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New travel rules spark concern for family breaks to Spain

Pictured: Stuart (back) and Mark Swords worked until 9.30pm on Sunday to notify clients of the rule changes

Fears are rising in the trade about family travel to Spain this Christmas following tighter entry rules due to the Omicron variant.

The UK’s largest outbound market now requires all arrivals over 12 to prove they are fully vaccinated, effectively barring UK teenagers as most to date have had only one vaccination.

Morocco, Israel and Portugal also beefed up entry restrictions, while the UK has reintroduced PCR tests for arrivals.

Agents and operators this week scrambled to contact clients in resort and those due to travel to explain the changes and book tests.

Many said the changes for Spain were the biggest concern for this winter despite the UK government sanctioning second jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds within three months.

Designer Travel managing director Amanda Matthews said Spain’s rules had caused “an enormous” problem.

She said: “You’re trying to say to clients, ‘we don’t know, you’re going to have to wait two weeks to see whether [the rules change again]’.”

Agents called for clarification on how long new rules would be in place.

Swords Travel co-directors Stuart and Mark Swords, who spent Sunday contacting clients, said: “We are really having to hold clients’ hands; they are panicking. We need guidance and information as to what we can say.”

Protected Trust Services head of business development Jacqui Landen said the situation was “very difficult for businesses”, adding: “The problem is the lack of clarity on the message for Spain over Christmas.”

Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes said the Spain change had caused cancellations due to the lack of a timeframe for when rules will be reviewed. “The big concern is it will be in place over the Christmas holidays, which is when the majority of the families will be booked to travel,” she said.

Miles Morgan Travel chairman Miles Morgan remained hopeful Spain would “reconsider” and “common sense prevailed”, adding: “We’re trying to get people to hang fire while we wait for clarification.”

Bailey’s Travel managing director Chris Bailey noted the situation could change within weeks. “We are only ringing people about to travel; that seems the best thing to do,” he said.

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