People who have been vaccinated for Covid could soon be given more freedom to travel, with a new 'vaccine passport' app due to be ready "within weeks".
The digital pass, developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), will allow border agencies to verify that air passengers have received their Covid jabs by approved authorities, and could potentially aid the widespread resumption of international travel.
IATA also confirmed earlier this month that it is in talks with the UK government about creating a prototype app for certifying vaccinated travellers, which could replace current travel restrictions such as triple testing of passengers, quarantine hotels, and ten-day mandatory quarantine.
Addressing the House of Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson confirmed that the current measures will remain in place until mid-May, pending a review led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, although numerous travel firms have nevertheless reported a surge in domestic and foreign holiday bookings off the back of his post-lockdown ‘road map’.
The news has been welcomed by struggling airlines, several of which, including Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Air New Zealand, are currently conducting trials with the pass, which will be available on Android and iOS platforms, and will be "modular" so it can be adapted to match each country's entry requirements.
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Today's top stories
Thank you for following today's travel headlines. Before we sign off, here's a quick recap:
Thailand could scrap quarantine for vaccinated visitors
Travel companies report record bookings following roadmap announcement
Greece launches digital vaccine certificates
Regional restrictions to be introduced in Scotland in late April
EU orders member states to relax Covid border controls
Join us tomorrow for more breaking travel news.
Meet the rescue experts keeping Britain's mountains safe
Heading for the hills? Experts share essential advice to keep walkers safe when exploring the UK’s mountains.
While the roadmap is positive news for UK destinations who can now begin to plan, somewhat tentatively, for a busy summer season, there’s a caveat that comes with a surge in visitors to the nation’s beauty spots. This is felt most heavily by the volunteer mountain rescue teams that have been under a great amount of pressure in the past 12 months.
Making headlines recently was an incident that took place in the Lake District. In the early hours of Saturday February 6, Chris Lewis, a volunteer with the Patterdale Mountain Rescue team, fell 150m down a steep slope and had to be airlifted to hospital, when attended a rescue of two people who had broken lockdown rules to go camping in the area. He suffered multiple facial fractures and severely damaged his spinal cord. Life-changing injuries, which could have been avoided. A crowdfunding campaign, launched last week, has raised over £802,000 for Chris, with a milestone £1million in sight.
EasyJet shares jump after booking surge
EasyJet shares jumped to around five percent in late deals on the London stock market, reports AFP.
Shares prices of other European airlines also rallied, with Air France KLM gaining 2.8 per cent, Lufthansa rising 2.5 per cent. British Airways owner IAG, increased by 2.1 per cent.
The news follows easyJet's reported booking surge of 337 per cent, following the roadmap announcement.
If anywhere in Britain can put a spring in your step, it's Glastonbury – even without its festival
You may scoff at Glastonbury's hippy ways – but its tree walks and spiritual sites are just the tonic for your lockdown-frazzled chakras, says Tracey Davies.
“Your wellies look like beautiful daffodils,” says a serene young man dressed in a rainbow Baja hoodie and hemp harem pants. It's 5.45am and while I don't quite look my best in scruffy yellow boots, a muddy parka and bed hair, I welcome his kind compliment and follow the line of bohemian insomniacs climbing Glastonbury Tor to watch the sun rise over Avalon.
Now I'm not one to throw scorn or mock the spiritually enlightened – I've had more than my fair share of sage burning, wand waving and sunrise rituals at festivals over the years – and after this emotionally turbulent year, I can't think of a better place to indulge my spiritual side than in Glastonbury. Its festival may be cancelled this June, but a trip here any time will definitely put a spring back in your step – as I found when I visited last summer.
Second cruel summer awaits Europe’s ‘Club Med’ economies
Keeping ban on international travel until mid-May leaves Spain, Portugal and Greece guessing about the return of Brits to their beaches, reports Tom Rees.
Vaccines boosted the prospect of a sizzling summer rebound for eurozone tourism in 2021 but new Covid variants threaten to throw a spanner in the works.
“I’m worried about Europe in general - this was the largest region of the world in travel and tourism,” says Gloria Guevara, head of the World Travel & Tourism Council. She is concerned about the region’s lack of a joined-up strategy for travel because vaccinating the whole of Europe is “going to take some time”.
Nice goes into weekend lockdown to contain Covid spike
The French city of Nice and its surrounding coastal areas will go under weekend lockdown from Friday, the first time the country has imposed a localised lockdown to stem a rapid spread in Covid-19 cases, Anna Pujol-Mazzini reports.
Local authorities said controls at airports at the Italian border will also be stepped up and additional vaccines sent to the area where the more infectious British variant is widespread.
"The current epidemic situation forces us to restrict movement leading to a partial lockdown," said Bernard Gonzalez, the prefect of the southeastern Alpes-Maritimes department where Nice, Cannes and other resorts popular with tourists lie.
In the Alpes-Maritimes region, there were 583 new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people last week, the highest incidence rate of any region in France. The national average is 200.
Residents will only be allowed to leave their homes to shop for essential items, go to the doctor or exercise from Friday evenings to Monday mornings for two weeks.
Roadmap: the unanswered questions surrounding international travel
Finally, we have a better idea of when we might be able to leave the country again: May 17 at the earliest, according to the Prime Minister’s four-stage roadmap.
Beyond that date, Boris Johnson was fairly vague on the details regarding international travel, but we can expect to know more on April 12, when the Government’s new ‘Travel Taskforce’ will produce its report on the matter.
The current raft of tough travel restrictions – including triple testing of passengers, quarantine hotels for arrivals from red list countries and 10-day self-isolation at home for other travellers – will remain in place until mid-May.
In the meantime, there are plenty of answered questions surrounding foreign travel. How long will quarantine hotels remain in place? Will vaccine passports hold the key to our freedom? Could the current ban at least be loosened before April, to allow for some non-essential travel?
Why an epic honeymoon isn't as essential as you think
There must be countless couples right now who, rather than delaying the Big Day yet further, are preparing to accept a more low-key ceremony and honeymoon destination and seeking to make the best of it they can – hoping that one day they will be able to revisit that holiday of their dreams.
My parents made do with an afternoon tea – but they made up for it later, says Adrian Bridge.
Glamping company Canopy & Stars reports best booking day ever
Popular glamping company, Canopy & Stars, says it recorded its best sales day ever yesterday, beating the record set following the July 4 announcement last year by 200 per cent. Interestingly, April has taken over as the most popular month for bookings too, overtaking the peak summer months.
Mike Bevens, managing director of Sawday’s and Canopy & Stars, said: “It’s a huge relief that self-catering accommodation is set to open in April, and we’re glad to now have clarity from the Government about a date that we can work towards for our guests and accommodation owners. As the stats show, guests are obviously reassured and relieved too as we have seen record levels of bookings and enquiries.”
Holiday booking boom: Twitter reaction
More operators are reporting post roadmap announcement booking surges.
Iain Powell, head of trade sales & third-party cruise, Saga Holidays & Cruise:
Miles Morgan, managing director, Miles Morgan Travel:
Scotland's tourism industry responds to First Minister announcement
Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance:
Today’s provisional timescale of the gradual re-opening of the economy as set out by the First Minister today is welcome, however, I know from the many conversations I’ve had with tourism businesses this week, and particularly within the last 24 hours that they were hoping for more detail around the pathway to reopening. The detail announced today does not go far enough in giving our sector the clarity needed at this point to plan for reopening.
The level system is a divergence from the route map set out by the Prime Minister yesterday and causes huge issues for businesses who we know are being contacted today with enquiries to book from those living south of the border. With no international tourism likely for some time, there is greater dependency on Scotland’s ability to attract tourism from within the UK and we need to provide a degree of reassurance that their bookings can be accommodated.
Our tourism industry is not able to accept bookings with confidence; not all will wait for our sector to gradually re-open to book. We’ve seen the huge spike in bookings from England for foreign travel over the last 24 hours and there is a great fear that Scotland’s tourism industry will lose out in what could have been a buoyant summer season.
Greece launches digital vaccine certificates
Greece has become one of the first countries to launch a digital vaccination certificate for all those who have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Announced earlier today, the scheme is intended to boost the country's tourism sector in time for the crucial summer season.
“The proposal focuses on border crossings,” said the General Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Marios Themistokleous. “We propose that when you cross the border to go to another country, to have of course the possibility to have a test and to be quarantined, but also, if you have been vaccinated, to have the opportunity to cross the border easily."
Concerns remain over the effectiveness of 'vaccine passports', with the World Health Organization arguing that the vaccine's effect on limiting transmission is not yet known.
However, a number of countries are beginning to adopt the idea, with Cyprus, Romania and the Seychelles among those already waiving quarantine for those with proof of inoculation.
Will cruise holidays make a comeback in 2021, and where will we be able to go?
After a lost year, cruising is coming back, says Dave Monk. Most of the big lines were forced to write off the rest of 2020 after coronavirus struck but a brave few operators did dip their toe in the waters to resume some sailings – both at sea and on rivers.
This wasn’t much help to Britons, sadly, who were advised against ocean cruising by the Foreign Office, and faced closed borders and frequently changing quarantine restrictions when trying to travel abroad.
However, news of vaccines, and the implementation of strict health and safety measures on ships, means that 2021 is looking much brighter for large numbers to return to their favourite holidays afloat.
Some cruise lines are still only welcoming their domestic customers while others are cautious about the dates and details of their restart plans.
But, with hopes rising of a return to more normal service by the summer, where in the world will we soon be able to cruise?
Thailand could scrap quarantine for vaccinated visitors
Thailand's strict quarantine rules could be abandoned as the country seeks to boost its ailing tourism industry.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced earlier today that his government will consider whether to allow visitors with proof of a Covid-19 vaccine to skip the 14-day self-isolation period.
The Thai borders are currently open to most countries, but the mandatory quarantine period has deterred the vast majority of travellers, placing pressure on a tourism industry that accounts for around 20% of the national economy.
A previous attempt to lure visitors with a 'Special Tourist Visa' met with failure, with many put off by the prospect of two weeks in an ASQ (Alternative State Quarantine) hotel.
Regional restrictions to be introduced in Scotland in late April
Before launching into details of the framework - Nicola Sturgeon says there are hopes to reopen much of the economy by late April - she stresses that Scotland has limited room for manoeuvre as case numbers remain high and the R value hovers around 1.
"It we are to sustain our progress we must exercise care and caution," she says, adding that the Government aims to get Covid-19 numbers low and keep them there. "Maximum suppression is important for our chances of getting back to normal."
She says the new strategic framework emphasises the importance of both travel restrictions and the contact tracing system as Scotland exits restrictions. Here are the key points of that plan:
By the end of April, Scotland will move to a level system - meaning that restrictions can be tightened and loosened regionally. Introducing this, hopefully on April 26, is reliant on wider vaccine roll out. More details will be set out in mid-March about the data that will determine which area is in which tier.
From the last week of April non-essential retail, including gyms and hair dressers, are hoped to be open.
There will be an interval of at least three weeks between easing different measures,
The priority is on schools - the process of returning to the classroom started yesterday, when the youngest children went back to school. The Government hopes the rest of primary school year groups will return to school on March 15, as well as more secondary school children.
From early March care home restrictions will be also eased. Outdoor mixing will be expanded to four people from two households and outside sport for children will be allowed.
From April 5, the stay at home order will be lifted.
'Schools did not have to come at the expense of hospitality': Hoteliers respond to the new roadmap
Hotel owners across the country have spoken out on the Government's roadmap out of lockdown. The "cautious" four-stage plan will see hotels unable to open before May 17 at the earliest, in phase three, potentially just five weeks before nightclubs, and after other parts of hospitality such as outdoor dining.
This is despite the fact that in the month leading up to the second national lockdown in November, hospitality (bars, cafés, pubs and restaurants) accounted for less than three per cent of outbreaks, according to figures from Public Health England.
While some hoteliers feel optimistic about having a date to work towards, and are looking forward to a surge in staycations, others say they will struggle to survive until then.
The UK's top self-catering holidays for spring: Lake District
Our experts have managed to unearth some of the best holiday options that still have availability for the week commencing April 12. Here are three great options in the Lake District:
Cool Camping, Windermere and Ullswater
Low Wray Campsite, on the western shores of Windermere, is a deservedly popular site, set amongst trees, close to the lakeshore path – and National Trust-owned Wray Castle – and with plentiful showers, kayak and bike rental, playground, shop and seasonal pizza tent.
For somewhere more under-the-radar, family-owned Gill Head Farm is a working hill farm near Troutbeck, north of Ullswater, with grand views of Blencathra. With fields, streams, children’s play area and barbecue, it also offers a tucked-away ‘hidden’ field, shielded from the main site, with waterfall and woodland.
Both Low Wray Campsite (nationaltrust.org.uk/holidays/low-wray-campsite-lake-district) and Gill Head Farm (coolcamping.com) have plenty of availability from April 12.
Whitbarrow Luxury Lodges
On the north-eastern border of the National Park, 10 minutes from the M6, what the family-focused Whitbarrow lacks in stunning views or lakeside situation (Ullswater, the nearest lake, is a 20-minute drive) it makes up for with high-spec properties – a mix of lodges and cottages all with hot tubs, outside seating, granite kitchens and en-suite bedrooms – a pool, restaurant, bar and children’s play areas. And it currently has good availability for summer – around 60 per cent. Typically, bookings come in late when the weather forecasts look clearer.
From £1,995 for 7 nights in a two-bedroom cottage (2 adults, 2 children); availability from April 16; luxurylodges.com/whitbarrow
Pick of the Holidaycottages.co.uk
As its properties in the perennial hotspots of Keswick, Ambleside and Windermere are already booking up, you’ll stand a better chance of getting the size and style of accommodation you want by spreading your net. Picture-postcard Hawkshead – just five miles from Ambleside – has some great pubs, and is a hop and a skip from Beatrix Potter’s home.
Seven nights at Flag Cottage, Hawkshead, from April 12, costs £786; holidaycottages.co.uk.
EU orders member states to relax Covid border controls
The EU commission has warned six member states that their border controls are too strict, and has given each 10 days to justify their restrictions.
Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Hungary are all judged to have “gone too far” in implementing border checks, with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders requesting a return to "a coordinated approach to all the measures taken in relations with the free movement of people and goods.”
A Commission spokesperson added that the bloc risks “fragmentation and disruptions to free movement and to supply chains - something we have witnessed again the past weeks.”
Nine members of the Schengen Zone have now reinstated border controls in an effort to curb the spread of Covid 19, and there is some resistance to the Commission's interference.
Michael Roth, Europe Minister for Germany, argued: “These measures obviously put a massive strain on border regions... but the protection of our citizens is paramount.”
'Easter closure will cost us £4,000'
While there has been much excitement within the travel industry at the sudden upturn in bookings prompted by Boris Johnson's plan to ease restrictions, there is an undercurrent of dismay that lockdown will remain in place over Easter.
Easter Sunday falls on April 4 this year, more than a week before domestic holidays are scheduled to resume. For Phil Russell, owner of Tor View Shepherds Huts in Somerset, the news spells even more financial hardship, although there are some positives:
The Easter Holiday closure has cost us approximately £4,000 – the Easter Weekend closure alone will cost £1,000. Having a start date helps, as we can begin to plan and update our booking calendar.
Enquiries began to come in again this weekend – in fact yesterday we had an enquiry from a couple in London who wanted to book for 10 days. This is unheard of, Shepherd’s Huts bookings are usually 2-3 days.
Vaccine passports must not 'evolve in legal vacuum'
In exploring the possible rollout of vaccine passports to facilitate the restart of international travel, the Government must tread lightly to avoid flouting existing laws, says Dr Ana Beduschi, from the University of Exeter Law School, who has been conducting research into the issue.
It is good news that the Government is investigating all possibilities to ease our way out of the lockdown. The Government should bear in mind that in regards to vaccine passports, it is not sufficient to develop technical solutions for the verification of people's health status. Because technologies do not evolve in a legal vacuum, the existing laws and regulations must be respected.
The risks of deploying such technologies must be anticipated and mitigated as much as possible before any large-scale deployment.
Can I visit Wales? Latest advice as Easter self-catering breaks proposed
Wales is under Level 4 lockdown rules; non-essential travel is banned and residents are expected to stay at home as much as possible. Another review of the restrictions is due on March 12.
Hopes have been raised for the reopening of tourism, however. First Minister Mark Drakeford said on February 19 that "self-contained" holidays may be able to take place over Easter.
This would put the resumption of self-catering breaks in Wales ahead of those of England (where an April 12 restart is planned, as detailed in the UK Government's roadmap out of lockdown). A quicker reopening for tourism in Wales could be possible due to its falling infection rates, which are lower than those of the other UK nations.
Watch live: Nicola Sturgeon reveals Scotland's roadmap out of lockdown
What the roadmap out of lockdown means for spas in Britain
The Prime Minister has announced a new roadmap out of lockdown that consists of four steps, writes Charlotte Johnstone. All being well with the containment of new variants and infection rates, and the success of the vaccine programme, the last step should come into place on June 21, when it is hoped that all limits on social contact will be lifted.
In his address to the House of Commons on February 22, he set out the "cautious" plan, which will see indoor leisure facilities start to reopen from April 12, and hotels from May 17.
Currently hotels are closed except for business and essential stays, and leisure facilities including indoor pools and gyms, plus personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons, spas and massage parlours remain closed.
Vote now: Five-star hotel or camping adventure?
The world’s best beaches to set your sights on for summer 2021 and beyond
Now that May 17 has been set as the possible date for international travel to return, many Britons will be seeking a bit of sun and sand, writes Emma Cooke. Tripadvisor has today announced the winners of its annual Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards for Beaches, providing ample inspiration.
The awards are based on the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings from Tripadvisor travellers for beaches, gathered over a 12-month period, and the winners feature pristine sands and ultra clean seas.
A total of four UK beaches are included in Europe’s top 25 this year: in addition to Bournemouth, Cornwall holds two of Europe’s best, with Porthminster Beach and Perranporth Beach in tenth and 16th place respectively. Scarborough’s Filey Beach ranked 18th.
Number of new variants in the UK is falling, says Matt Hancock
The Health Secretary has been answering questions in the House of Commons and confirmed that cases of new Covid variants in the UK are declining.
He said: "The good news is we can see from the data the number of new variants in the country is falling, much lower than it was last month.
"We keep that obviously under very very close eye. Because making sure that we don’t have a new variant that can’t be beaten by the vaccine is a critical part of the road map as set out by the Prime Minister yesterday."
Concern over importing new coronavirus variants is the driving force behind the Government's hotel quarantine policy.
England's most glorious places to visit on April 12
If the roadmap stays on track, April 12 will herald some joyous 'firsts' in England. The first outdoor meet-up in your 'Rule of Six' social circle (or between your household and another); the first pint or pub lunch (strictly outdoors, of course); the first overnight in a self-catering UK holiday rental.
But where to head first? Our experts have some suggestions.
Camping company sees huge booking spike
Like many other UK travel companies, Cool Camping, which offers camping and glamping holidays at more than 500 sites, reported a surge in bookings yesterday.
The company reported that bookings were up by more than 750 per cent on the same date last year. It said general website traffic also increased by more than 200 percent, with a surge from 4pm onwards, just after the roadmap was announced.
Jonathan Knight, founder of Cool Camping, said:
“It's great news that accommodation businesses now have dates to work towards and can start planning ahead. The main interest has been for locations in the South West with people booking up for both May bank holidays, especially the later one which falls in the school half term week as well.”
However, he did raise concerns that camping holidays involving shared facilities will be excluded from Step 2 on April 12, when other self-catering accommodation will be allowed to open, along with many outdoor attractions.
“If that is the case, it seems complete madness to restrict camping on the basis that a small number of campers are sharing the same facilities, while visitor attractions like parks and gardens will open with potentially thousands of visitors sharing the same facilities.”
The UK's top self-catering holidays for spring: Cornwall
Our experts have managed to unearth some of the best holiday options that still have availability for the week commencing April 12. Here are two great options in Cornwall.
Channel your inner Swallows and Amazons
A 10-minute drive from Port Isaac, in the heart of Doc Martin country, Cornish Tipi Holidays (01208 880781; cornishtipiholidays.co.uk) is deliciously off-grid. Hidden in 20 acres of native woodland beside a spring-fed lake, there are 20 traditional North American tipis and a wild camping meadow. This is the ultimate back-to-nature holiday with the chance to go swimming, boating and fishing in a lake. It’s a great choice for single parents and you can be as private or social as you like. There is plenty of availability from April 12 onwards.
Go retro with VW
Falmouth-based Clive Goodwin has spent his life restoring classic VW campervans and now rents them out to holidaymakers (07914 015540; cool4campers.co.uk). He can also advise on the best campsites to pull in for the night. The VW’s slim profile makes it ideal for pootling along Cornwall’s narrow roads. Ingeniously fitted out with sink, gas stove, fridge, electric hook-up and heater, the vans sleep four: two children in the pop-up and two adults on a rock-and-roll bed. A week’s rental costs £627 in April or May.
Find more spring holidays with availability here.
Private lakes and treetop escapes: The best remote self-catering stays around Britain
The idea of rolling hills, secluded lakes and quiet beaches on your doorstep will be a tonic for those who have spent too long penned in at home. We've rounded up the very best wild and wonderful self-catering escapes in Britain. Each feels thrillingly remote with easy access to the great outdoors, and added bonuses including the likes of wood-fired hot tubs, private lakes and far-reaching views.
Greece extends travel restrictions until March (with some exemptions for Britons)
The Greek authorities have decided to extend flight and quarantine restrictions until March 8 as a precaution against emerging coronavirus variants
Citizens from outside the Schengen Zone will remain banned from entering the country, while all but a few will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.
The UK is one of a select few to benefit from a quarantine exemption. It means that, as things stand, Greece remains a relatively viable travel option for holidaymakers if the UK travel ban is lifted in May.
Vote now: What are your 2021 holiday plans?
Staycation or cruise? The holidays most likely to happen this summer
Any decision you make about booking a summer break will be determined by where you are thinking of going and what sort of holiday you fancy, writes Nick Trend.
Until at least May 17, we are not allowed to travel abroad for leisure, and many countries are not allowing UK citizens to visit anyway. But we can make educated guesses about which are likely to offer the best and worse prospects.
To find out more, read our colour-coded guide to key travel destinations and holiday types
While Boris Johnson's post-lockdown roadmap has clearly created a swell of optimism among would-be holidaymakers, plenty of doubts still remain. How realistic is the timeframe for lifting restrictions? Will strict quarantine rules remain in place? Are vaccine passports the way forward?
If you have any queries or quibbles with the plan to restart travel, let us know in the comments section below.
IATA's Covid Travel Pass to be trialled in Africa
Rwandan carrier RwandAir has become the first African airline to partner with IATA to trial its digital Covid Travel Pass.
The three-week programme will begin in April and run on flights between Kigali and Nairobi.
Yvonne Manzi Makolo, CEO of RwandAir, said: “RwandAir is proud to be the first African airline to trial IATA Travel Pass, which could reinforce all the health and safety measures and protocols which we have put in place to restore customer confidence to fly once more.
“Travel Pass will make it easy for our customers to resume flying – and just as easy for RwandAir, and airlines around the world, to accept them."
What the roadmap out of lockdown means for hotel stays in Britain
Hotels have been closed for leisure guests since January 4, when the third national lockdown began. They will remain closed until May 17 at the earliest, as part of the Prime Minister's four-week roadmap out of lockdown, which will see four stages to 'freedom' put in place. The planned dates for the stages are March 29, April 12, May 17 and, finally, June 21 (when social distancing will end).
Before we move into subsequent stages, however, the data regarding vaccination, infection and hospitalisation figures will be analysed. We will be given a week's notice before we move into the next stage (or not).
Meanwhile, Britons returning to the UK from "high-risk" countries will have to pay for hotel quarantine to prevent new Covid variants reaching this country from South Africa and South America, at least until mid-May, with a review on foreign travel taking place on April 12.
The 10 most popular overseas destinations for post-lockdown
Spain has topped the list for flight bookings made by hopeful UK holidaymakers following Boris Johnson's lockdown exit announcement yesterday.
Data provided by Skyscanner shows that bookings made on Monday in the wake of the Prime Minister's speech to the House of Commons jumped by 69% compared to the previous day.
These are the 10 most-booked destinations:
While hopes are high for a May 17 restart for international travel, experts have pointed to several risks attached to booking your holiday now.
Even if the post-lockdown road map proceeds as scheduled (which is by no means a given), countries such as the United States may still have entry restrictions for UK nationals in place.
There is also no guarantee that the UK's own travel restrictions, which vary between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, will be lifted in May. Portugal is currently a 'red-listed' country, meaning returning travellers must spend a minimum of 10 days in a quarantine hotel.
British hotel quarantine not strict enough, suggests epidemiologist
A leading Australian epidemiologist has compared the UK's hotel quarantine system to a sieve with too many holes in a discussion with MPs about lifting lockdown.
Professor Catherine Bennett, of Deakin University in Victoria, said border closure had been one of Australia's "main tools" in keeping infection rates low and protecting its domestic economy.
Speaking to the All Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, she said Australia had tightened up its hotel quarantine system in response to the new variants, including adding extra testing.
She remarked that the British system of hotel quarantine - which has only just been introduced, is only 10 days long and allows people out for exercise - demonstrates a difference in the way Australia and the UK perceive lockdowns.
"If you're going to let you have too many holes in the sieve, then why bother with the sieve?" Prof Bennett said.
The UK's top self-catering holidays for spring: the South Coast
It’s official: self-catering UK holidays will be allowed from April 12. Some restrictions will remain – restaurants and pubs will not be able to offer indoor service, for example, so you’ll need to rely on home cooking and beer gardens (weather permitting) – but for a first dose of freedom, that is the date for your diary.
Needless to say, things are booking up fast. But our experts have managed to unearth some of the best holiday options that still have availability for the week commencing April 12.
We'll bring you more of these throughout the day, but for starters, here are our top picks for the South Coast:
Let’s do Battle
A revamp of the 31-mile 1066 Country Walk from Pevensey (where William of Normandy landed in 1066) to the medieval town of Rye (via historic Battle, where the Battle of Hastings took place), will be revealed this summer. Scattered along the route are 10 pieces of art being created by East Sussex sculptor, Keith Pettit and it’s possible to see one of these up close, at Hare Farm Hideaways. A working sheep farm, Hare Farm has accommodation for 12 in a stylishly converted Oust House and for two in a nearby shepherd’s hut. On the brow of the farm’s field is Pettit’s ‘Far Bank Henge’ – six oak monoliths inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry. Tucked into the Brede Valley Hare Farm also offers access to a quiet shingle beach at Winchelsea.
Availability from April 12. Three nights in the Oast House from £1,600. Two nights in the Shepherd’s Hut from £165; subsequent nights £65 (harefarmhideaways.co.uk).
Isle of Wight glamping
However did we manage before glamping? First there were tents, then came yurts and eco pods, and now there are modulogs. With five safari tents, two wood cabins pods – and modulogs – Tom’s Eco Lodge Glamping on the Isle of Wight does glamping every which way. Masquerading as Anderson shelters, the cosy two-bedroom modulogs can be configured as doubles or twins and each has a log-burning hot tub. The farm has views to Freshwater Bay and can be reached by public transport from East Cowes or Yarmouth.
Availability from April 16. Five nights in a modulog (sleeps four plus two on a sofa bed) from around £1,400. Four nights in a Pod from £250 (tapnellfarm.com).
InterContinental slumps to $150 million loss as Covid takes its toll
One of the world's largest hotel chains, Intercontinental Hotels Group, has posted a financial loss of $153 million loss for 2020, citing "the most challenging year in our history" as the cause.
By contrast, IHG had recorded a profit of $630 million in 2019, highlighting the devastating impact the pandemic had on the hospitality industry.
Keith Barr, chief executive at IHG Hotels & Resorts, said: “2020 was clearly the most challenging year in our history, with Covid-19 heavily impacting demand across our industry.
“2021 has begun with many of these challenges still in place, with more meaningful progress towards recovery for the industry unlikely until later in the year and dependent on global vaccine rollouts, lifting of restrictions and an acceleration in economic activity.”
Before you book: your rights to a holiday refund if the roadmap changes
With UK self-catering accommodation (almost) definitely set to re-open on March 12, and overseas holidays slated to (hopefully) restart on May 17, holiday companies have reported a surge of interest and bookings, says Nick Trend.
But before you jump in and follow, it’s worth wising up on a few points.
Great British Getaways: 10 amazing UK walking holidays for 2021
If 2020 was the year more people started walking, then 2021 might be the year of people walking even more, writes Sarah Baxter. According to government stats, 94% of those who reported an increase in heading out for a stroll since the start of the pandemic thought it likely they’d continue to do so, even after its end.
No doubt because it’s a lovely, healthy, mind-and-body healing thing to do. Fortunately, Great Britain has some great walks.
Sage scientist says he will not travel abroad until 2023
A senior Sage scientist has revealed he will not travel abroad until "after 2022", citing concerns about the vaccine rollout in other countries.
Despite Boris Johnson's announcement that overseas holidays could resume on May 17 (subject to a review by a Government taskforce), Graham Medley, a professor of infectious disease modelling and chair of a Sage sub-group specialising in influenza, urged Britons to remain "cautious" about travelling.
He told LBC: “I didn’t [travel] last year and I won’t next year probably either. It’s a time of caution.
“We’re doing very well with the vaccine in this country, other countries are not.
“I wouldn’t book anything. The whole situation will be very uncertain for a long time.”
Government road map 'shows a meandering footpath'
Martin Sach, chief executive of the Holiday Home Association, has expressed disappointment at the Government's plan to open up domestic holidays by April 12 (at the earliest).
The government's road map is a disappointment. From 12th April self-catering accommodation will be able to re-open but will be restricted to single households, crushing the hopes of many families for an Easter gathering that was denied at Christmas, and cancelling the UK tourism industry's first big weekend of the year.
It is unclear what exactly the restrictions will be on groups of friends holidaying together between 17th May and 21st June – we have become used to waiting until the very last minute to see regulations that clarify what exactly is permitted in law and what isn't, and this year is looking like another year of uncertainty for the industry and our customers, especially as all these dates are subject to review.
We are disappointed that the ability for people to enjoy holidays in England with their families or friends, in groups of all sizes, and to enjoy attractions and hospitality, will continue to be curtailed until mid-summer, long after all vulnerable people have been vaccinated and the level of risk reduced to a low level.
The road map shows a meandering footpath when the progress made in reducing risk to the NHS and the vulnerable justifies an A Road.
UK quarantine hotels: how do they work and what do the new rules mean for holidays?
Travellers will be expected to pick up the bill for their stay, guidance published by the Government on February 11 confirmed, with 16 hotels currently signed up to the scheme.
Arrivals from 'red-listed' destinations will have to book and pay for a quarantine package costing £1,750 before they travel. This includes the cost of their hotel, transport and testing, and is available to book via an online platform that went live on February 11 (but quickly went down for maintenance).
Quarantine hotels, or 'directed isolation' facilities, are already in use across Asia, New Zealand and Australia. But how does the idea work in the UK, and exactly which arrivals have to comply?
The top 5 destinations for a post-lockdown UK holiday
No prizes for guessing that rural locations are topping people's post-lockdown holiday wishlists this year. According to data provided by the Rest Easy Group, which operates a number of holiday rental websites, these are the top picks:
Matt Fox, CEO and founder of the Rest Easy Group, said:
Brits are wasting no time booking their trips, with the most popular check-in date being 12th April, closely followed by the 16th. And with the announcement giving people more confidence to book summer trips, we also saw searches for July and August breaks double compared to the week before.
Although there has been a huge surge of interest in April, there is still a lot more chance of the popular destinations being available in this month, with it being outside of the summer holidays. For example, in April there are 21% of breaks remaining in Cornwall, whilst in August – there are just 13%.
New variants may 'set us back' on international travel, says Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock has reiterated his warning that international travel will be dependent on the extent to which vaccines can protect against the new variants in South Africa and other countries.
While studies suggest the vaccines are effective against the Kent variant, the data is less certain for those that have emerged in other countries. This is one component of the travel review, which is due to report by April 12.
The Health Secretary told BBC Breakfast: "We have been absolutely clear this is an areas we need to do further work on. We have put in dates we would like to see this open up, but they are 'not before' dates.
"We have got this review into international travel which is important," he added. "If that [finds that the] impact is perfectly good, if it stops majority of hospitalisations and deaths... then great, but if there is a variant that can get around vaccine then obviously that would set us back and we would need to be cautious against that.
"We just don't know the science in that space yet - we are working very hard on it, including with our colleagues in the South African government. That is one of the unknowns at the moment."
'We've got one new booking every second,' says UK holiday firm
The news that domestic holidays could resume on April 12 has resulted in a sales boom for UK travel firms, with one self-catering specialist reporting "a new booking every second".
Awaze, which owns both Cottages.com and Hoseasons, has sold more than 10,000 UK breaks since the announcement yesterday afternoon.
"Last year following similar announcements we saw bookings peak at one every 11 seconds, but this time demand has exceeded our expectations and comfortably broken that record," said chief commercial officer Simon Altham.
"It is clear that Brits are desperate to get away, and now have the clarity and confidence to book.
"This will be welcome news for many businesses that rely on tourism across England and will allow them to plan their reopening carefully and considerately."
'New taskforce must ensure costly travel restrictions are removed'
Gatwick Airport has welcomed the announcement of a new taskforce, put in place to assess the safe resumption of international travel, but has stressed the need for haste in order for holidays to go ahead this summer.
An airport spokesperson said:
While we welcome the news that Government is keen to work with the aviation industry to ease restrictions on international travel, the successor body to the Global Travel Taskforce needs to be established quickly and work closely with airports and airlines to allow a return to international travel as soon as possible.
Whilst we recognise decisions to restart will be based on the epidemiological situation and the progress of the vaccine roll out, it also needs to recognise that passengers require certainty sooner rather than later in order to plan and book travel for this summer.
The Taskforce's report must adopt a coordinated, consistent and reciprocal approach with governments around the world, including the UK’s key international markets and destinations, to ensure current, onerous and costly restrictions for passengers are removed.
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Summer holiday bookings surge by up to 600pc after lockdown roadmap announcement
Airlines and travel firms are experiencing a surge in demand following Boris Johnson's road map for how coronavirus restrictions will be eased, reports Gareth Davies.
The Prime Minister said on Monday that a Government taskforce will produce a report by April 12 recommending how international trips can resume for people in England.
Foreign holidays could be permitted from May 17.
In the hours after the announcement, easyJet said bookings by UK customers for the summer season were more than four times higher compared with the same period during the previous week.
The Luton-based firm's holiday division saw an even larger rise, with demand up seven-fold.
Let's start with a reminder of yesterday's main headlines:
Foreign holidays banned until at least May 17 under coronavirus roadmap
Easter staycations off table as Covid roadmap makes April 12 earliest date
Grant Shapps announces 'new' Travel Taskforce
Pitchup.com: Bookings have quadrupled since PM announcement
'This is not going to #SaveOurSummer': the travel industry reacts