The Daily Telegraph
Foreign holidays unlikely before August, diplomats tell industry
BRITAIN is unlikely to reopen foreign travel to the major European holiday destinations until the beginning of August, UK ambassadors have warned foreign tourism chiefs.
With domestic unlocking delayed for four weeks, Toni Mayor, head of the Hosbec association of Valencia region hoteliers, said he did not expect to see UK tourism take off until August after a meeting with Hugh Elliott, the UK ambassador.
Turkish tourist chiefs are also understood to have received a similar message after meeting with UK Foreign Office officials and are not expecting any lifting of overseas travel restrictions from the UK until August.
It comes as airlines started shrinking their schedules until late July following the Government’s decision to push back Freedom Day by a month and the anticipated further delay in expanding the green list for quarantine-free travel. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyjet are cancelling flights until after the new July 19 date as demand plummets. Virgin Atlantic pushed back flights from Heathrow to Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago until October as well as transatlantic flights until mid-july.
Budget airline easyjet has started dropping trips to Greece and France until July 17 as Britons face a second summer trapped at home.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said the uncertainty over any prospective restart of foreign travel was strangling the industry and urged ministers to set a date even if it was the beginning of August.
“Why doesn’t the Government give an opening-up date for the travel sector in the same way as it is doing for the domestic sector, so that both can benefit from the vaccination rollout?” he said.
Only 11 countries remain on the Government’s green list where quarantine-free travel is allowed. The list will be reviewed next week to decide if any countries could be added but ministers believe Europe is at least two months behind the UK in bringing infection rates under control and rolling out the vaccine. This would take any major lifting of restrictions to at least the end of July.
Mr Mayor said: “The overall infection levels in Spain are still high in places and the picture is uneven, so I think we will have to wait, possibly until July 20.”
He said that this would effectively mean that UK tourism would not get into full swing until August, with tour operators needing at least a fortnight to normalise operations.
Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister, warned that British tourists coming to Italy could be made to quarantine amid alarm over the growing number of Indian variant cases in the UK.
British and other European visitors currently just have to show a negative Covid-19 test or proof they have been vaccinated. But that could change if the number of Indian variant infections rise in Britain, said Mr Draghi.
♦ Two thirds of travel insurance policies will not pay out if holidaymakers have to self-isolate without contracting Covid, an investigation by consumer group Which? has found.