The government is being urged to clarify which countries are deemed safe for British holidaymakers to visit this summer as its 14-day quarantine rule comes up for its first review.
A series of travel corridors are to be established with a traffic light system established to indicate which are ‘Covid safe’ to travel to from July 6.
Countries will be classified as green, amber or red depending on the risk assessment and arrivals from those in the green and amber categories will be exempt from quarantine, Downing Street announced on Friday.
The full list is to be published this week and is expected to include most European countries. However, home secretary Priti Patel indicated that more negotiations were needed.
She told Sky News on Sunday: “These measures won’t come in overnight. They will take some time because some of this will be down to negotiation [and] discussion with certain countries.”
There would be an announcement in the next few days, although transport secretary Grant Shapps had previously confirmed to MPs that details of the travel corridors would be announced in Parliament today (Monday).
Patel, architect of the much-criticised 14-day quarantine for overseas arrivals, said people would have to “listen to the advice, see what the government is saying in terms of the countries we are going to be opening up with, the countries that my colleague the transport secretary is in dialogue with right now.”
Holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket saw its busiest weekend since lockdown in March with 100% more price comparison searches for holidays and 50% more bookings week-on-week.
The most popular countries for package holiday searches were Spain, Greece, Turkey, Italy and Portugal, despite doubts about the country being on the ‘green’ or ‘amber’ safe to travel to categories after a Covid-19 spike in Lisbon.
The site’s travel commentator Emma Coulthurst said: “These are the first real green shoots of recovery and the bookings offer glimmers of holiday hope for the outbound travel industry.
“However, these shoots are obviously coming much later than they normally would for summer outbound travel. The hope is that these bookings will enable the industry to salvage something of the summer and start reinvigorating.
“There is still some more clarity needed before bookings really pick up.
“The UK government has told people to wait for more detail from Wednesday.
“With travel having been at a standstill for some months and there having been complete uncertainty over when we can take a holiday, we expect a bigger increase in demand once there is more clarity on which countries are going to allow us to visit them without restriction.
“I think people will be confused still as to which countries will definitely allow them to holiday there without quarantining.
“For now, people will be sticking to booking holidays to those countries which have confirmed there is no need to quarantine.”
John Bevan, chief executive of dnata Travel Group, said: “We’re ready to start converting [interest] into bookings and helping Brits holiday again.
“But our ability to do so continues to be hampered by the Foreign Office’s blanket advice against all but essential travel, which it must surely also lift soon, and a lack of clarity over these new guidelines.”
Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “We welcome confirmation from the government that a traffic light system will be implemented whereby visitors to and from those countries designated as green and amber will not be required to quarantine and that British leisure and business travellers will be able to start travelling again from early July.
“It’s important that whilst we see the industry begin to move forward, travellers’ safety is of paramount importance and without the corresponding FCO advice to support this system British travellers would not be able to secure insurance.
“The establishment of the traffic light system is an important step in helping to kick start the travel industry which has suffered huge losses since the lock down period began.
“Destinations such as Spain, Greece, France and Italy are some of our most popular destinations and to establish these bilateral agreements now will mean travel agents can start to try and salvage the busiest time of the year.
“We sent our wish list to the government some weeks ago and it’s gratifying to see they are now listening to the industry.”
She added: “Travel agencies are open up and down the country now and agents are ready to inform and inspire clients and ultimately send the British public on much a needed and deserved holiday this year.”
John Keefe, director of public affairs at Eurotunnel, said: “The recent government announcement is great news for holidaymakers, bookings have surged since Friday; in fact we have had more customers accessing our online booking system this weekend than ever before.
“Travel with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is proving very popular as you can go from home to holiday without leaving your car: no crowds, no contacts, 35 minutes to cross from Folkestone to Calais and you are on your way. Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is also offering refundable tickets to give that little extra bit of reassurance for holiday plans.”