Spain may soon join the UK’s travel ‘red list’, an industry insider has warned.
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, has spoken of his concerns that a travel ban will be imposed on Spain, due to its rising case rate.
“I think there is a high probability that Spain will be added to the list. Its infection rates have shot up in the past few days,” Charles told Sun Online Travel.
“Over the last month it’s been seeing 30,000 new cases a day, whereas a month ago it was seeing 10,000 a day. It’s quite clear that it is seeing variants emerge as well.
“It could be coming across the border from Portugal – last Sunday the borders were effectively closed between them, due to the rising cases.”
Scroll down for more of today’s breaking travel news.
Nearly 50,000 miles of footpaths are at risk of being lost forever
It shouldn’t have been there. An ugly concrete shed sat right in the middle of the footpath, designed to shelter sand and flag posts on a hilltop golf course above the Thames.
A sign directed walkers around it, declaring ‘danger’ should you continue to walk through this man-made yard placed on the legal Right of Way, and advised following a new route they had created instead.
I watched a handful of other hikers dutifully do so and sighed. Then I proceeded to continue on the true path, as marked on my OS map, steadfastly leaving my boot marks in the mud by the structure, making a small stand (or rather stroll) for future walkers.
My actions may seem petty. Why not simply follow the alternative path? The answer is simple – because this is how we lose our rights of way.
Phoebe Smith reveals why we should act now to save these well-trodden routes, to stop us from, quite literally, losing our way here.
Amsterdam to relocate red light district
As part of a crackdown on ‘gawping tourists’ a series of changes are happening in Amsterdam.
The famed red light district will be closed and moved to an ‘erotic centre’, following an agreement by concillors. Emma Cooke shares the latest updates in the prolonged war against the supposedly seedier aspects of the Dutch capital here.
‘We have to wait and see’
Continuing his statement in front of MPs, Mr Shapps expressed doubt about whether overseas summer holidays will be possible.
I just don’t know at this stage what the situation will be, none of us do. We have to wait and see.
The early signs I think are encouraging with both the exceptional rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, the excellent news overnight from Oxford about the efficacy of the vaccine and not spreading it further.
All these things are positives. But, of course, we can do that in this country, it needs to be done worldwide, particularly in places that people might go to.
Government will not fund travellers’ quarantine
Giving evidence to the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has revealed that the Government will not provide financial assistance to travellers required to stay in quarantine hotels.
People arriving from affected countries “will have known for quite some time that there were issues,” he told MPs.
“The numbers that we expect to see returning would be quite low.”
Tougher Australia-style border closures would not work
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted that implementing tougher Australia-style border closures would not help the UK tackle the pandemic.
The Cabinet minister said the UK’s proximity to continental Europe means it is important that vital goods and people continue to move in and out of the country. The Government has faced criticism for not introducing stricter border measures in response to the virus crisis.
Australia has enforced some of the toughest rules anywhere in the world, with only citizens, residents or immediate family members allowed to enter.
“People say ‘why don’t we just close down and then we’ll be safe?’.”But, of course, we wouldn’t be safe, because we are an island nation – unlike Australia or something which is an entire continent – and that means that we need to get medicines in, we need to get food in, we need to get our raw materials in, sometimes we have to move people around, scientists and others.”
More countries could be added to hotel quarantine list
Ministers are considering extending hotel quarantine to more countries as the Brazilian and South African variants have emerged in 27 more nations including Spain.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said he was “up for strengthening” the current border crackdown further and said ministers were “looking at that.”
There are currently 33 “red list” countries from which foreign travel is banned and any Britons or UK residents returning from them will be required to quarantine at their own cost in Government-approved hotels, which ministers are aiming to introduce on February 15.
‘Too uncertain’ to say summer holidays will go ahead
Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething has said that it is “too uncertain” to say that people will be able to enjoy a summer holiday abroad this year.
“I’m optimistic that people will be able to have a holiday break of some kind over the summer, I wouldn’t want to forecast where that would be though,” Mr Gething said.
“We know many people are opting to stay within Wales or the UK but the challenge is that we know that from this summer, international travel to mainland Europe caused lots of mixing and a reintroduction of coronavirus into the UK.”
The news comes as Mr Gething announces 13 cases of the South African variant have been identified in Wales, an increase of three from last week.
Read more on the coronavirus live blog here.
Clamp down on skiing in Austria
Austria is set to tighten checks at borders and in ski resorts in an effort to deter foreign skiers from using loopholes to travel to the slopes.
“We will intensify controls,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told a press conference on Tuesday.
Last week officials in the popular resort of St Anton raided 44 addresses after receiving complaints of two hundred foreigners who had bent the rules to visit the resort. The visitors, reportedly from the UK, Denmark, Germany, Australia, Ireland and Sweden, had registered for residency, claiming they were looking for employment, despite the tourism industry being closed during the nation’s lockdown. Over 100 fines of up to €2,180 (£1,921) were handed out to the rulebreakers, according to a spokesperson from the local Tyrol government.
“This was a clear message that nobody should come – we’re still under lockdown,” said the resort’s mayor Helmut Mall. Despite the ongoing national restrictions, ski lifts in Austria are open and locals have been enjoying impressive conditions. From Monday some measures are set to be eased to allow shops and schools to reopen, however hotels, restaurants and bars will remain closed.
The truth about Dubai’s ‘influencer invasion’
Despite its best efforts, Dubai is a destination some people love to hate.
But beyond the hashtags and outcry about ‘non-essential’ influencers, the emirate vaccinated a third of its population in January, and is prioritising protecting tourism.
Scotland’s stricter quarantine rules will ‘pull the plug’ on travel industry
Scottish tourism bosses have warned that the First Minister’s ‘managed quarantine’ plans could “pull the plug” on the country’s tourism industry.
Mike Tibbert, vice-president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), said that while the organisation “supported a stance which guard[s] our borders”, the industry “urgently needs a plan for how our country will return to travel”.
Inbound tourism brings £11 billion to the Scottish economy, while outbound tourism provides £1.7 billion – and supports more than 26,000 jobs. “We can’t just pull the plug on all of this economic activity without a plan for how to reinstate it,” said Tibbert.
“It’s not enough to assume that what we stop now can, or will, resume automatically when we want it too. Routes are a valuable and vital ‘commodity’.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that all international arrivals into Scotland must undergo “managed quarantine”, as the UK’s current proposed hotel quarantine measure – which will apply to arrivals from 33 countries – “does not go far enough”.
This morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock also suggested that hotel quarantine rules should be “strengthened”.
Hancock told Sky News: “You keep reading out that Sage wanted mandatory isolation for those that arrive, and that’s what we’ve got. I’m up for strengthening that further.”
Australia quarantine hotel worker tests positive
The state of Victoria in Australia will return to tough lockdown restrictions after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive for coronavirus – bringing an end to the state’s 28-day run of zero community transmission.
The individual had been working at the Grand Hyatt hotel, where up to 600 players in the upcoming Australian Open tennis tournament, held in Melbourne, have been staying. All guests and staff have been told to self isolate and get tested for Covid-19, and those who have had close contact are required to remain in isolation for 14 days, whatever their result.
In a press conference, the state’s Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria would return to mandatory masks indoors, would reintroduce caps on gatherings, and would pause the scheduled plan to return to work.
It is unclear whether the worker has tested positive for the new variant of Covid-19, and where they contracted the virus. A statement issued by the Health Department said the individual last worked at the Grand Hyatt on January 29 and was tested at the end of their shift, returning a negative result. However after developing symptoms was tested again on February 2, which returned positive.
Sir Keir wants to have it both ways on borders, says Johnson
Speaking at PMQs, Sir Keir says it does not make sense to only ban flights from red-list countries, since the virus travels via other countries.
Only one per cent of the original virus cases came from China, he says, while the majority came from France and Spain.
Mr Johnson accuses Sir Keir of trying to “have it both ways” by calling for full border closures but wanting to make exceptions for freight – and wanting to stay in the European Medicines Agency.
The Labour leader says this is “nonsense” and accuses the PM of “letting the truth getting in the way of a pre-prepared gag”.
Boris Johnson: ‘It is not practical to completely close off the country’
The Prime Minister has poured scorn on Kier Starmer’s calls for tighter border measures. Speaking at PMQs this afternoon, the Labour leader questioned Mr Johnson why the UK’s borders were not more tightly controlled.
“It is not practical to completely close off this country, as he seems to be suggesting,” he said.
Mr Johnson added that the UK has “one of the toughest regimes in the world”.
Phuket hopes to fully reopen to vaccinated visitors by October
Thailand’s resort island of Phuket is planning private coronavirus vaccinations for 250,000 residents in the hope the government will allow it to fully reopen to foreign tourists by October and save its battered economy, industry officials said.
“The people of Phuket are losing hope,” Phuket Tourism Association President, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam said, adding that the island’s economy was at its lowest point in recent history.
Foreign tourism revenue in Phuket dropped 78% to 87.5 million baht ($2.92 million) in 2020 with 2.1 million arrivals.
At least 10 Phuket industry associations including hotel, tourism and chambers of commerce have agreed to pool resources to procure vaccines and inoculate at least 70% of the island to create sufficient immunity by Oct. 1 to receive tourists.
Phuket’s population is at least 400,000 and the private vaccination drive would cover most adults before a nationwide government immunisation programme for the public starts in June.
The plan has yet to meet government approval and will also look to waive a mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement for vaccinated travellers, a major hurdle for many potential travelers.
Shutdowns will cost French ski resorts ‘billions’
Ski industry bosses in France have revealed the financial impact that the prolonged closure of ski lifts is having on businesses.
According to reports from the Domaines Skiables de France (DSF) ski lift operators will miss out on at least €1 billion of business this season.
But the impact extends far beyond the lift systems. Popular après-ski destination La Folie Douce, which has restaurants and bars in eight mountain locations across France, hasn’t been able to welcome a single visitor since last March.
“The losses are almost 100 per cent” said general manager Artur Reversade, according to website challenges.fr.
It is a similar scenario for equipment rental shops. Sports 2000, a chain with ski shops in multiple resorts, reports business is down 90 per cent year on year.
Claude Jay, mayor of the Les Belleville which includes major resorts Saint Martin de Belleville, Les Menuires and Val Thorens, estimates that winter tourism “sustains between 350 and 400 shops and service providers” and generates “12,000 jobs,” in his region alone.
Resorts are still waiting to hear if lifts will be allowed to start turning at all this season: last week, the ban on their closure was extended until March.
More cruise companies announce ban on non-vaccinated travellers
Last month, Saga Holidays announced that non-vaccinated travellers will not be permitted to travel on its cruise ships when holidays are permitted to re-start. Now, two US cruise companies have announced that they will enforce similar restrictions.
The American Queen Steamboat Company and sister brand Victory Cruise Lines have told customers that, from July 1, all passengers will be required to show proof of having received two doses of approved vaccines.
“The health and safety of our guests, crew members and partners continues to remain our top priority,” said John Waggoner, CEO and founder of American Queen Steamboat Company. “Vaccination requirement for both our guests and crew is the most prudent next step to ensure that we are providing the safest cruising experience possible.”
Britons plan to take an extra five days holiday this year, and travel long-haul
Britons are determined to take more time off this year, and are planning to swap short breaks for long-haul getaways, according to a new survey.
UK respondents to Expedia‘s annual Vacation Deprivation study said they would take an extra five days of annual leave in 2021 compared to last year, when the British workforce took off an average of 17 days; less than the national norm of 25 days.
Three quarters said they felt less joy in their lives thanks to their inability to travel in 2020; while more than 60 per cent had to use their holiday quota to look after sick family members or children, rather than to take a break or travel.
Looking ahead, many of us are plotting blowout trips this year for when we can finally venture abroad again (though a third are waiting for the vaccine before booking, or have sights set on the latter half of the year).
So where are we off to, when freedom arrives? According to search data for this year compared to pre-pandemic bookings in 2019, there’s increased interest in far-flung destinations. Here are the top 10 most popular:
- French Polynesia
- Koh Samui, Thailand
- Dominican Republic
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St. Lucia
- South Africa
Looking for inspiration? Check our expertly curated 1,000 Dream Trips directory
New England-focused tour operator launches
A new tour operator specialising in holidays around England – aimed squarely at the domestic travel market – is launching this month.
Wilderness England will initially offer 17 small-group guided and private self-guided holidays in England’s national parks and rural locations, such as the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland.
Accommodation will focus mostly on small, independently-run properties – while many of the holidays will be themed around walking, cycling and other outdoor activities.
Wilderness England is a sister company to Wilderness Scotland and Wilderness Ireland, which has over 20 years of experience in the travel industry.
Managing director Paul Easto said: “The growing trend towards the staycation, combined with our continued uncertainty of overseas travel, saw a 26% increase year-on-year in our bookings for private UK travel.
“While Wilderness England will offer some fully guided small group departures, the lion’s share of this programme is aimed at people who want to travel independently on active self-guided holidays, or partially-guided trips in the self-drive collection, reflecting this major shift in consumer demand.
“It is still very early days but since the website launched, our self-guided cycling holidays have attracted the highest level of interest from web users which shows the appeal of this style of travel.”
Time behind bars for flouting quarantine?
Travellers arriving in Ireland who break the 14-day home quarantine could face six months in jail, says Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency:
Since January 9 anyone arriving in Ireland from Great Britain has been forced into self isolation, even if they provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test in an effort to curb the spread of new variants.
The news comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock refuses to confirm whether or not quarantine hotels for international arrivals in England will open this month.
Should I stay in Britain or go abroad?
There’s nothing more reviving than relocating yourself, and your family, to a fresh and foreign context. If the next few months provide more glimmers of hope, I’d be enormously tempted to throw caution to the wind. Yet a small part of me wonders if this past year has left me too frazzled to go through the rigmarole of foreign travel.
Can a week’s holiday in Staines really replace the thrill of a safari?
Hattie Garlick weighs up the pros and cons of planning a family holiday on foreign shores or on home turf this year, here.
British treasures: Our travel experts’ best local discoveries during lockdown
Covid may have narrowed our horizons, but it cannot take our wanderlust. If there has been a silver lining of lockdown, it is the opportunity – nay, compulsion – to explore our own back yards. To take a second look at the spots that we never, pre-pandemic, gave a moment’s thought to.
Now, our travel editors and experts have shared their favourite local discoveries; the places that have ‘got them through’ lockdown – and might even lure them back when our horizons have widened again.
Read the full story – and tell us in the comments, which places would you add?
Health Secretary now ‘optimistic’ about great British summer
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he is “optimistic” about the prospect of people being able to enjoy a holiday in the summer.
“I’m optimistic that we will have a great British summer,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today. “The challenge we all still have is we have to keep control of the virus, so we have got to monitor progress.
“But the vaccine rollout is going well, the vaccines clearly work and so this is really, really good progress.”
This morning, Hancock also suggested to Sky News that he supported the strengthening of hotel quarantine rules – which were announced last week but are yet to be implemented.
Trailfinders boss: Travel bargains will ‘evaporate’
The executive chairman of Trailfinders, Mike Gooley, has warned that “costs will soar and holiday choices [will] become very limited”, once leisure travel restrictions are lifted.
Writing in a blog on the company’s website, Gooley urged customers to book before bargains “evaporate”:
When this pestilence passes, as all have in the history of mankind, and restrictions are removed, there will be an almighty rush of pent-up demand. However, the stricken and shrunken aviation and cruise industries will simply not have the capacity to cope at first. It will take many months, if not a year or two, for them to fully recover.
Price is driven by availability and the unprecedented bargains bookable now will evaporate in short order. Costs will soar and your holiday choices become very limited, if you have not already secured them in advance.
So the only risk is not getting that holiday in your diary. The worst that can happen is it may need to be amended, with advice, to a later date.
Ryanair’s “jab and go” ad banned
Ryanair’s “jab and go” ad has been banned after it was deemed “irresponsible” by the regulator.
The advert, two versions of which appeared on TV in late December and early January, showed an image of a vaccine while the voiceover said “vaccines are coming” and suggested travellers should book Easter and Summer holidays.
It added: “So you could jab and go.”
It led to the third highest number of complaints about a single ad ever filed to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), with more than 2,000 viewers raising concerns.
The ASA said the ad could be considered misleading for suggesting that people would be able to go on holiday this easter without restrictions if they had been vaccinated and also irresponsible by encouraging people who have had the vaccine to act irresponsibly.
Read more: Ryanair ‘jab and go’ ad banned by regulator
Matt Hancock: Hotel quarantine should be ‘strengthened’
Hotel quarantine rules should be “strengthened” to stop new variants entering the UK, the Health Secretary has suggested.
Matt Hancock told Sky News: “You keep reading out that Sage wanted mandatory isolation for those that arrive, and that’s what we’ve got. I’m up for strengthening that further. We do work very closely with these scientists.
“Measures are already in place to require the isolation of every single passenger who comes into this country. Further enforcement of that of course can always be introduced and strengthened, but the advice is clear that everyone coming through should isolate.”
- Heathrow trials Covid testing for staff‘
- Just not practical’ to completely close borders, says Sage scientist
- Forced hotel quarantine for all UK arrivals labelled ‘unfeasible’
- ‘Endless summer’ predicted as autumn holiday bookings surge
- Dubai shuts bars for a month Emirates resumes outbound flights from UK
Now, on with today’s headlines.