Comment: Winter travel could be more testing than ever

Cost and inconvenience of testing will disrupt off-season demand predicts Fiona Macrae, head of consumer awareness initiative at Travel Insurance Explained

Following the disappointing summer season, many Britons are now turning their attention towards planning winter holidays with the hope of enjoying a more positive end to the year.

Unfortunately, on top of the ever-changing advice from the Foreign Office (FCDO) and the air bridges fiasco, another set of factors is complicating travellers’ plans over the winter months.

Some popular holiday destinations now require travellers to provide a negative Covid-19 test, which must be taken up to 72 hours before departure. However, as news reports have explained over the past few weeks, test results are taking longer than 72 hours to come back and, in many UK regions, no tests are available.

Since the crisis began, travel insurers have been under pressure and scrutiny for the cover and wordings of available policies. Many providers are now offering travel insurance with many variations of cover for Covid-19, but this is a new layer of complication for holidaymakers. If they arrive at their holiday destination without the necessary documentation – including a negative Covid-19 test result – it is important to note that there is no cover available on a travel insurance policy for denied entry to a country, or for any cost incurred as a result of the denied entry.

Some of the countries insisting on these tests are among the most popular winter sun destinations for British holidaymakers and are included in the FCDO’s quarantine-free list – as of 24 September 2020.

One example is mainland Greece. From August 17, all travellers entering Greece by any land border are required to produce a Covid-negative PCR test conducted in the country of departure within 72 hours of arrival in Greece. This applies equally to Greek nationals and Greece residence permit holders.

Another example worth mentioning is the Caribbean region, which is extremely popular with British holidaymakers for winter breaks. Some popular islands require visitors to provide a negative Covid-19 test result taken no more than seven days before travel, such as St Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda. However, most will expect tests are carried out between 24-72 hours before departure. Those requiring these tests will not be able to use the NHS, as at this time these tests are only for those displaying symptoms of Covid-19.

This is yet more financial burden on the traveller. Consumers will need to pay for a test to be carried out through a private health facility, which doesn’t come cheap with an average cost of between £100 and £200.

These results normally come back within 48-72 hours, depending on the clinic used, however last-minute tests, where the results are required within 24 hrs, can cost up to £500.

Again, travel operators should understand that this issue could affect the winter getaway and is another cost and complication for the consumer in an already difficult year.

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