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Are Overseas Summer Holidays Off the Menu This Year?

It is no exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the overseas travel market. Tour operators, travel agents, and airlines have all been impacted, as have thousands of smaller businesses serving them. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), domestic and international air passenger air traffic fell to less than 2% of its February 2020 levels in April 2020 due to the restrictions imposed by the first national lockdown. So desperate are the government for people not to go overseas and potentially bring back a new variant, they are now planning to impose a ban for those travelling unnecessary overseas. A new penalty, which will be voted on in parliament, will see a £5,000 fine levied on anyone who goes abroad without a ‘good reason’. This effectively means that it will be illegal to go abroad on holiday. In this article, we will take a look at whether it is likely that we can go on holiday overseas this Summer and, if so when this is most likely to be.

Uncertainty Over Summer Holidays Remains

As of the end of March, there is still little certainty regarding summer holidays abroad. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said that it is simply “too early” to set out new foreign travel guidance, but he hoped to provide some information on 5th April 2021. It is widely considered that if summer travel overseas is possible, it won’t be until at least August. Under the current programme of restrictions, it is not possible to go on a holiday abroad until at least 17th May, but this is likely to be extended further. Given that the government is confident of offering a vaccination to all adults by the end of July 2021, it seems reasonable that holiday restrictions may happen for August unless there are unforeseen problems.

As a result of the considerable uncertainty, many would-be holidaymakers are taking advantage of flexible booking rules to reserve holidays for a range of dates, in the knowledge they can cancel at late notice if needed. The ability to cancel at short notice is essential given how fast the government has been in the past to impose restrictions on certain countries almost overnight.

Will The Government Introduce A Traffic Light System For Foreign Travel?

One idea which has gathered attention in recent days is the idea of a traffic light system for international travel. While it is not yet clear if this will happen, and if so, how it would work, it is hoped clarity will be available in early to mid-April. According to the Telegraph , the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce is expected to report to the government on 12th April regarding its recommendations on the resumption of foreign travel. The system, if it comes in, maybe modelled on the EU’s own traffic light system for cross-border travel introduced last year. It is believed the traffic light system may work on the following lines:

  • Green: green countries will have no restrictions, or at most, the requirement to take a COVID-19 test
  • Amber: Amber may mean that the country is open to travel but with some form of quarantine at home and COVID-19 testing
  • Red: rather like the current ‘red-list’, travel to red countries will be banned entirely, or there may be a compulsory requirement to quarantine in a hotel on return and undergo testing

It is also believed anyone travelling to the UK from an amber country will be required to have a COVID-19 test before travelling. They may also have to quarantine at their home address and have two tests after two and eight days. The cost of these tests is expected to be £210.

Where travel is permitted from a red country, it is likely that quarantine will have to take place in one of the government-approved hotels, at a not inconsiderable cost of £1,750 per person.

It is also not clear how officials will decide which countries are green, amber, or red; i.e. whether this will be based on the case rate in each country and/or whether there are any ‘variants of concern’ in each country. Countries with high infection rates and new variants which may evade the vaccine, or significantly reduce its effectiveness, will almost certainly have a red light.

Which Countries Are The British Public Most Likely To Be Able To Travel To?

At present, it is almost impossible to know which countries will be on the green or amber list with any certainty. This is especially the case with the third-wave hitting Europe. The Telegraph has completed its own analysis based on a range of factors, including the progress of the vaccination programme in each country, the current numbers, and any existing quarantine rules. Their assessment is that the countries most likely to have a green light are as follows:

  • The Caribbean – they do note, however, that June to November is peak hurricane season and hence not the best time to visit. As such, anyone considering the Caribbean may want to wait until later in the year.
  • Iceland – it’s not going to be hot necessarily, but there is plenty to see and do.
  • Israel – as the country with the most amount of vaccinated people as a proportion of the population, it is expected that Israel will open to tourism around the middle of 2021.
  • Portugal – Portugal has now been removed from the current red list, and according to the country’s tourism board, they are keen to open to British tourists in May.
  • Spain – Unlike many of its neighbours in the EU, Spain has seen a reduction in case numbers recently. It is currently in discussions with the UK regarding the implementation of vaccine passports.

Final words

If you are hoping to get away this year by booking in a couple of countries and at different times, with the option to cancel at late notice, you may be able to increase your chances of a holiday overseas. We will keep you up to date with events as they continue to unfold.

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