The government’s advice to people looking to book overseas holidays is “to wait” until early May to see how destinations are categorised under the new traffic light system.

Aviation and maritime minister Robert Courts warned prospective holidaymakers “risk disappointment” if they don’t wait when he appeared before the Transport Select Committee to answer MPs’ questions about the government’s Global Travel Taskforce report on Wednesday (April 14).

The report ditched the government’s insistence that it’s “too early to book a summer holiday” and said: “People are free to book holidays abroad in the summer.”

Courts insisted: “We’re able to offer more optimism to travel.” But he told MPs: “Now we’ve published the framework we can say people can start looking to book.

“I would advise people to wait to see which country falls in which category because there is a risk of disappointment.”

The government has pledged to identify the categories countries fall into “in early May” for a potential restart of international travel from May 17.

Courts also advised: “People should ensure their booking is something they are able to rebook or get their money back, and that they are able to work if they are required to self-isolate.”

He said: “People should look at the situation at the time, at the terms and conditions of their holiday.”

Asked why the government could not give people more clarity, Courts told MPs: “It depends what sort of trip it is. Can you work from home? Can you move your holiday?

“The government can’t say ‘You should book this or that’. The government should say ‘This is the situation in this country’.

“What we can do is provide information and allow people to make an informed choice.”

He insisted: “We’re seeking to give people as much certainty as possible at the same time as protecting public health.”

Courts warned: “We’ll keep which country falls in which category under constant review. Sometimes things change rapidly. We’ve seen that with variants of concern.

“We do have to protect public health. The public will expect that and we will do that.”

He said: “We’re acutely aware that someone could be away and find themselves in some difficulty [if a country’s classification changes].

“That is why we’ll provide a green watch list to give notice that there is a risk of a country changing category. This is the purpose behind the watch list.”

Asked if the government could categorise islands differently from mainland countries or regions differently within countries such as the US, Courts said: “We’ve had a policy that has evolved as we’ve learned more about the virus.

“We had an islands policy last year. We’ll consider all these things at the checkpoints, [and] as we look at countries.”

But on the US, he said: “The US has a ban on UK citizens coming into the country at the moment. Not everything is controlled by this government.”