, expensive PCR tests or quarantine.
These changes will help the UK to start catching up with our European competitors, many of which have eradicated testing for fully vaccinated passengers.
Amsterdam has become Europe’s busiest airport, closely followed by Paris and Frankfurt.
This was a title previously held by Heathrow, but the restrictions have caused our airport to slip to the more humble 10th spot.
Air travel is vital for the UK. We are a cosmopolitan nation. Many have friends and family overseas we’ve been unable to see for too long.
Millions of jobs rely on exporting goods and services all over the world, and on welcoming international students and tourists who spend their money here. Heathrow’s passengers alone account for over £16billion of spend across the country.
Much trade travels by air – in fact, the same long-haul passenger planes from Heathrow also carry exports and incoming supplies.
While borders have been closed for passengers, these planes have been grounded, preventing the economy and holidaymakers from taking off.
From next week, well-deserved breaks will once again become an option for millions of families that have until this point been priced out of trips abroad, separated from loved ones and cut off from the world.
We are looking forward to welcoming you back, helping you enjoy your long-awaited journeys and supercharging British trade.
● John Holland-Kaye is Chief Executive Officer of Heathrow Airport
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