Cyprus is to waive Covid testing requirements for visitors who have been vaccinated against the virus, according to a Government plan that will come into effect in March 2021.
This would make it the first destination to specify that vaccinated travellers will not need to meet other Covid-related entry rules, such as a negative test result or quarantine. The measure was included in an action plan for the resumption of flights to the country, the Cyprus Mail reports.
“The amended action plan is expected to further boost the interest of airline companies to carry out additional flights to Cyprus, improve connectivity and increase passenger traffic,” said Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos.
This action plan includes a four-tier safe travel list, replacing a three-tier system, in a bid to boost air travel and tourism to Cyprus.
Passengers who have not been vaccinated will still need to meet Cyprus’ requirements based on their origin country. Karousos said its safe travel list would follow European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) guidelines.
As it stands, visitors from the UK are required to present a negative Covid result result on arrival in Cyprus taken within 72 hours of travel. Cyprus is on the quarantine list, meaning British travellers returning from there to the UK are required to self-isolate.
Scroll down for more updates.
That's all for today
Before we go, here's a re-cap of the main headlines:
Quarantine exemption for business travellers prompts backlash
Cyprus to become first country to waive quarantine for vaccinated arrivals
'Complex' Covid rules denting traveller confidence
Royal Caribbean sailing again with 'cruises to nowhere' – but Britons aren't able to board
Alitalia to launch Covid-tested flights from New York to Rome
Airports renew calls for testing, claiming industry 'cannot wait for vaccine'
Comment: Berlin is a place where things happen, rather than a place to gaze at
The first historical event that I can remember is the fall of the Berlin Wall, writes Ash Bhardwaj. I was six years old, watching it on TV and thinking “wow, that looks fun.” People partied against the backdrop of a graffiti-covered barrier, which was being demolished with hammers and picks. The wider geopolitics passed me by until I watched James Bond’s Octopussy, in which Berlin was the setting for Cold War intrigue.
Unlike Europe’s other capital cities – such as Paris or Rome – Berlin does not feature in movies for its beauty: it’s a place where you meet people and things happen, rather than a place to gaze at. It’s more of a Detroit or a Manchester than a London or New York.
The city really entered my consciousness when I moved to east London and began clubbing in the late-2000s. As London’s music star waned, more and more trendies moved to Berlin, or headed there at weekends for its experimental counterculture.
The legacy of the Cold War has dominated much of my recent work, and I’ve travelled everywhere from Kirkenes to Chisinau; so it’s remarkable that I’ve not yet made it to Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie. When I finally walk the route of the Wall, I will reward myself with punk music and Berliner Weisse; then a wild swim in the lakes to batter through the hangover.
Comment: I stopped flying three years ago – and can't say I miss it
Gavin Haines writes:
In one of my more radical moods a couple of years ago, I decided that jumping on a plane was about as helpful to the environment as bludgeoning a pangolin to death with some illegally-logged mahogany, so I decided to quit flying for leisure, before committing career suicide last year by knocking business air travel on the head too.
But since my wife and I decided to stay grounded, our trips have become more adventurous. Like last year’s cycle trip up the Dutch coast. Straddling our three-speed, sit-up-and-beg bikes, we rode lazily through tulip fields and sand dunes for two weeks in the cycle-mad Netherlands.
Wizz Air to open new base at Cardiff Airport
Low-cost airline Wizz Air is planning to open its fourth UK base at Cardiff Airport, with flights to the Canary Islands, the Costa del Sol and Cyprus starting from £27.99.
The airline intends to launch flights from the Welsh capital in March 2021, just months after expanding its operations to London Gatwick and Doncaster Sheffield airports in October (Wizz Air opened its first UK branch at London Luton in 2017).
Spencer Birns, interim CEO of Cardiff Airport, said: "On behalf of the team we are delighted to welcome Wizz Air UK to Wales. The fact that one of the leading Low Cost Airlines in the world has chosen to set up their next base at Cardiff is fantastic news for Wales.
"The Wizz Air UK base will bring a huge amount of choice for our customers to travel to some of the most popular holiday destinations from Cardiff, at affordable prices. We know many people living in Wales are craving a well-deserved holiday after such a challenging year and these new flights going on sale today from Cardiff, will give so many more opportunities for holidays to be planned now that will give us all something to look forward to for next year."
Where can you travel this winter?
Yesterday evening, Grant Shapps used his weekly travel corridor update to inform us that there were, in fact, no updates.
There were no new additions to the 'green list', and thankfully no removals either, leaving us with 23 holiday destinations that are still relatively restriction-free.
Here's the full list, along with the limited entry requirements currently in place:
Gibraltar: Passenger locator form
Corfu, Crete, Rhodes, Zakynthos and Kos: Passenger locator form and possible test on arrival (the rest of Greece is on the red list)
Canary Islands: Test on arrival
Jersey: Test on arrival (and, for most, a quarantine)
Madeira: Test on arrival or before departure
Anguilla: Test before departure and on arrival
Antigua and Barbuda: Test before departure
Barbados: Test before departure
Bermuda: Test before departure
Cuba: Test on arrival
Dominica: Test before departure and on arrival
Grenada: Test before departure
St Kitts: Test before departure
St Lucia: Test before departure
St Vincent and the Grenadines: Test before departure
Maldives: Test before departure
Mauritius: Test before departure and on arrival
Seychelles: Test before departure and on arrival
Rwanda: Test before departure and on arrival
Chile: Test before departure
Bahrain: Test on arrival
Cambodia: Test before departure
UAE (including Dubai and Abu Dhabi): Test before departure
Comment: The pandemic has proven we don't need travel to feel wonder
Travel – especially air travel – is our modern shortcut to delight, says Neil McQuillian. Teleporting ourselves from here to a far-flung there works invisible magic on us. You step off the plane and everything is uncanny, from the giddying warmth on the breeze to the shade of the baggage handlers’ hi-viz to the moustaches of the taxi drivers to the texture of the slip road’s concrete. Travel twists our inner kaleidoscope.
This sudden onslaught of every last detail being different is the dark matter of travel – and it’s as important as the luxurious bells and whistles in keeping us hooked. (I mean, why else would we put up with what Paul Theroux in Deep South calls “the halts, the checks, the affronts at airports”?) The downside is that modern travel, along with watching telly and injecting our brains with algorithms, has unpicked the wiring between us and the surroundings where we spend most of our time.
Lockdown had been six balmy, barmy weeks of fear and frustration but, for me, nothing awful. And that, it seemed, meant that lockdown had also been able to gently rewire me.
'Government must ensure safe travel for all businesses'
Like many others in the business travel sector, Chris Galanty, Flight Centre's CEO of corporate travel, believes that the Government's new quarantine exemption does not go far enough, and that businesses which do not meet the 'high value' standard are being unfairly penalised.
The Transport Secretary’s announcement that ‘high value’ business travellers will be exempt from quarantine is welcome news and a major step in the right direction for getting business travel and the economy moving. We have been urging the government for several months to recognise the value that business travel brings to the UK economy by exempting business travellers from quarantine, so it is gratifying to see that our industry is being heard.
But the criteria for ‘high value’ still means that many business travellers, who are vital for the successful operation of their company, will still need to quarantine. We need to see measures in place that facilitate safe travel by any employee who needs to travel for business purposes.
Amazing winter destinations that will be unlocked by the end of a 14-day quarantine
On December 15, the two-week quarantine period for those travelling from high-risk countries will be slashed to just five days, provided you test negative for Covid-19 on the fifth day.
This has the potential to unlock long-haul destinations that, since March, have been all but off limits to UK travellers.
United bans couple who caught flight after testing positive for Covid
A US couple who boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Hawaii after testing positive for Covid have been banned for life by the carrier.
Hawaiian residents Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson were told they had coronavirus after taking a test at San Francisco Airport, and were subsequently ordered to self-isolate.
But the couple instead proceeded to board the United plane bound for Lihue.
Health officials in San Francisco immediately notified the police in Hawaii, and officers were waiting at the airport to greet Moribe and Peterson when their flight touched down.
In addition to the lifetime ban, both have been arrested for "placing the passengers of the flight in danger of death" and released on bail.
Ryanair named the best airline of the decade
Budget carrier (and butt of many a joke) Ryanair has been named the best-performing airline of the past 10 years in the Decade of Airline Excellence Awards, earning praise for having "revolutionised air travel in Europe."
The Dublin-based airline, run by its outspoken and often controversial CEO, Michael O'Leary, was praised for the way in which it has transformed European aviation.
"The past decade saw Ryanair firmly establish itself as perhaps the world's best contemporary example of the low-cost business model being implemented to its full potential," said Lewis Harper, Managing Editor of Airline Business magazine.
"In doing so, its influence was felt across the short-haul travel market, as it dragged legacy operators into defensive manoeuvres and challenged budget rivals with its ultra-low-cost base. Put simply, Ryanair became a carrier that even the most ardent full-service devotees would struggle not to have a grudging respect for."
One judge added: "They revolutionised air travel within Europe. They revolutionised the market, they revolutionised and impacted on what the legacy carriers were doing, they revolutionised passenger expectations… and passengers flock back to them time and time again."
Meet the conservation hero who won't let death threats deter him from saving turtles
Hipolito Lima has dedicated a third of his life to protecting sea turtles on the West African island of Sao Tome, writes Sarah Marshall.
It’s a process that never gets easier for the tireless 70-year-old, who’s dedicated almost a third of his life to protecting the marine creatures. With no academic background in conservation or formal training, it’s been a career fuelled by passion and love.
Now, his efforts have been rewarded with a Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, presented by charity Tusk Trust in recognition of an outstanding individual’s lifetime achievements.
Alitalia to launch Covid-tested flights from New York to Rome
Travellers on flights from New York to Rome will soon be able to bypass quarantine with airport testing, thanks to a new scheme spearheaded by Italian carrier Alitalia.
From December 8, passengers will be asked to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken up to 48 hours before departure, or can take a pre-boarding test at the airport.
They will then have to take another test on arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport which, if negative, allows them to leave without the need to self-isolate for 14 days.
The programme is only available to those flying into Italy, however, and US entry restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Seven otherworldly parks and green spaces in London
This year has forced a lot of us to look at our local green spaces in a brand new light, says Ellie Walker-Arnott. In lockdowns they became little slices of freedom from our all-too-familiar four walls: places for daily walks, birthday parties, family reunions, drinks after work and coffees with friends. I even celebrated the launch of my new London guidebook, Nostalgic London, in a park, with champagne served in travel mugs. Classic 2020.
Virgin to open jumbo jet pop-up restaurant at Heathrow
Several months ago, Thai Airways turned one of its Bangkok-based jets into a pop-up restaurant, and the idea has proved so popular that Virgin Atlantic is launching something similar at Heathrow – albeit a one-time-only offer.
A Virgin cabin crew will host a three-course meal on board one of the airline's retired Boeing 747s on December 12, a few days before the aircraft makes its final flight from the UK.
Guests will also treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of areas not normally seen by the public (such as the crew quarters and the cargo hold), led by Yvonne Kershaw, the first female pilot to captain a 747.
Tickets go on sale at 9am on December 7 and will cost £50 each, with all proceeds going to the Trussell Trust, an NGO and charity which runs 1,200 food banks in the UK.
‘Travel should be for everybody, not the select few’
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, has called the Government's priorities in question, point out that a quarantine exemption for business travellers sidesteps the more pressing issue of opening up international travel for all.
It will strike people as unfair that ‘high value’ business travellers are allowed a free pass on quarantine and testing when returning to the UK, but those who want to see family over Christmas or have other urgent needs to travel do not get the same treatment.
Ordinary travellers will have to pay upwards of £100 per person to access a private test, if they can find any availability, and even then will still have to quarantine for a minimum of five days.
The Government should instead be putting together a plan that gets international travel up and running for everybody who needs it, not just a select few.
No quarantine rule changes in Scotland
The Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney, has confirmed that there will be no new exemptions for travellers arriving in the country, despite the change in rules for business travellers, elite athletes and journalists travelling to England.
Speaking at the Scottish government's daily coronavirus briefing, Mr Swinney said: "As you may be aware the UK Government announced last night a number of changes to the quarantine rules in England. Those changes exempt certain categories of people, working in certain sectors, from the requirement to self-isolate."
"I want to emphasise these are changes that apply only in England, and that they do not apply here in Scotland. The quarantine requirements in this country are unchanged."
Will our holidays get back to normal now there's a vaccine, and when?
After a year of cancelled holidays, grounded planes and dissolved travel companies, help is finally on the way for the travel industry, writes Greg Dickinson.
The vaccine is seen as the thing that will give the travel industry, and our holidays, the shot in the arm we have all been waiting for. Indeed just this week, Cyprus has emerged as the first country to announce a plan that will allow holidaymakers to enter the country without the need to quarantine, so long as they can prove they have been vaccinated.
We do not yet know the precise mechanics of how a vaccine will open up the world on a wider scale – but the likelihood is that some kind of internationally recognised vaccine certification will be developed as more countries roll out vaccination programmes, and new travel corridors will emerge as cases numbers go down.
So for the first time since the pandemic began, we can look ahead to a time when we will be able to pack our bags and jet off to exotic places, without the uncertainties and stresses that have dogged our getaways in 2020.
Video: Wuhan's tourist board invites visitors to see the city's beauty
Now known worldwide as the place where the first cases of Covid-19 were recorded, Wuhan has launched a new media campaign in an effort to woo visitors. It has been more than six months since the city last reported a new coronvirus infection.
'Government must extend quarantine exemption to smaller businesses'
While the quarantine exemption for business travel is welcome, the Transport Secretary must go further and open up travel for those representing smaller firms, says Abby Penston, who is CEO of Focus Travel Partnership, a business travel consortium for the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector.
It was good to see the Transport Secretary’s tweet that business travellers will be exempt from quarantine. It is exactly what the business travel sector needs at this time and is welcome. But there is a catch – it only applies to ‘high value’ business travellers. We represent 60 business travel management companies in the SME sector who typically turn over £1 billion a year and look after the travel arrangements of thousands of business travellers from all industry sectors including oil rig workers, construction engineers, charity workers and manufacturers as well as people within the arts, media and journalism.
Unfortunately the new rule does not include those in middle management or even those representing small businesses, which fuel this economy and will be key to unlocking recovery.
Airports renew calls for testing, claiming industry 'cannot wait for vaccine'
Aviation chiefs are rallying around the hot-button issue of airport testing, citing concerns that proposed vaccine-to-travel requirements will condemn their industry.
The Airports Council International, a global trade organisation representing airports around the world, has stated that mandatory inoculation could be as damaging for aviation firms as quarantine, with people prevented from travelling until the vaccine becomes widely available.
“Just as quarantine effectively halted the industry, a universal requirement for vaccines could do the same,” ACI World Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira told Reuters. “While we welcome the rapid development and deployment of vaccines, there will be a considerable period before they are widely available.
“The industry cannot wait till vaccination becomes available worldwide. During the transition period, tests and vaccines together will play a key role on the industry recovery.”
It comes after the chief executive of Qantas, Alan Joyce, announced last week that passengers will be required to show proof that they have taken a Covid-19 vaccine before boarding.
Win a £200 holiday voucher
To celebrate the festive season, we're offering the chance to win a £200 holiday voucher every day until Christmas in our Travel Advent Calendar competition.
Business destinations in East Asia: can you travel there?
Here are the entry requirements for key business hubs in East Asia, according to the Foreign Office. Even with the new quarantine exemption granted to business travellers, athletes and journalists, they must still contend with strict rules elsewhere.
Travellers arriving in Hong Kong on flights from overseas countries/territories, who are not Hong Kong residents, will be denied entry to Hong Kong.
All travellers entering Hong Kong, including Hong Kong residents, will have to take a mandatory medical test for coronavirus on arrival and need to undergo 14-day compulsory quarantine. Arrivals may be placed in a Hong Kong government quarantine centre.
Apart from Singapore citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents who have been granted permission to enter Singapore from the UK (and from most other countries), must obtain a negative Covid-19 test (PCR test) within 72 hours of travel. You will be issued with a 14 day Stay at Home Notice (SHN) for mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
Non-Japanese nationals wishing to visit for short-term business purposes are also permitted to enter, provided that they have a visa. However, the number of people permitted to enter Japan under these rules will be restricted, with priority given to those moving to Japan.
Non-Japanese nationals arriving will need to provide written evidence of a negative Covid-19 test result conducted within 72 hours of their flight departure time if they have visited the UK in the last 14 days. You will also need to provide written assurance from your company or sponsor that quarantine measures will be followed upon arrival.
All passengers arriving in Japan are required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival at a designated location (such as a hotel or your own home) and to avoid using public transport, including on leaving the airport.
All foreign short-term travellers must quarantine at a government-designated facility for 14 days on arrival. Arrivals from the USA and Europe will be tested on entry before transferring to the quarantine facility; arrivals from elsewhere will move to the quarantine facility and be tested within 14 days.
Individuals are required to pay a daily charge of around 100,000KRW (approximately £66) while in government quarantine facilities.
Business travel exemption a ‘hollow step’
John Grant from aviation analyst OAG has cast doubts on the Government's decision to waive quarantine requirements for business travellers, saying:
We need to recognise that taking unilateral steps is just hollow steps along the path to recover. If the destination remains closed or has its own specific quarantine or lockdown requirements then we are only really passing the issue overseas, the last thing a significant business needs is to have their executives stranded overseas.
If this move was designed to place pressure on other countries to reciprocate or change their entry requirements then it is unlikely to work.
Japan extends controversial travel campaign despite rising infection rate
The Prime Minister of Japan has defended a controversial domestic travel campaign against attacks by medical experts, who claim it has fuelled a third wave of coronavirus infections.
At a press conference earlier today, Yoshihide Suga double down on the decision to extend the Go To Travel campaign, which offers subsidies to promote domestic holidays and boost the national economy.
But critics say that encouraging citizens to move around the country has helped spread Covid-19, with the daily count of confirmed new cases climbing above 2,000 for the first time last week.
Mr Suga stated the decision was made to help the struggling hospitality sector, adding “the government moved to promote the domestic travel campaign, seeing that they would not be able to continue their businesses as things were.”
He also pointed out that the campaign has been suspended in two Covid hotspots – Sapporo and Osaka.
Comment: The laid-back Aussie is a myth – they are mostly officious little twerps
“G’day, how’s it going? Flight alright? Ah jeez, London eh, that’s a long one isn’t it. Betcha glad to be home eh?”
This, invariably, is the kind of welcome I get when I fly home to Sydney and hand over my Aussie passport and it always makes my heart swell, says Sarah Rodrigues.
Australians are known for their relaxed and sunny disposition. Service, whether it’s a perfect, barista-crafted flat white or an ice-cold beer served up in a refrigerated glass, moisture beading its sides, is with a smile. People work to live, rather than live to work, clocking off at 5pm to catch a wave before the day ends. Ask someone to do something for you and you’ll be met with “ah no worries, too easy!” rather than a barely concealed eye roll and an audible ‘humph.’
Which is why it comes as something of a surprise to many when an Australian gets into a flap. As they frequently do. That laid-back demeanour? It’s genuine enough – but it dissipates the instant something goes wrong.
Greetings from Gibraltar, a slice of England on the Med – and our last restriction-free holiday option
With no quarantine restrictions, either on arrival or when you return to Britain, Gibraltar is far easier for Brits to visit than any other European destination, writes William Cook.
The protocols have been rigorous, easier to enact in such a small community, and consequently the territory has come through the Covid crisis remarkably well, with only a handful of fatalities. You have to wear a mask in the city centre (even outside) but virtually everything here is open. Not bad going for one of the most densely populated places in the world.
Although I learnt about Gibraltar back in school, and was intrigued by its rich history, I didn’t get around to going there until a couple of years ago. I didn’t realise what I’d been missing. Gibraltar is a world away from the old colonial stereotype. The Gibraltarians are British to the bone, and English is the lingua franca, but the people are an exotic mix of British, Spanish, Italian, Maltese and Portuguese. Most of them are Roman Catholic, but there are also thriving Anglican, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu communities. A contemporary commercial centre with an antique core, it’s a bustling multicultural place.
‘We may never see a total return to pre-Covid travel’
Holidays may never return to the way they once were, but airport testing is the surest way to kickstart travel while we wait for a widely available vaccine, says Ali Shah, CEO of online travel agent TravelUp.
Positive vaccine news has given the travel industry a much-needed boost and I am very optimistic that 2021 is going to see people enjoying widespread foreign travel once again.
However, a lot now hinges on how effectively the vaccine is rolled out in the UK and also on vaccines being approved across the EU and in other territories, particularly the USA. The quicker we can negotiate travel corridors with other countries who have vaccine programs in place the better.
In the meantime what we need is cheap and effective testing widely available at airports. This is vital because it is going to realistically take months for vaccines to reach the majority of the population. Testing can reduce and hopefully remove the need for quarantine and restore confidence among travellers. The new Test to Release scheme to cut quarantine in England to five days is a great first step but we need to go further. We need quarantine-free travel bubbles between major cities.
I do not think we will see a total return to how things were pre-Covid for a long time, and possibly never. People are going to be much more mindful about health and hygiene. It is not comfortable to wear a mask on a long-haul flight so quick and accurate testing is the way forward in the long term.
Business destinations in North America: can you travel there?
The US and Canada contain some of the UK's most important trading partners, and therefore rank among the most-visited destinations for British business people prior to 2020.
But with strict border controls still in place in North America, can the UK's new quarantine exemption have much of an impact? Here's a quick overview of the entry requirements for business travellers heading West, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office:
British nationals cannot enter the USA and its territories if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil or China within the previous 14 days.
If you are eligible to enter the USA you must be prepared to self-isolate for up to 14 days after arrival.
The Canadian authorities are barring entry to Canada, including at its border with the US, to most foreign nationals, including British nationals. This exclusion does not apply to temporary foreign workers, most international students, Canadian citizens and permanent residents or their immediate and extended families provided they remain in Canada for 15 days or more.
Anyone arriving in Canada must self-quarantine for 14 days, and have a credible self-isolation plan.
Royal Caribbean sailing again with 'cruises to nowhere' – but Britons aren't able to board
Almost nine months after the coronavirus pandemic brought the global cruise industry to a standstill, Royal Caribbean has returned to the water, reports Kaye Holland.
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas departed Singapore on December 1 in the first of its series of short ‘Ocean Getaways’ – also known as ‘cruises to nowhere’. As the latter name suggests, these are voyages that start and end at the same destination, without calling at any ports.
The 4,180-passenger ship set sail at a reduced capacity of 30 per cent as part of the precautions put in place due to the pandemic, with the cruise only open to Singapore residents.
Passengers onboard Royal Caribbean’s first vessel to resume sailing during the time of Covid-19 were required to take a Covid-19 test 48 to 72 hours before boarding, and to be able to prove a negative result.
The cruise giant is covering the cost of tests for sailings departing on or before January 30, 2021, and this may be extended depending on the Covid-19 situation.
What counts as an 'elite sportsperson'?
Alongside business travellers, the Government has given the green light to 'elite sportspersons' to skip quarantine if they are travelling from a high-risk country.
Well, almost. Those participating in 'elite' sporting events, alongside support staff, will be allowed to leave self-isolation to attend the venues in which they are either training or competing. Otherwise, they must stay in quarantine.
According to the Department for Transport: "you need to show written evidence from a United Kingdom or English national governing body for your sport of your status as an international elite sportsperson or essential support staff attending the specified event."
Vaccine hopes spark holiday bookings boom for Scott Dunn
The news that a Covid-19 vaccine will soon be rolled out across the UK has prompted a surge in holiday bookings for 2021, says luxury tour operator Scott Dunn.
The company has confirmed the November was its strongest trading month since February, marking a high point for the business since the pandemic was declared back in March.
Families are proving the most eager to get away next year, followed by multi-generational groups, with Christmas, February half-term and Easter the most in-demand travel periods.
The most popular destinations largely – although not entirely – revolve around the travel corridor list, with the Maldives, Seychelles and Caribbean all high on customers' wishlists.
Several countries yet to receive air bridges with the UK, including South Africa, Kenya and the USA, are all seeing a surge in interest from mid-2021 onwards.
Comment: I don't believe Grant Shapps has the faintest clue about the travel industry
In a year of insignificant weekends, Thursday has become the travel industry’s new favourite day of the week, says Simon Parker. And when 1700 rolls around, we refresh our Twitter feeds, over and over and again, until travel flirt Grant Shapps makes our brains go giddy with words ending –land, –ia and –ica.
But those of us expecting a bumper edition of travel bingo this week were left jilted, deflated and puzzled by 1705. “There will be no new countries added this week,” he announced. At least, getting all his spelling in order this time, and going easy on his favoured Caps Lock.
He could have given us some real “corridors” to trot down, rather than those previous black holes of disappointment. Instead, this announcement – that wasn’t really an announcement – felt more like a kick in the teeth than a boost in the arm.
Worse still, many of us [in the travel industry] have no faith in the one man that should be championing our cause. Beyond his inane weekly tweets, I don’t believe Grant Shapps has the faintest clue about the travel industry. He seems more concerned with road works, potholes and cycle lanes, while an entire £250 billion industry crumbles to dust before our very eyes.
‘We need to see other countries now relaxing their entry rules’
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, who has been campaigning for quarantine changes, said:
At last we’re seeing the dismantling of the quarantine system which has been such a blunt tool and an obstacle to recovery. It will help some businesses to get back to winning orders for Britain but there are still so many key destinations which have tough restrictions for anyone arriving, such as Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and Madrid. We do need to see other countries now relaxing these rules in the same way so that they follow Britain’s lead. Only global consistency is going to help the economy recover much faster in 2021, the year of the vaccine.
Business confidence is as shattered as it can be right now – while the ending of quarantine for some will help, it’s important now for governments to focus on rolling out the vaccines quickly, giving them reason to end quarantine for all and open up their economies faster.
What are 'high-value' business travellers?
A few eyebrows were raised yesterday at the curiously non-specific term 'high-value', although the Deparment of Transport has since clarified who benefits from the new quarantine exemption:
Top executives at foreign firms who are visiting business branches based in England
UK executives returning from business deals abroad which will create of preserve at least 50 jobs, or lead to £100,000 in investment or orders
New hope for Flybe as owner applies for licence
Flybe could take to the skies soon, with its new owner having now applied for a operating licence.
Thyme Opco, which bought the failed airline in October, has put in its application with the Civil Aviation Authority, which could see domestic services resume in the UK.
Flybe was previously the largest independent regional airline in Europe, but was forced to file for administration back in March.
Its stock, equipment and brand were acquired by Thyme Opco, which now plans to relaunch the airline in 2021.
The most popular business travel destinations (by spending)
While the Government will waive quarantine rules for business travellers in the hope of boosting a vital part of the economy, restrictions in other countries could prove a significant sticking point.
These are the top 10 business travel destinations from the UK based on spending (data supplied by Statistica):
Republic of Ireland
United Arab Emirates
China (excl. Hong Kong)
Of these, only the UAE and India are both open to UK travellers and quarantine-free.
How important is business travel to the economy?
There have been growing calls for the Government to open up business travel for some months now, with industry experts throwing a spotlight on the billions of pounds it contributes to the UK economy each year.
Tracey Edginton, Head of Press at Visit Britain, has posted a helpful summary:
Looking at the importance of business visits overall to the UK economy. In 2019 there were 8.7 million inbound business visits (21% of all inbound visits with almost half to #London) with those visitors spending £5.8 billion. @VisitBritainBiz. https://t.co/u07OyJNM3F https://t.co/YGvZ0Y3urL pic.twitter.com/cLbw0fyzbk
— Tracey Edginton (@T_Edginton) December 4, 2020
Heathrow considers charging a fiver to drop off your loved ones
Heathrow is planning to charge drivers £5 to drop off loved ones from next year in what they claim is part of a “green initiative,” writes Oliver Gill.
Airport bosses claim the new charge will encourage travellers to use public transport and help it reach its sustainability goals.
In a move that threatens to enrage legions of travellers as Britain re-emerges from the pandemic, the airport is set to impose a “Forecourt Access Charge”.
Heathrow said the charge would "protect the business financially" after racking up £1.5 billion of losses in 2020, while preventing a “car led airport recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic”
Manchester, Stansted and Birmingham airports already charge drivers from drop-offs. Gatwick has announced plans to introduce a tariff in the future.
'Complex' Covid rules denting traveller confidence
The vast majority of people are being discouraged from booking holidays by the complex and often conflicting Covid rules that now govern international travel.
A Skyscanner survey found that over half (56%) of respondents are struggle to understand which holiday destinations are fully open to them, and over three quarters (77%) of those are subsequently putting travel plans on hold.
But there is room for optimism, with 41% of the 2,152 people surveyed saying that news of a vaccine has boosted their confidence in the prospect of travelling abroad in the next six months.
Skyscanner's global marketing, brand and content senior director Jo McClintock said: “People want to travel and we know there is pent-up demand from the searches we are seeing for flights and for more information, but confidence has been hit by the lack of consistency between countries worldwide regarding measures and restrictions.
“Consumers just do not understand the complex rules and are crying out for transparent, detailed information.”
"Extend quarantine exemption to engineers and humanitarian workers"
As might be expected, the business travel industry has welcomed the move to open up travel for some workers, although Clive Wratten, CEO of The Business Travel Association (BTA) has urged ministers to extend quarantine exemption to other sectors.
The announcement that Government-selected categories of business travellers returning to the UK are exempt from quarantine is a step in the right direction.
However, business travel takes many forms and all should be exempt. Engineers, humanitarian workers, retail buyers and many other professionals travelling for work are all crucial to the UK economy.
Business execs, journalists and sports stars get quarantine exemption
Here's yesterday evening's travel update from Grant Shapps, confirming the groups who will be exempt from quarantine restrictions from tomorrow:
New Business Traveller exemption: From 4am on Sat 5th Dec high-value business travellers💼will no longer need to self-isolate when returning to ENGLAND from a country NOT in a travel corridor, allowing more travel to support the economy and jobs. Conditions apply.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 3, 2020
From 4am on Sat 5th Dec certain performing arts professionals🎭TV production staff🎬journalists 🗞 and recently signed elite sportspersons🏅will also be exempt, subject to specific criteria being met – guidance will be available on https://t.co/39UIsvYiga soon
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 3, 2020
Before we start, here are yesterday's top travel stories:
Business travellers, along with a clutch of other professions, will be exempt from quarantine after December 5
No new travel corridors, however
Travel to Wales from Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas of England and Scotland is permitted again
Despite a vaccine, industry insiders fear travel will not return to normal until 2022