Brits may be allowed to take self-catering holidays as soon as the Easter holidays in early April, thanks to the falling rates of Covid-19.
The Times reported that ministers are examining plans “that would allow people to go away for self-catering breaks as soon as the Easter holidays after Boris Johnson said he expected coronavirus rates to fall sharply in a matter of weeks”.
The Times has been told that “under one ambitious timeline being considered by the government, families who live in the same household could be allowed to go on breaks together from April”.
However, is said there are also concerns that letting people travel to self-catered accommodation too soon would lead to “big movements” across the country and could increase the rate of infection.
A government source told the Times there are discussions about holidays in the UK, adding: “There’s talk of April at the earliest, but a lot of things have to go right. It’s unlikely but it is being talked about as a possibility.”
Johnson and other ministers said last week that it was too early to book a holiday, although health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed he has booked a summer break to Cornwall.
The prime minister will set out his road map on February 22 for easing restrictions.
More than 15 million people have now received their first vaccination and lockdown restrictions could start to be eased from March 8.
Schools are expected to be the first to re-open, with limits on outdoor exercise and socialising in line to be eased towards the end of next month, followed by the reopening of non-essential retailers and the possible easing of restrictions on holidays in Britain.
However, chancellor Rishi Sunak told ITV News that the government will proceed “cautiously and carefully” and agreed with his ministerial colleagues that it is “too early” to book a summer holiday.
Last week, after mixed messages on holidays from ministers, Visit East of England chairman Andy Wood told the BBC that his region is seeing “strong bookings”.
“Being able to count on a good summer is really imperative for businesses, because we don’t want them taking decisions to cut jobs,” he said.
“The tourism industry has got millions of jobs in it, it is worth about £130 billion in sales to the UK, so it is a vital sector.”
And the chief executive of Eden Project in Cornwall told the BBC he felt “cautious optimism” despite the uncertainty.
“People have been booking and they should book with confidence,” said David Harland.
Elsewhere, figures from data company and the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA) show that the short-term rental sector has proven to be more resilient than most accommodation sectors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Merilee Karr, chair of the STAA and chief executive of UnderTheDoormat, said: “It is very encouraging to see that short-term rentals have shown the highest level of resilience to the unprecedented restrictions the industry has had to bear.
“The encouraging signs are that customer confidence in booking short term rentals is positive and, with staycations likely to be the focus for 2021, whether Brits travel to the seaside or explore cities such as London or Bath, we hope to welcome them to a variety of beautiful homes when they venture out for their much-needed holidays later in the year.”
Meanwhile, the Observer reported that an investigation found that half of Airbnb owners were willing to host guests for trips this month, including over half-term.
People are only allowed to book accommodation under exceptional circumstances – such as moving house, for work or fleeing domestic abuse.
The Observer said: “When booking, Airbnb asks guests to tick a box confirming they are staying for a valid reason, but our research and reviews on the platform show that guests are flouting these rules and property owners are continuing to host holidaymakers even when they know it is illegal to do so.
“Other travel accommodation sites such as Booking.com were also found to be allowing people to book trips on their platforms.”
A spokesperson for Airbnb told the paper: “We take these reports very seriously and are investigating the cases that have been brought to our attention.”
A spokesperson for Booking.com added: “During this rapidly evolving time, Booking.com is committed to featuring information across its site reiterating to customers that there are currently travel restrictions to consider in many destinations. We have also set up tools to make it easier for accommodations to provide clear information to guests about what national and local measures mean, and to indicate any conditions that may apply, including requiring proof of essential travel where relevant.”
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