Why we’re still holding off on booking our international summer holiday just yet
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
As lockdowns across Europe and the rest of the world are starting to ease and countries are slowly lifting restrictions at their borders and allowing tourists once again, the travel industry can start on its road to recovery.
With that, airlines are slowly but surely reintroducing some of their schedules, often with domestic routes initially. EasyJet announced plans in May to resume some domestic flights from 15 June, while Ryanair announced that it’ll resume 40% of its usual flying schedule from 1 July — including to popular holiday destinations — with BA to follow suit. The U.K.’s largest tour operator TUI will be slashing the price of package holidays by almost 50% in an effort to incentivise people to travel again.
So, at a time when we’re all dreaming of far-flung beaches and getting away from it all, it could be all too easy to get carried away with the excitement and book that cheap trip. It might, however, be advisable to hold off a little longer. Here’s why.
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, and as the weeks and months have gone on, the U.K.’s restriction on all but essential international travel for U.K. citizens has remained the same as was announced on March 17.
“As countries respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises British nationals against all but essential international travel”, the FCO says on its website. “Any country or area may restrict travel without notice. If you live in the UK and are currently travelling abroad, you are strongly advised to return now, where and while there are still commercial routes available. Many airlines have suspended flights and many airports are closed, preventing flights from leaving”.
Until such a time when FCO guidelines change to allow for non-essential or leisure travel, it’s best to stick to travel within the U.K. that follows the current government guidelines.
For those who may have essential travel to make, there are several preventative measures you can take to enhance the safety of yourself and those around you like wearing a mask and disinfecting your aeroplane seat.
The UK’s 14-day quarantine
Restrictions might be rather relaxed in a country that you’d like to go to, but when you arrive back in the U.K. after 8 June, the government will be imposing a mandatory 14-day isolation for anyone arriving into the country — tourists and British nationals alike.
“We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave”, Home secretary Priti Patel said in a statement in May. “I fully expect the majority of people will do the right things and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others”.
In order to check whether arrivals are adhering to the measures, travellers coming from abroad will be asked to provide contact information to the authorities at the border. Those found to be in violation of the 14-day isolation period could be fined £1,000.
The government said that it will review the restrictions every three weeks. In future iterations, it could adopt “air bridges”, which would make travellers coming from low-risk countries exempt from the 14-day quarantine.
The quarantine has been widely opposed by the airline and travel industry. British Airways’ parent company IAG said that it may have to rethink its plans to resume a large amount of service in July. Virgin Atlantic said that it has been forced to delay the restart of its service until at least August.
Even if the FCO lifts its current guidance, if there’s still a quarantine in place when you return home, may want to take into consideration whether your current work situation will allow for you to self-isolate for two weeks upon your return.
Restrictions getting into countries
While we’re seeing the return of flights to some of our favourite holiday destinations, there might not be much else to do while you’re there other than staying within the confines of your hotel.
Countries are in a constant state of flux when it comes to rules and regulations for foreign citizens entering their country. For example, Greece recently announced that it would be opening up to tourists but not to U.K. citizens. But since the announcement, it has backtracked and now said that U.K. citizens will be allowed to visit as of 15 June. Arrivals from U.K. airports that feature on the European Union Safety Agency’s (EASA) list of airports deemed to be high-risk will be subject to testing and maybe even quarantine on arrival.
Other countries, like Iceland, are opening up to visitors from around the world with the implementation of several precautionary measures on arrival in an attempt to stop new infections from being brought into the country.
The combination of a variety of restrictions during your stay, plus the fact that regulations are changing so frequently means that the holiday is far from the usual kind of relaxing break away that you need, and you might end up with the hassle of having to cancel the trip anyway. That said, with some countries opening up their borders, it’s a good sign.
Airlines cancelling flights
Many thousands of flights have been cancelled every week since the coronavirus outbreak started, and some airlines will continue to remain shuttered for some time. Take Norwegian, for example, which still has flights for sale up to the end of 2020 despite having announced that the airline won’t be flying long-haul routes until 2021.
To compound the issue, airlines have been cancelling flights, and at times have been making it difficult for customers to get their money back. We put together this guide to help you should you find yourself in a similar situation.
If you do have to travel, now is a good time to look a little deeper into the rules about your fare to try and avoid being in a situation where you’re out of pocket.
Before booking a flight for this summer, pay close attention to the rules of the ticket and the airline’s change and cancellation policy. Should you have differing thoughts in a few month’s time than you do now, it’ll be helpful to already know the rules of your ticket.
What still needs to happen
Last month, TPG U.K. Director of Content Nicky Kelvin outlined the four things that need to happen before we can go on holiday. So far, we’ve only ticked off two of the points on that list.
The first, as discussed, is the gradual reopening of borders and lifting of restrictions in some countries, which we’ve seen around Europe. And the second, the opening up of some airline routes and hotels, which we’ve seen — especially from low-cost carriers EasyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air.
What still needs to be resolved has to do with the U.K.’s guidance. Until the FCO lifts its restrictions and there’s no longer a 14-day quarantine upon your arrival home, then we highly recommend rethinking that holiday, which might be so very tempting right now.
We’re well on our road to recovery, but we’ve still got a long way to go before going on holiday will be anything like we remember it. However, once the FCO lifts its guidance and there’s no need to quarantine upon your return home, you’ll find us potentially going abroad.
For now, our advice would be to stick to domestic travel if you really need to escape. Why not check out some of these beautiful destinations that we have on our door step, or head out on a good old road trip.
Featured image by Peter Cade/Getty Images