The tourist boards of countries on the UK government’s newly released green list have welcomed news that holidaymakers from England can visit without the need to quarantine on their return.
The list only had 12 destinations, with many popular holiday hotspots such as Spain, Greece and France categorised as amber, meaning travellers returning to England from those destinations need to self-isolate on their return home.
Key green list destinations that are welcomed by the trade include Portugal, Israel and Iceland.
Sharon Bershadsky, director of the Israel Tourist Office UK, said: “The news that Israel is one of the few countries included in the British government’s ‘green list’ of approved travel destinations is a source of great pride for us.
“Both countries have worked hard to push back the tide of the pandemic and we look forward to welcoming returning friends and new visitors alike from across the world in late May.
“As part of our roadmap for reopening we will welcome tour groups as part of an initial pilot, and by July we hope that our skies will be open to individual travellers.”
Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, head of Visit Iceland, said: “While the impact of Covid-19 has obviously affected tourism to Iceland, our borders have remained open and we have been welcoming visitors and providing them with a memorable holiday and a well-deserved escape.
“UK tourists who can show valid certification of vaccination or prior Covid infection can undergo one test at the Icelandic borders and can start their journey in Iceland once they receive a negative result, usually within six-24 hours.
“Our commitment is to ensure travellers stay safe during their visit, receive the results quickly and then start to enjoy travelling around in Iceland.
“Iceland’s regions have a host of diverse experiences for the visitor to enjoy, from puffins in the East to the black beaches of the South, the Museum of Nonsense in the Westfjords, to whale watching in the North. Visitors can even cross tectonic plates in Reykjanes, go into a glacier in the West or hit buzzing downtown Reykjavik.”
João Fernandes, president of Algarve Tourism, hailed news that Portugal, along with its islands such as Madeira and the Azores, is rated green, as had been expected.
“With 44% of our international visitors coming from the UK in a typical year, the absence of British visitors was noticed and missed last summer,” he said.
“Flights are resuming from mid-May, so hotels are prepared and offering some great packages. There is plenty of availability at the moment.”
Nuno Vale, Madeira Promotion Bureau director, said: “We are ecstatic and beyond amazed with the good news. This will be absolutely crucial for all our UK partners and tourism sector overall.
“Most importantly, our local members, hotels, leisure and incoming companies will finally restart their activity, welcoming British tourists as usual, who we believe are very keen on travelling right now.”
Those in the trade working with Portugal said bookings to the country were already up on last week, with more demand expected on Friday evening.
Alan French, Thomas Cook chief executive, said: “The past week has already been one of the best of the year so far in terms of bookings for Portugal and we expect record demand for the Algarve and Lisbon.”
Estelle Giraudeau, UK & Northern Europe managing director at Club Med, added: “In the lead-up to the first green list announcement, we were already seeing a huge spike in interest for our resort in the Algarve, with an 118% increase in traffic to our Da Balaia resort page based on daily averages in May compared with April. We are confident that this will translate into sales over the coming days and weeks.
“We are hopeful over the coming weeks and months that more destinations will be added to the green list.”
Sean Moriarty, chief executive of Quinta do Lago in the Algarve, said: “The Algarve is in the top three most popular destinations for British travellers and this news enables our UK guests to return to Quinta do Lago for the summer season. Portugal has been recognised for managing the virus exceptionally and our resort lends itself well to an outdoor and active lifestyle.”
Many of the destinations on the green list were not mainstream but their tourism bodies welcomed the opportunity to highlight their attractions to visitors.
St Helena– the second most remote inhabited island in the world – has been Covid-19 free since the start of the pandemic and 95% of its population has received two doses of Covid vaccine.
Governor Philip Rushbrook said: “We have re-established in our current arrangement for flights from Stansted for travellers to visit the island, either to come and see us for the first time or to return to friends and family. The first flight available is on June 21.
“St Helena is a taste of sub-tropical paradise and the perfect, peaceful antidote to a terrible year for many.
“Our isolation in the middle of the south Atlantic ocean has meant we have been free from the devastating effects of the virus and our community has been able to enjoy a normal life, free of restrictions.
“The island now looks forward to welcoming visitors from Britain to enjoy our island’s beautiful landscapes, outstanding marine life, historic heritage and the warm and friendly local community spirit typical of the people of St Helena.”
Italy was not included on the green list and Maria Elena Rossi, marketing director of the Italian National Tourist Board, said the list was “deeply disappointing”.
“Tourism is one of our most important economies and is worth €232 billion to the economy and Britain is one of our most important markets. In 2019, we welcomed 6.3 million British visitors who spent over €3.5 billion,” she said.
“Earlier this week our prime minister, Mario Draghi, welcomed back British tourists and urged them to book their summer holidays in Italy confirming that Italy is open for business from May 16.
“Our visitors will be able to access the Italian National Vaccine Pass from mid-May allowing them to avoid quarantine on arrival.
“However, if visitors are forced to quarantine on return to the UK because Italy has been designated an amber country then we will, of course, lose vital bookings this summer which would have been critical to kickstarting the recovery of the tourism industry this year.”
Like Italy, Spain is also on the amber list, and the Spanish Ministry of Tourism commented: “Spain is optimistic with the development of the negotiations and reiterates its conviction that this summer it will be possible for British citizens to spend their holidays in Spain.
“We reaffirm the prediction that in June, we will be able to start the reactivation of international travel.
“Taking into account Spain’s vaccination progress, in line with the planned timings, and the decrease of the Covid-19 accumulated incidence rate, we hope to see Spain on the UK’s green list very soon.”
Ángel Vázquez, tourism promotion minister for the Spanish island destination of Lanzarote, said: “British visitors represent nearly 50% of Lanzarote’s total inbound tourism and many hotels in the island are postponing their reopening dates until British tourists are able to visit us again.
“We want to emphasise that over the last few weeks, the evolution of the pandemic in Lanzarote and the rest of the Canary Islands has improved and we are confident of increasing our vaccinations rates in the coming weeks.
“We continue to direct a large amount of resource towards our tourism sector to enable tourism to restart safely. We hope to welcome British travellers back to Lanzarote very soon.”