Summer Holidays – What are the Chances?!
It would be no understatement to say that this winter has been worse than any of us could ever have imagined. Separated from our loved ones, empty streets and shuttered shops, hospitals overwhelmed with patients, unemployment at an all-time high or home working for those lucky enough to still have a job – all whilst trying to educate imprisoned children. It’s been impossibly hard. But with the skies becoming more vivid in colour, patchy bursts of sunshine yellow from sprouting bulbs and warmer currents breezing through the cracks, it seems like things may be looking a little brighter.
The vaccine roll-out is continuing with strong and steady pace, infection rates are dropping dramatically and we are all hoping for a future with less restrictions. One element of our lives that we have greatly missed is the chance to jet away on holiday. It can’t be underestimated just how important having something to look forward to really is, especially during tough times. The Government has announced a road-map to relative freedom and this includes a tentative date of May 17th for opening up our airways. So if things do go to plan, which of our favourite summer holidays destinations are likely to welcome us back? Lets take a look!
France’s stance on welcoming back visitors from abroad has been sketchy. Solely focused on reducing infection rates before making sweeping statements on travel (and rightly so) they have been reserved in their approach. All non-essential foreign travel has been banned, however future projections have started to change due to a decrease in infection rates. On March 11th French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has announced an easing of restrictions and stated they will be welcoming Brits who present a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival. It may be illegal for us to travel at the moment, but this development forms a major U-turn from the French Government and gives great reason for hope.
A firm favourite of many British holidaymakers, Portugal’s secretary of state for Tourism - Rita Marques – has said they will be welcoming back vaccinated British travellers and those who present a negative test on arrival. Marques also went as far as to say travel will be restriction free for the vaccinated, which will be very attractive for many. Whether our government will allow travel to Portugal for non-essential reasons is another story. Currently Portugal is on the ‘Red List’ of countries where travel is banned. This is due to Portugal’s links with Brazil and fear of the Brazilian variant. Ironically the Kent variant is more prevalent in the country, but currently travellers returning from the country have to endure managed quarantine in a government approved hotel at a hefty cost to the bank balance and sanity. Whilst Portugal is currently in talks with the UK over so called ‘vaccine passports’ it remains unclear if and when quarantine restrictions will be lifted.
Greek minister for tourism Harry Theocharis has been extremely vocal when it comes to summer holidays, saying they wish to welcome British tourists with open arms. Greece will ‘’try to make travel as smooth and hasstle-free as possible.’’ Interestingly the government have embarked on an aggressive programme of vaccinating communities living on over 40 islands, many of which are beloved destinations for tourists. These include Corfu, Kefalonia, Mykonos and Santorini. Vaccinated travellers will be offered restriction free entry, requiring no pre/post arrival testing so long as they can prove they have received at least their first jab. For those who haven’t received the vaccine, Greece is proposing a rapid test on arrival and possibly proof of a negative test taken before departure from the UK.
Another country which holds a big sun-drenched place in our British hearts is Spain. Maria Reyes Maroto, Spain’s Tourism Minister, confirmed that the government are in talks with UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Schapps, about possible ‘Green Corridors’ for travel between the two countries. It’s worth noting however that the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, reported the country would need to vaccinate 70% of the population before opening up, and this looks set for the end of the summer. The Balearic Islands have a slightly different stance and have proposed to central government that they are the first to trial ‘vaccine passports’ to get visitors back sooner. It’s worth noting that some Majorcan hotels are opening earlier than planned, as the German arm of package holiday conglomerate TUI, relaunch holidays from April onwards – this in itself is much reason for hope.
Cyprus will let Brits who have received both doses of the vaccine into the country restriction free, with no testing or quarantine. Those partially vaccinated or yet to receive their jab can visit as long as they can prove they tested negative before arrival. Whether testing or quarantine on arrival will be implemented for unvaccinated visitors is yet to be said, but Cyprus have made it clear - they wish to reopen the tourism sector which is so vital to their economy.
Whilst reading these bold statements from some of our favourite holiday hotspots, its hard not to feel a frisson of excitement and hope that we may be sunning ourselves on foreign sands this year. Whilst projections for travel are on the up, it’s worth noting that everything is dependant on the continued successful roll out of the vaccine and keeping infection rates down both home and abroad. Taking the risk and booking a holiday this year is a personal choice, but if you do, make sure you are booking with a reputable company offering a fully flexible policy that will allow you to at least accept a voucher should things not go to plan. This summer will clearly be different, but the doom and gloom of such a brutal winter will hopefully be a thing of the past and we will soon be making memories once again.