Travel Questions Answered
You may have seen in the news a new law allegedly banning holidays until July. Since we're a holiday company and we think holidays are coming back before then, we wanted to provide a bit of context for the latest holiday news.
What's actually happening with holidays this year?
Update: March 23 On April 5, and then again on April 12, the Department for Transport's Global Travel Taskforce will be announcing the plan for restarting overseas holidays, as we've known since Feb 22. It is likely they will announce the resumption of overseas holidays to a limited number of destinations on or around May 17.
OK, so why does the news say "holidays banned until July on pain of a five grand fine?"
On Feb 22, Boris Johnson announced that holidays would be banned until May 17 ("at the earliest").
Currently, that ban is achieved through the "stay at home" rule - the one that says you can't leave your house except for specific reasons, and holidays aren't one of them.
That stay at home rule comes to an end on Monday (29 March). Thus, the government needs a new rule to stop people going on holiday between Mon 29 March and Mon 17 May. Without a new rule, we could all have hopped on a plane on Monday. That's all it is - a little gap in the legislation that they needed to fill with a new rule, doing what they always said they were going to do.
Why does the new law last until July then?
Just in case. The thing that could still cause a problem is a new variant that's resistant to the current vaccines. But right now, there doesn't seem to be one. As soon as overseas holidays start again, which we expect to be on or around May 17, we expect they'll either repeal or supersede the law that coming in from Monday.
What should we do for the moment?
We understand the UK government still advises holidaymakers to wait until their report in early April before changing any travel plans. Matt Hancock, the Health Minister, said to Sky News on last week "the questions of whether people will be able to travel abroad this summer are going to be addressed by the Global Travel Taskforce, which is reporting around 12 April…the earliest date by which we will allow for international travel…is 17 May. That has not changed."
So it's up to you whether you want to book ahead for the summer now. There are arguments for and against - with the main argument in favour, of course, being that once the announcement is actually final, everyone will want to book at once, prices will likely go up and packages will likely sell out.
If you do book now, therefore, we recommend making sure you've booked with as much flexibility as possible. Book with your travel agent, or check that the holiday (and holiday extras!) you're booking can be cancelled or amended easily if your plans need to change.
Why do government ministers keep going on TV saying not to book holidays?
Quite reasonably, government ministers appear to have all been given the same brief on summer holidays - "be very cautious, don't leak anything and don't pre-empt the April report". So they all say the same thing "wait for the report in April". Last weekened Minister Olive Dowden said at one point "the intention of the Travel Taskforce is to open up travel safely", which is seen as a positive sign.
Why did Boris Johnson say "Europe's third Covid wave will wash up on our shore"?
Some countries in Europe are, very sadly, seeing a third wave, new lockdowns and extended restrictions. When holidays resume, at least at first we'll very likely only be able to go to places that have the virus under control. Happily, more countries are expected to do so as time goes on and vaccines roll out, so that list should grow over time.
Where will we be able to go?
That remains to be announced in the April report. There are two considerations - where will let us in, and where will our government consider it safe for us to have been. There's been speculation about a "traffic light" system, which seems broadly likely (and in a way is what we already have now and had last summer):
- "Green" countries: places that will let us in, have the virus under control and which we can therefore visit and return from without onerous restrictions - perhaps with a test on the way in and out.
- "Orange" countries: places we can visit, but with self-isolation and more restrictions coming or going (or both).
- "Red" countries: places on the banned list, with either very severe infection situation or variants of the virus, from which visitors cannot come to the UK and UK citizens returning from which would quarantine in a government hotel at their own considerable expense.
If this is the system that we come to use this summer, "green" countries would likely be most suitable for a holiday (since we could come and go without a period of isolation). It would be possible to visit "orange" countries for business or to see family and friends, if you were determined to go and willing to put up with a period of self-isolation when you got back. And "red" countries would effectively be off-limits to UK visitors.
Where's likely to be on the green list?
Even the system is speculation at this point, although it seems to be widespread and quite informed speculation. Some countries that are possible include:
- Spain, especially the Canary and Balearic islands, has announced its intention to be first to accept UK visitors when travel resumes. Certainly the island economies are normally dependent on UK visitors, so they're generally keen to have us back, and if our governments can agree reciprocal protocols Spain could be one of our summer destinations.
- Greece has likewise said it hopes to admit UK visitors in time for the holiday season. Some of the Greek islands especially were the most consistently-available holiday destinations last year.
- Cyprus has declared its intention to admit UK holidaymakers from May onwards
- Iceland is already happy to admit vaccinated travellers, and has one of the lowest Covid rates in the world.
- Israel has signed travel corridor deals with a number of countries already, and is one of the only countries on earth with a vaccine programme at least as successful as our own so is an obvious choice for an early corridor
- Sri Lanka is keen to admit visitors, has developed a protocol for admitting holidaymakers into resorts while limiting contact with local people, and also reports very low infection rates
- Turkey is willing to admit visitors without even a test - which in principle could make it a hassle-free destination for the summer, but also raises the prospect of infection rates climbing once the season gets underway. Turkey was also taken off the UK's travel corridor last summer for what is politely called "irregularities" in its reporting of infection data.
- We've even seen speculation that the USA will be on the early travel corridor list. They do have a great vaccine rollout, so it's possible, but we'd say wait for more information on that one.
Need some inspiration?
If you've seen our travel guides (and if not why not!) then you'll know we go out of our way to find you the best destinations to inspire your next trip.
What about the devolved nations?
The announcement in early April will apply to England. Travel rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already are different, and may remain so. For example, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already said she doesn't expect Scotland to open up to international travel as early as May 17.
What's left to decide?
The government will announce the plan for resuming overseas travel, all being well, on or around April 5 or April 12. What we expect is still left for the government and scientific advisors to work out is whether to open up the borders on the dot of May 17 or slightly later; which countries we'll be able to visit then; what to do, and with how much warning, if infection rates in a holiday destination start to climb back up; and what to do if a new and vaccine-resistant variant of the virus emerges either in one country or globally.
When will we know for sure?
All being well, by April 12, possibly a little earlier. We'll send out our next update as soon as the announcement is made.
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