Summer booking caution revealed ahead of traffic light system review

Most overseas holiday interest and bookings are currently for December or next year amid lack of clarity around overseas travel, according to new data.

More than half (53%) of reservations made by comparing package holiday prices last week on TravelSupermarket and clicking through to book are for 2022. That compares to 12% of searches for 2020 holidays in the same week in 2019.

A total of 13% of all bookings are for December – more than September, October and November combined – making it the most popular departure month to book a holiday for.

Only 21% of bookings have been made for this June, July and August and 12% for September, October and November, the price comparison site revealed.

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Spain, Greece and the US are the three most popular countries, despite being on the government amber list requiring quarantine on return to the UK.

Crete, Tenerife, Orlando and New York are the top destinations being searched with the most bookings for New York, Las Vegas, Benidorm, Tenerife and Orlando.

The fresh data emerged as the UK’s traffic light system for overseas travel is due to be reviewed, with an announcement due this afternoon as MPs debate support for the aviation, travel and tourism industries in the wake of the widely supported Travel Day of Action.

Few destinations are expected to be added to the already limited green list of quarantine-free countries, possibly including Malta and the Balearic islands for travel from next Tuesday.

The government has also said there will be a “checkpoint” review of the rules for each category on Monday when ministers could decide whether to relax quarantine for fully-vaccinated travellers.

However, a new complication emerged overnight with German chancellor Angela Merkel suggesting that all EU countries should make British travellers quarantine on arrival to dampen the spread of the delta variant of Covid-19.

She told Germany’s parliament: “In our country, if you come from Great Britain, you have to go into quarantine – and that’s not the case in every European country, and that’s what I would like to see.”

Her comments came as UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told a Downing Street press conference: “We will work with other countries through the travel task force to see how we can build on all this really good progress in the vaccination programme so we can have use of double vaccination, with testing, to open up more of our economy. We need to get the travel industry back on its feet.”

At the same time Trailfinders called for fully vaccinated travellers to return to the UK from amber countries without quarantine and those from green list nations without having to pay for a PCR test.

“We do not need to wait until everyone has been offered two jabs before we open-up travel for those that are fully vaccinated. That suggests a mean and discriminatory ‘dog in the manger’ attitude,” a company blog said.

“FCDO advice must be lifted for amber countries, as currently many are unknowingly travelling with invalid travel insurance.”

TravelSupermarket spokeswoman Emma Coulthurst said: “You’d normally see the majority of searches at this time of year for now until the end of October. But, at the moment, only a quarter of bookings are for this period.

“The current travel restrictions and lack of clarity means that holidaymakers are looking further ahead to next year rather than this summer. They want to have a blowout when they go away, with entertainment centres, New York and Las Vegas, topping the list for bookings. People are wanting to treat themselves, when they can.”

Spain and Greece hacve seen the most package holiday searches since the idea that double-jabbed UK travellers could avoid quarantine was mooted. Week on week searches to Spain are up 12%, and 79% to Greece. Tenerife, Crete and Majorca were the three most searched destinations for a package holiday in the June 17-22 period, reflecting a shift of interest towards the Mediterranean.

Coulthurst added: “The website data in the last few days shows a definite interest from some holidaymakers to head to Med destinations if restrictions are loosened.

“The high vaccination rate and low coronavirus rate on some of the Med islands like the Balearics and Greek Islands such as Crete and Corfu and the fact that [transport secretary] Grant Shapps said that an island approach would be taken with the traffic light system is meaning that islands are on people’s holiday lists.

“Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos and Zante are also appealing as the FCDO has said that you can holiday there so your normal travel insurance is valid. Greece is allowing the double jabbed in without testing. But, amber quarantine is currently required on return so you are going to have to able to and prepared to do that at the moment. “

And she urged: “It is so important that the government stops making political decisions around travel and what they think the public want to hear and actually look at the science and where it is safe to travel to.

“There are countries with lower coronavirus rates than the UK and strong vaccination programmes, which present little risk to British holidaymakers and which they should be allowed to travel to.

“We need to see more low risk countries like Malta and the Balearic islands on the green list. We also need to see quarantine restrictions being dropped for the double-vaccinated on return to the UK from many countries where the risk of catching or transmitting the virus is relatively low.

“PCR tests need to be capped in price or replaced by lateral flow tests, so that holidaying does not become only accessible to the rich. The holidays themselves are reasonable priced – the testing, though, can double the price of the holiday.”

*The proportion of Britons who now say they would feel comfortable going away within the next six months almost doubled since the second lockdown last year, according to a poll of 2,000 people by AllClear Travel Insurance.

Chief executive Chris Rolland said: “Once again we find ourselves at a standstill for the travel industry. Summer holidays should not be viewed as frivolous fun.

“As attention turns to rebuilding the economy, and millions of people gear up for a return to the workplace, for many people a summer holiday has a vital wellbeing role to play – allowing families to have quality time together, to see loved ones and to rebuild their confidence in leaving the home.

“We all fully understand the key importance of safety, but the point the decision-makers seem to have missed is the vast majority of those that want or need to travel overseas this summer fully intend to do so safely.

“Our tracking research of consumer attitudes to travel during the length of the pandemic clearly shows that those that want to travel are happy to spend a lot more money to travel safely and they will do more research on how to travel in the safest possible way.”

More: Government ‘not being open’ on traffic light list decisions

BA and Virgin add weight to traffic light legal action

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