Demand for overseas vacations is rebounding following the relaxation of coronavirus travel rules and could reach pre-pandemic levels within months, travel agencies say.
An increase in bookings came after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday announced that testing and quarantine requirements for arrivals would be relaxed.
Fully vaccinated travelers and under 18s arriving in the UK at 4 a.m. on Friday no need to have passed a lateral flow test before departure.
Instead, they can take a lateral flow test rather than the more expensive PCR version for their post-arrival test from 4 a.m. on Sunday, with the changes saving a family of four around Â£ 300 .
Spain leads the most popular overseas destinations people plan to visit this year, followed by the United States, France, Italy and Greece, according to a survey of 2,000 UK consumers through the Abta travel organization.
But what are the COVID situations in these popular hotspots?
Under current rules, all travelers who have recovered or have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can travel to Spain without having to follow additional entry rules, even if their country of origin is part of the list of country risks.
COVID infections continue to rise across Spain as the country grapples with a sixth wave of the virus from the highly transmissible strain Omicron.
Beginning on Christmas Eve, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro SÃ¡nchez introduced the wearing of face masks outdoors in an attempt to contain tension – meaning tourists visiting the country may need to mask themselves during most days. their vacation.
However, face covering is not mandatory while exercising, on the beach, or at the pool as long as the 1.5 meter social distancing is maintained.
The United States eased its travel restrictions in early November before the Omicron variant hit.
It has since suspended entry for non-nationals who were in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe during the 14 days prior to their entry or attempt. entry into the country.
However, most fully immunized foreign citizens can enter the United States.
Before boarding a flight to the United States, most passengers will need to test negative for COVID-19 taken no more than one day before travel.
Currently, anyone two years of age and older who is not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor public places, however, this does not apply in outdoor places.
People are expected to wear face coverings on planes, buses, trains, and other public transportation to, within or outside the United States, as well. only inside transport hubs such as airports and train stations.
People wishing to travel from the UK to France, regardless of their vaccination status, can only do so for essential reasons.
Since Thursday, people can now travel between the United Kingdom and France for professional reasons requiring an on-site presence, which cannot be postponed, as travelers must provide proof from their employer.
France had previously relaxed its travel measures during the holiday season following an outcry from British nationals unable to return home via the Eurotunnel.
Wearing masks even outdoors was made mandatory in Paris last month as the country struggles to cope with a wave of Omicron.
Regardless of vaccine status, arriving in Italy by air, land or sea may be subject to a random COVID test on arrival until January 31.
If you are traveling from the UK and can show that you are fully vaccinated with a negative PCR test, you can enter Italy without needing to self-isolate.
Travelers are required to wear a mask at all times when using public transport in Italy, but this rule does not apply outdoors.
Everyone is also required to keep a distance of at least one meter, with only high-speed trains having no social distancing rules.
Since October, cultural venues have been allowed to operate at full capacity, including theaters, cinemas and concert halls.
Those traveling to Greece will need to complete a Passenger Tracking Form (PLF) and proof of a negative PCR test or rapid antigenic COVID test.
In response to the Omicron wave, the country’s government last month reintroduced the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors.
Double-masking or wearing a high-protection face cover is also mandatory on public transport and in supermarkets.
All travelers, regardless of their immunization status, were asked to have a lateral flow test or PCR on the second and fourth day after arriving in the country.
Return to pre-COVID levels “by spring”
Steve Heapy, managing director of Jet2holidays and leisure airline Jet2.com, revealed that the company has reported enormous popularity for travel to mainland Spain, the Canaries, the Balearic Islands, Turkey and Greece. .
He said: âThe easing of travel restrictions is good news for the travel industry and vacationers and comes during a traditionally very busy time for vacation bookings.
âWe have seen an immediate and dramatic increase in bookings, with volumes since the government announcement heading to pre-pandemic levels, showing just how much demand there is among those looking to get away on vacation. well deserved. “
Tui also saw the biggest spikes in bookings for Mexico and the Canaries.
A spokeswoman for the tour operator said Mr Johnson’s announcement “gave Britons confidence that travel will again be easier and more affordable”.
She continued: âWe have already seen an immediate and strong increase in bookings and we now expect bookings for the summer of 2022 to be normalized.
âJanuary has traditionally been the busiest month for vacation bookings and demand has yet to reach pre-COVID levels, so we need to see continued confidence in travel so the industry can fully recover. “
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Meanwhile, luxury travel company Kuoni predicts travel will reach pre-pandemic levels by spring.
Its chief executive, Derek Jones, said the easing of testing rules “should be the beginning of the end of COVID as a blocker of international travel.”
He added, âI predict that travel will be down to 90% to 2019 levels by the end of spring.
âWe are already seeing an increase in call volumes and travel inquiries for the coming year as confidence builds. “