Many people’s thoughts have turned to holidays as the UK nations announce details of their routes out of lockdown.
EasyJet said bookings by UK customers for the summer season this week had been more than four times higher compared with the same period during the previous week.
There has been a surge in bookings with the UK’s largest tour operator Tui reporting that they had had their best day of bookings in over a month, with strong interest in Greece, Spain and Turkey for the summer.
Thomas Cook said traffic to its website was up over 100% on Monday from 3pm onwards, with bookings “flooding in” for countries like Greece, Cyprus, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
EasyJet reported a 337% surge in flight bookings and a 630% jump in holiday bookings for locations like Alicante, Malaga, Palmo, Faro and Crete. Bookings are strongest in August, followed by July and then September.
The most popular destinations for this summer are beach resorts, including Malaga, Alicante and Palma in Spain, Faro in Portugal and the Greek island of Crete.
Here are your questions answered:
When is international travel going to be possible?
In practice, the governments in Wales and Westminster have overlapping responsibilities which will determine how practical foreign travel is. But the greatest obstacle is most likely to be the willingness of governments overseas to accept visitors from the UK.
As foreign affairs is largely not devolved and the UK’s biggest airports are in England, decisions made by the UK Government and its relationships with the governments in popular holiday destinations will play the biggest role in shaping what holidays will look like this year.
According to the roadmap unveiled by the Prime Minister on Monday, February 22, international travel will not happen until May 17 at the earliest.
The report says: “The Global Travel Taskforce will report on April 12 with recommendations aimed at facilitating a return to international travel as soon as possible while still managing the risk from imported cases and Variants of Concern.
“Following that, the Government will determine when international travel should resume, which will be no earlier than May 17.”
However, should the Welsh Government bring in its own quarantine rules for people returning from foreign holidays then this would make trips abroad more complicated for people here. Any return to the stay local rule in Wales, which is currently planned to be reviewed next month, would also make foreign travel impossible.
What is the advice from the travel industry?
The Association of British Travel Agents is advising holidaymakers to book a package holiday for the level of protection it brings
A spokeswoman says: “The lack of opportunities to travel this past year have led to huge pent up demand for holidays, with many people keen to book a break to a favourite destination or explore somewhere on their bucket list.
“Our research shows that holidaymakers are 20% more likely to book their holidays with a travel professional now than before the pandemic, primarily for the extra protection that comes with booking a package holiday and the advice available from a travel expert.
“Package holidays offer the best form of protection, and on top of the usual protections, many ABTA Members are also offering more flexible cancellation and rebooking policies.”
What are the risks of booking now?
The biggest risk is, of course, that because the lockdown roadmap is being guided by data, those key dates could change, and mean your holiday is cancelled.
In this scenario, if the firm has to cancel your holiday you’ll be offered options such as rebooking or a refund, but it’s worth noting that this will be dependent on the booking policy for your holiday – so if you book make sure to check the fine print before parting with your cash.
For holidays abroad, there are a number of factors that come into play, including a country’s Covid-19 risk, quarantine rules and whether borders will be open to Brits. If you book a package holiday and the Foreign Office advice doesn’t allow for travel, you are entitled to a refund or rebooking to a later date if the company cancels your trip. Again, check the fine print of your booking policy.
Will the vaccination programme help people to be able to go on holiday?
E gland’s health secretary Matt Hancock said the effectiveness of vaccines against coronavirus strains will play a major part in the international travel review.
“We do have to protect against these new variants, and that is a big challenge,” he told Sky News.
He added that “we can be much more relaxed about international travel” if vaccines work well against strains of the virus from South Africa and Brazil.
“If the vaccine doesn’t work against them, then that will be much, much more difficult,” he said.
Will travellers need a vaccine passport?
There are also growing calls in the travel industry for vaccine passports – but there is no mention of them in relation to foreign travel in Mr Johnson’s roadmap. It would also be up to other countries whether they accepted any kind of vaccine documentation.
When people are vaccinated they could be given an official card or app, which states they have received the Covid-19 vaccine.
This would be shown at the UK border or airlines could require it to be used to check-in – similar to a boarding pass.
Several UK firms are working on an immunity and vaccination passport, which is being tested by the NHS.
The Government has launched a review, headed by Michael Gove, looking at the use of “Covid status” certificates, which could be used by people to demonstrate they had received a jab or a negative coronavirus test in order to enter venues, or allow firms to reduce restrictions as a result of the status of their customers.
Boris Johnson acknowledged there are “clearly some quite complex issues, some ethical issues” including discrimination surrounding them.
Ministers have repeatedly denied that they would consider the domestic use of so-called vaccine passports, fearing they pose risks of discrimination, as some groups are unable to receive the coronavirus jab.
But as part of the government’s roadmap out of England’s national lockdown, a review will be carried out to assess whether certificates could allow restrictions to be lifted more safely. It is expected to report before June.
What is the travel industry saying?
Australian airline Qantas has said it eventually will require proof of a coronavirus vaccine to board its flights, while Air New Zealand is planning to introduce a vaccine certificate for all travellers.
Etihad Airways and Emirates will start using a digital travel pass so passengers can provide them, and border control, with proof they have been vaccinated or tested for Covid-19.
UK travel company Saga has also insisted passengers on its holidays or cruises in 2021 must be fully vaccinated.
Will there be travel corridors again?
There are calls to establish travel corridors between the UK and Europe’s holiday hotspots with resorts in Greece and Spain already planning to introduce vaccine certificates for visitors.
Spain’s tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, said travel corridors including the vaccination certificate will be used “as an element of safe mobility”.
The minister added: “We already have the protocols that were approved for the Balearics and the Canaries, and we are working with Andalusia, Catalonia and Valencia so that, as soon as they can be used, they will be a tool to restart travel.”
Can we go on holiday in the UK?
Wales’ First Minister has hinted that the next review of restrictions, which is due to be held March 12 , could include the news that some forms of holiday accommodation would be able to open at Easter which is the first weekend in April.
Mr Drakeford was very cautious, warning that a lot can happen in six weeks, but said that the Welsh Government was looking at the possibility of some “limited” re-opening of self-contained accommodation only.
As part of the roadmap in England, domestic travel for holidays will be allowed from April 12 (after Easter) for the likes of holiday parks, camping holidays and self-catered cottages provided you are travelling with your household only.
A spokeswoman for Haven Holidays said on Tuesday, February 23: “With regard to our Welsh parks, we are awaiting instruction from the First Minister with regard to the roadmap for Wales and will be able to provide clarity on our opening dates once this has been provided.”
If you do choose to book a holiday, again you’ll want to double check your policy where you can check the terms for scenarios such as being unable to travel due to government guidance, or even if you or someone you’re travelling with tests positive/shows symptoms for Covid-19.
What are the different companies offering customers?
The company says that if you’re due to travel with them before the end of June, you have the flexibility and control to change your holiday free of charge, up to 28 days before your departure date.
The website add: “We currently have holidays on offer until October 2022, so there’s plenty to choose from if you decide to delay your holiday.” You can see all the latest information here.
With changing travel restrictions, easyJet has launched a ‘protection promise’ allowing customers to change their booking if their plans change.
This includes a refund guarantee for flights or holidays if they are cancelled plus a full refund for holidays if a customer changes their mind up to 28 days before.
With the travel ban protection, customers can also receive a refund for non-cancelled flights if plans are impacted by travel bans in a regional or national lockdown.
Customers also have the freedom to change flights without a fee up to 14 days before departure, and change a holiday up to 28 days before departure; and if quarantine measures come in to place last minute, easyJet’s quarantine assurance also means impacted flights can be changed without a change fee.
All holidays are covered under easyJet holidays’ Covid commitments if holidays cannot go ahead or are impacted by restrictions.
The airline is now hoping that holidays will return by April 14 – pushed back from the end of March.
Flights to Iceland are suspended up to and including April 26.
There is some optimistic news, the airline also added hundreds of new seats to flights for later in the summer, including to Zante, Crete, Rhodes and Kefalonia.
Details of Jet2’s summer offers can be found here.
The budget airline is continuing to fly a reduced schedule during the lockdown, and has not cancelled any flights since rules were tightened.
The airline has reminded travellers that they need to complete a Passenger Locator Form before arrival in the UK, and they should check with local authorities.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk