France to lift UK travel ban from Friday

A French government minister has said the country will relax its entry conditions, which have banned most travellers from the UK since mid-December, from Friday (January 14).

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, minister delegate for tourism, tweeted on Thursday morning that a decree will be published on Friday (January 14) “with immediate entry into force”.

The tweet said the government is relaxing the entry conditions in France from the UK for vaccinated travellers.

It means the end of the need for “compelling reasons” and isolation on arrival. However, the need for a negative Covid test, conducted 24 hours before arrival, remains in place.

The announcement will also mean UK visitors can access the French Alps via Switzerland’s Geneva airport.

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France implemented the ban on December 18 because of rising numbers of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the UK.

There was speculation earlier this week that a relaxation of the rules would come by Saturday.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the relaxation of the rules was expected in the coming days.

The temporary ban on Brits started on December 18 and was described as a “hammer blow” to the outbound winter travel industry from the UK.

A Eurostar spokesperson welcomed news about the easing of restrictions, saying: “We are ready to welcome more passengers on board and will continue to increase the frequency of our services in the coming weeks to offer passengers more flexibility and choice.”

Abby Penlington, director at Discover Ferries, the industry body for passenger ferry travel in the UK, said the change would offer a “much-needed uplift in bookings” despite essential ferry operations having continued despite the policy.

She noted that France is “one of the most popular holiday destinations for Brits and traditionally January is a critical month for travel operators as people start to book summer holidays” and welcomed the news, “particularly as it coincides with the relaxation of UK testing requirements”.

Julia Simpson, World Travel and Tourism Council president and chief executive, also welcomed the news, saying: “Once a variant is endemic, closing borders is pointless and only damages livelihoods, especially in travel and tourism, one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic.

UK tourists account for 14% of France’s overseas visitors, according to WTTC’s 2021 Economic Impact Report, which says total international visitor spend in France was worth more than €60 billion pre-pandemic.

Figures from aviation analytics firm Cirium show the number of scheduled flights between the UK and France in January 2022 is 144% higher than in January 2021 – but still 66% down on January 2020 and 67% down on January 2019.

There are 2,179 flights scheduled between the two nations in January 2022 – equating to 367,164 seats.

Carriers offering flights include Air France, easyJet, British Airways and Ryanair. The busiest route is between Heathrow and Paris CDG.

MoreFrance travel ban is ‘hammer blow’ for industry

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