Holidays abroad: many Britons plan to press on despite government advice
Tui says half of its passengers booked to visit Portugal in June are still planning to travel
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Last modified on Fri 4 Jun 2021 13.00 EDT
As recriminations continue over the UK government’s decision to remove Portugal from the travel green list, many Britons have decided to press ahead with overseas holiday plans, even if that means going against official advice.
At 4.45pm on Sunday 6 June, Pont-Aven, one of Brittany Ferries’ flagship cruise liners, will leave Plymouth for Santander in Spain – the company’s first sailing on that route for eight months. The UK government says people should not travel to amber list locations such as Spain and advises against all but essential travel to the country – but that has not stopped the company, or the more than 800 people making the trip.
“The fact that Spain remains amber is very disappointing. But we have seen very little drop-off in passenger numbers for the first voyage,” said a spokesperson for Brittany Ferries, which had gambled that the green light for trips by this point would be a given.
He added: “We suspect most passengers are taking a pragmatic approach to government travel advice. The unquantifiable threat of a potential new Covid variant may be far less persuasive to them than careful consideration of risk, based on hard data.”
They are not the only ones who have decided to keep calm and carry on packing their suitcases. It appears growing numbers of holidaymakers – many of whom are older and will now have had both vaccinations – are starting to make their own decisions about travel and the risks involved.
Noel Josephides, chair of tour operator Sunvil, said that when it came to destinations such as Greece, also on the amber list, a “fair proportion” of customers were still planning to travel. Sunvil’s clientele is largely older and retired. “They have no qualms about going … and they don’t mind quarantining,” he said.
Europe’s largest travel company, Tui, said 50% of passengers booked to go to Portugal with the company in June were still planning to travel. On Thursday, it was announced that Portugal – including Madeira and the Azores – would move to the amber list at 4am on 8 June.
Just a few weeks ago, in May, Portugal had been the only major tourist destination placed on the green list. At that point, Tui bookings to Portugal had skyrocketed by 182%.
While some Britons are taking the view that they will press ahead, many others will now be wondering what to do, and whether they will get abroad – or anywhere at all – this year. The uncertainty sent airline shares tumbling for a second day on Friday.
Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary – a frequent critic of ministers’ policy in this area – claimed the UK government was “making it up as they go along” and that this “mismanagement of the Covid recovery” had created “unnecessary disruption and stress for hundreds of thousands of British families”.
Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy PC Agency, a key spokesperson for the sector, said: “I think the danger is the government’s decision has crushed confidence in people wanting to book a holiday for the summer.”
He thinks there will still be an overseas getaway during July and August, but that “it is going to be the summer of the last-minute booking … It will be a squeezed summer”.
The green list is due to be reviewed again on 28 June, and Charles said we could expect “a major travel industry offensive” to try to ensure that “holidays are back on” from then.
Many will take the view that for this summer at least, a UK staycation is the safest bet – if you can find room at the inn. During the past few months, holiday cottage websites, caravan park owners and campervan hire firms have reported big jumps in bookings – with prices jumping too.
The travel industry body Abta said: “If you look at the cost of domestic holidays this year, they have gone up substantially.”
A spokesperson said there may be people who simply could not afford those prices. “What is their holiday going to be?” they said.
Josephides firmly believes confidence will come back – for example, when those who do take the plunge return from overseas trips and tell their friends it was fine and there were no crowds.
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