The most popular destinations for British holidaymakers, including Spain and France, look set to be off limits this summer, with much of Europe failing to meet the Government’s criteria to make the new “green” list.
A traffic light system recommended by the Global Travel Taskforce looks likely to come into force in May governing where Britons can travel; those heading to countries labelled “green” will not need to quarantine on return.
But only a handful of nations will make the cut. The Government has said it will consider infection rates, variants prevalence and access to genomic sequencing, as well as vaccination rate, with the threshold possibly as high as 50 per cent.
As it stands, British travellers would only be able to visit Israel and Gibraltar, with the Maldives and the Seychelles soon to make the grade.
Spain, the country most visited by Britons, with 18million trips in 2019, is a long way off, with a vaccination rate below 15 per cent. France (10million trips) and Italy (5million) also have some ground to make up for inclusion on the “green” list by the summer, with vaccinations rates at 15.6 and 13.8, respectively.
Visitors to "amber" countries may need to quarantine for 10 days on return and be subject to more testing, requirements that could deter tour operators from running holidays to such destinations. Today Jet2 cancelled all of its flights up to June 23.
Scroll down for more updates
What happened today?
A traffic light system recommended by the Global Travel Taskforce looks likely to come into force in May
Jet2 cancels all holidays up to June 23
Testing costs 'significant barrier' to £550m a week inbound tourism
Japan tightens measures to preserve chance of Summer Olympics
That's a wrap. Follow along for more live updates on Monday.
Ignore its drab reputation – Gibraltar is your best bet for summer sun
The rocky peninsula on the south coast of Spain that makes up the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar might not have been on your must-visit list, but it deserves a fresh look. After all, now is not the time to be sniffy about where we take our summer holidays. This little nation, with its single compact city and towering rock where free-roaming macaques terrorise tourists in “normal times”, could be among the first destinations to be “green-listed” under the the travel traffic light system for the restart of international travel.
Nearly the entire population is fully vaccinated with both doses (just three per cent turned down the jabs). And, having recorded zero active cases of Covid-19 on April 8 for the first time since last summer, the country is by far one of the least risky in Europe for Covid. This surely makes it a shoe-in for restriction-free break when the foreign holiday ban lifts – British Airways seems to think so – it has just launched a new service from London City Airport, starting in late June.
'Barmy travel rules punish those hoping to cruise overseas once more'
Jane Archer sounds off about today's Global Travel Taskforce report, and what it means for cruise:
I suppose I should eat humble pie. The Global Travel Taskforce has not only reported by its April 12 deadline – which I doubted it ever would – but it has given the green light to cruise. Britons can start thinking about foreign holidays, chirruped Grant Shapps this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme, triumphantly adding "and that includes cruise".
The Transport Secretary is no doubt much relieved that the souped-up version of the taskforce hasn’t proved quite as useless as last year’s model but before we all rush to book a cruise, it’s worth looking at what the report actually says. Because no sooner had the beaming minister (it was radio, but you can hear it in his voice) tantalisingly opened the door to the possibility of overseas cruises this summer, Warden Shapps stepped in and slammed it shut again.
Trains set to gain added appeal in 2021
In those innocent pre-Covid days, trains were all the rage. Greta Thunberg had made us all more aware of our carbon footprint, and increasingly it was being said that travel was about more than simply getting from A to B as quickly as possible: that there was a lot to be said for enjoying the journey itself.
Trains were clearly moving into a new age prior to the pandemic, but the events of the past 12 months and more have accelerated that process. A new age for rail travel indeed dawns.
'Why I’m going back to guidebooks as I plan my post-lockdown travel'
When we travel again, we should plan to ‘lose our way’ if we want to regain that sense of adventure, says Ash Bhardwaj.
Read how he plans to do just that, here.
Time for a 'Swapcation' – take your £500 test fees and spend it in the UK instead
While huge questions marks still linger over holidays abroad, one thing is for certain: there will be tests. It seems even holidaymakers returning from ‘green list' countries will have to fork out for £120 per head for gold standard PCR tests, meaning a family of four could be adding around £500 extra cost to their trip.
A charge usually levelled at UK holidays is how expensive they can be, but with this added pricey complication and after a year short on holidays, maybe this summer the splurge could be worth it.
Japan tightens measures to preserve chance of Summer Olympics
Japan announced Friday that it will raise the coronavirus alert level in Tokyo to allow tougher measures to curb the rapid spread of a more contagious variant ahead of the Summer Olympics.
Japan's national vaccination drive has lagged and most people in the capital still have not been inoculated as infections have surged.
The raised status announced by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will allow Tokyo's governor to mandate shorter opening hours for bars and restaurants, along with punishments for violators and compensation for those who comply. The measures are to begin Monday and continue through May 11.
Many of Tokyo's cases have been linked to nightlife and dining, though they have recently spread to offices, elderly care facilities and schools, experts say.
Suga also raised the alert level for Kyoto in western Japan and the southern island prefecture of Okinawa, where cases have surged in recent weeks. The new status there is to continue through May 5, the end of Japan's "Golden Week" holidays, to discourage traveling.
New York quiet as city awaits tourist return
Government told to publish quarantine data to prove it works
The Latin American Travel Association (Lata) has said the Government should publish data on its hotel quarantine and mandatory testing to prove their efficacy.
Danny Callaghan, CEO of the group that represents tourist boards, airlines and tour operators from south and central America, said testing and quarantine remained “expensive barriers to travel”.
There should be absolute transparency around the effectiveness of these measures, and I would like to see the Government publish data on the results of hotel quarantine and mandatory testing so that the travel industry can understand whether these are actually necessary measures or an expensive and overcautious approach that does nothing to improve the UK's resilience to Covid.
Will passengers need the Covid vaccine to go on a cruise?
It’s been over a year since the global cruise industry shuddered to a halt as coronavirus spread. Only river cruising in Europe mounted a significant comeback in 2020 – but this year holidays afloat looks set to spring back into life for sea-starved Britons, with domestic cruises permitted from as early as May 17.
The announcement of new cruises in home waters comes as the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout is proving a success. As of the start of this week, more than 28 million people in the country have been given their first jab.
But what does this mean for those hoping to embark on a long-awaited voyage? As cruise lines have begun to diverge on their requirements for boarding, Telegraph Travel explores what this will mean for travellers.
Do not travel to royal residences, Government urges
Britain's government asked the public not to gather outside or lay flowers at royal residences following the death of Prince Philip.
"Although this is an extraordinarily difficult time for many, we are asking the public not to gather at Royal Residences, and continue to follow public health advice particularly on avoiding meeting in large groups and on minimising travel," a Cabinet Office spokesman said.
"We are supporting the Royal Household in asking that floral tributes should not be laid at Royal Residences at this time."
10 countries that could make the 'green' list
The Press Association has had a crack at writing its own 'green' list.
The agency reports:
Assessments will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country's population which has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants and the country's access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
Using that criteria, here are 10 destinations that could be added to the "green" list:
United Arab Emirates
Telegraph Travel has come up with its own list of seven countries it believes will make the list. Read it here.
Why you should go to Israel
With Israel set to be a dead certain for the UK's "green" list, thanks to its high vaccination rate, our very own Chris Leadbeater has written on why it has always been a good option for a holiday.
Is Israel good for a beach holiday?Geography alone says yes. Israel has some 120 miles of coastline along the Mediterranean, and plenty of it is suitable for tourism. However, Tel Aviv is the obvious hotspot for holidays on the sand. This port-city has an increasingly chic vibe – not just in the fabled Bauhaus buildings which have made it a Unesco-listed epicentre of the great architectural style, but in the cool ambience in the bars and restaurants on its front. Hilton Beach, Gordon Beach, Frishman Beach and Bugrashov Beach are all popular sun-zones.
The View at the Palm reopens to public
Exempt Covid tests from VAT, says Willie Walsh
Willie Walsh, the director general of IATA and former chief of British Airways, has given his two cents on the Global Travel Taskforce’s findings, scolding the Government for failing to deliver on its promise for an “affordable and accessible” resumption of travel.
He said: “The biggest concern is the sole reliance on PCR testing. This is far from the “affordable and accessible” promise that the government has made.
“PCR testing is expensive, inconvenient and, in short supply in some destinations. Studies show that the best rapid tests could deliver similar levels of accuracy and put the cost of travel within the reach of many more people. And it has the potential to replace the need for quarantine for “amber” countries.”
IATA called for travellers to be allowed to use “more cost-efficient rapid testing” and for all coronavirus testing to be exempt from VAT.
“The Government should not be taking a 20 per cent premium on what has become an essential service,” said Walsh.
The four considerations for the traffic light list
The Department for Transport has stated that key factors in the assessment for travel will include:
- the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated
- the rate of infection
- the prevalence of variants of concern
-the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing
It will not be confirmed until next month which countries begin life on which list.
Testing costs 'significant barrier' to £550m a week inbound tourism
The CEO of UKinbound, Joss Croft, has had is say on how the Government’s plan to reopen international travel will impact incoming tourism.
He said the cost of inbound testing “may be a significant barrier to recovery”.
“A family of four visiting the UK from a green list country would need to take two PCR tests to enter the UK in addition to further testing on their return home,” he said. “At current rates this could come to £2,000 per family, increasing the cost of visiting the UK by over 50 per cent and making us completely uncompetitive as a tourist destination.
“We urge the Government to consider replacing on-arrival PCR tests with more affordable lateral flow tests for visitors from countries on the green list, and, if negative, removing the need for a second PCR test. We also need more affordable PCR tests, as UK rates are often double those of our competitors in Europe.”
He said that inbound visitors to the UK spend three times as much per trip as domestic tourists, supporting 500,000 full time jobs.
He added: “The UK is losing £550m per week without inbound visitors, and until businesses are allowed to trade their way back to recovery, we urgently need the government to include more inbound travel businesses in the restart grants and wider sector-specific support so that these companies can contribute to the UK’s economic revival.”
What do each of the colours mean in the Global Travel Taskforce report?
As previously reported, a traffic light system will be in place from May 17. Here's how it works:
Green: arrivals will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day 2 of their arrival back into the UK - but will not need to quarantine on return (unless they receive a positive result) or take any additional tests, halving the cost of tests on their return from holiday
Amber: arrivals will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days and take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 with the option for Test to Release on day 5 to end self-isolation early
Red: arrivals will be subject to restrictions currently in place for ‘red list’ countries which include a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, pre-departure testing and PCR testing on day 2 and 8
Could a digital travel certification system be on its way?
DfT says it is working across government to "consider the role" such certification could play in facilitating outbound travel, for those countries which have systems in place.
The review adds that work also continues to develop a system that would facilitate travel certification for inbound international travel.
Backlash as holidaymakers face paying hundreds of pounds per trip for Covid tests
British holidaymakers will have to pay hundreds of pounds for Covid tests if they want to take a trip abroad this summer under plans announced by the Government on Friday.
Travellers who want to visit countries on the safe "green list" will still be expected to pay for gold standard PCR tests on their return to the UK at around £120 each – an extra cost of almost £500 for a family of four.
People who have been fully vaccinated will still be required to take the PCR tests on or before the second day of their arrival back in the UK because of Government concerns that "green list" countries could still harbour new Covid variants.
Some tour operators will absorb some costs of Covid tests
Two operators that have already announced they will do this include the following:
Sandals and Beaches Resorts is offering guests free antigen Covid tests before they return back to the UK (or whatever country they are travelling to). PCRs can be provided on request.
Thomas Cook currently has a deal with Randox for PCR tests, which means its customers get discounted tests.
How far can I travel in the UK right now?
Lockdown measures continue to ease in England: on March 29 the “stay-at-home" guidance ended and the rule of six returned. On April 5, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the green light for phase two of his roadmap to go ahead from April 12.
In England, the lifting of the “stay-at-home” government message was part of four key steps to bring us out of lockdown, and the guidance currently permits us to meet with family and friends outside and to travel beyond our local area. The next phase, stage two of the roadmap, will now allow pub gardens to reopen and overnight stays in self-catering accommodation to happen, as well as hairdressers and non-essential shops to open up again.
Sacha Lord continues to fight for the reopening of indoor hospitality
Sacha Lord is the Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester. Today, he wrote on Twitter:
Exclusive: How to reduce the price of your ski holiday by half
With the announcement of the Government's traffic-light system for the future of international travel, holidays are set to be accompanied by hefty testing costs – at least for the time being. Pandemic or no pandemic, a ski holiday can be a pricey affair – but your choice of resort can hugely impact the pressure on your purse strings, a new report has found.
The Post Office Travel Money’s annual ski resort report, shared exclusively with The Telegraph, has revealed the price of a ski holiday can vary by hundreds of pounds depending on which resort you choose to visit – with necessities such as equipment hire, lift passes and lunch on the slopes in some destinations costing more than double than in others.
Lucy Aspden has all the details here.
The seven destinations likely to feature on the holiday 'green list' this summer
The Government has, as yet, given no clear indication as to which countries will be green, amber or red, but Telegraph Travel has crunched the numbers to assess which destinations look highly likely to get the go-ahead for the green list.
Thailand unnerved by fresh rise in cases
Thai authorities were struggling Friday to contain a growing coronavirus outbreak just days before the country's traditional Songkran New Year's holiday, when millions of people travel around the country.
Health officials reported another 559 new infections nationwide on Friday, following increases of 405 new cases and 334 new cases the previous two days.
Authorities have responded by ordering that entertainment venues in 41 provinces close for two weeks starting Saturday, while governors in some provinces are placing restrictions on travelers arriving from elsewhere.
Such daily increases in new infections are rare for Thailand, which has weathered the coronavirus pandemic far better than many nations through measures including strict border controls that have decimated the country's lucrative tourism industry. Thailand has also experimented at times with everything from curfews and alcohol bans to closures of schools, shopping malls and restaurants.
The country has said it plans to reopen to international tourism in July.
In charts: Spain and France tackle third wave
The two most popular countries for British visitors are all battling a third wave of coronavirus infections, as shown in the charts below. France is certainly faring worse.
Concerns grow over repeat of quarantine scrambles if countries 'change colour'
The Government should provide a warning to holidaymakers when a country is set to change from green to amber or red on the traffic light system to avoid “overnight scrambles” the likes of which we saw last summer, Flight Centre has said.
Steve Norris, managing director EMEA of the travel agent, said he welcomed the findings of the Global Travel Taskforce but that “there is still more to be done to clear the mist still blanketing summer travel”.
“The green watchlist announced today is a step in the right direction for the alert system we desperately need, giving our overstretched industry prior warning before consumers dash to book the next green destination, but this needs to be developed further,” he said.
“For the system to be a genuine help, it should also provide warning when a country risks heading into amber or red, giving travellers peace of mind to book knowing they won’t be faced with an overnight scramble to return to the UK and allowing agents time to amend customer’s bookings.”
He also said he supported the suggestion of a BYO system of lateral flow tests to cut the cost of testing.
“We risk travel becoming the reserve of the privileged few,” he said.
Britons happy to pay £22 for PCR test, finds survey
British travellers are willing to pay £22 per person for a PCR test before a holiday, according to a survey.
The fee falls well short of the average cost of a high street test of around £120, while the Covid check can cost up to £200 at some private clinics.
The research by insurance provider battleface found that a third of Britons would not be prepared to pay for a test at all for the purpose of international travel.
Only 4 per cent of those surveyed said they were happy to pay more than £75 for a PCR test.
The Government has said such tests would be a requirement for visiting even “green” list countries, angering many in the travel industry.
How much would you be happy to pay for a holiday PCR test? Tell us in the comments below
Six good things in the Government's travel plan; and four bad
The Government’s Global Travel Taskforce report has not delivered certainty for holidaymakers this summer, but it has moved us a little closer to being reasonably confident that those who want to travel will be able to, writes Nick Trend.
Our chief consumer editor says: "From the consumer’s point of view, there are some good things about the report and some missed opportunities."
He has highlighted six positives to come out of the news this morning, and four negatives.
In pictures: Zoos in UK prepare to reopen on Monday
Aside from the hubbub around international travel, attractions in the UK are preparing to reopen on Monday, including zoos, which always make for good photo opportunities.
Government to punish expensive testing companies
Profiteering testing companies have been threatened by Grant Shapps with removal from the official list, as travel bosses say holidays will be "just something for the wealthy".
The Transport Secretary said: "I won't spare those companies that seem to be profiteering, including potentially removing them from the recommended list."
Currently travelers who want to visit countries on the safe "green list" will still be expected to pay for gold standard PCR tests on their return to the UK at around £120 each – an extra cost of almost £500 for a family of four.
Mr Shapps insisted that he would be working with the travel industry to "drive down the cost" of tests, as he reiterated: "I think that cost should be cheaper for those private tests, I'll be driving that down in the next couple of weeks, where we can, and potentially even removing providers if they're not playing ball, because I don't want to see people being ripped off."
John Holland-Kaye, the Heathrow Airport Chief Executive, has criticised the Government's double testing requirement for returning travellers as making "no sense" and making foreign holidays this year "just something for the wealthy".
New framework leaves more questions than it answers, says Jet2
Here is some more detail from Jet2's chief executive on the airline's decision to cancel all trips up to June 23. Jet2 is the UK's second largest tour operator, behind Tui.
Steve Heapy said he was "extremely disappointed at the lack of clairty and detail" in the Global Travel Taskforce's framework published today.
"After several weeks exploring how to restart international travel, with substantial assistance and input from the industry, the framework lacks any rigorous detail about how to get international travel going again. In fact, the framework is virtually the same as six months ago," he said.
"Following the publication of the framework today, we still do not know when we can start to fly, where we can fly to and the availability and cost of testing. Rather than answering questions, the framework leaves everyone asking more."
He added: "Because of the continued uncertainty that the framework provides, it is with a heavy heart that we have taken the decision to extend the suspension of flights and holidays up to and including June 23, 2021."
Tui to keep to May 17 restart
Tui, Europe’s largest tour operator, is to keep to a May 17 restart in the wake of the publication of the Global Travel Taskforce report.
Managing director of Tui UK Andrew Flintham said: “Whilst the traffic light system will allow overseas travel to take place from 17 May, we remain disappointed about the expensive testing and quarantine measures proposed.
“We’re firmly committed to finding cost effective testing solutions for our customers, as well as offering maximum flexibility, so we can make travel possible this summer and beyond.”
Tui said its customers due to travel between May 17 and the end of July are able to change their holiday to another date for free.
Flintham said: “We believe that travel will be able to take place this summer and we will continue to work with the Government to make this possible.”
Earlier today Jet2 said it would cancel all flights up to June 23 after the publication of the Government's travel plans.
Finland plans to reopen restaurants in April
Some good news from Europe as Finland plans to loosen its restrictions, Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a news conference on Friday.
She added, however, that the spread of the virus is still severe and restrictions should not be lifted prematurely.
"Our goal is that when school ends, children can go to summer camps and people can start planning midsummer parties at the cottage," Marin said. Finland's school year ends on June 5.
The government's draft exit plan, which is dependent on the rollout of vaccines, aims to begin with the lifting later this month of a state of emergency that was declared on March 1.
Restaurants are also expected to reopen this month with limited seating and opening hours, a government official said.
In May, travel for business reasons from European Union countries into Finland will be allowed, and in June the plan is to lift restrictions on public gatherings and allow travel from most other European countries. Travel for business reasons from outside the EU into Finland may be permitted from July.
Why is Israel our only holiday certainty?
Israel has the highest vaccinated rate in the world, with 54 per cent fully vaccinated, as illustrated by the chart below.
'Start to think about booking,' says Shapps
People can "start to think" about booking overseas summer holidays, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The Cabinet minister said it is the first time in "many months" he was not advising against booking foreign trips.
His comments came just five days after Downing Street published a document which urged people "not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer".
On Friday Mr Shapps announced a "framework" for the resumption of overseas leisure travel, which included requiring all arrivals to take pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus tests.
Post-arrival tests must be the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) type which cost about £120, he said.
Asked if people could start to book foreign holidays now, Mr Shapps told Sky News: "I'm not telling people that they shouldn't book summer holidays now, it's the first time that I've been able to say that for many months."
He said he was looking to "drive down the costs" of tests required for international travel to resume. "Costs are definitely a concern, it's one of the factors this year, and we have to accept we're still going through a global pandemic.”
Jet2 cancels all holidays up to June 23
The airline and tour operator Jet2 and Jet2holidays has said it is to suspend all flights and holidays up to June 23.
The company cited uncertainty over the Government's plan for the resumption of overseas travel.
The move is a clear vote of no confidene in the Global Travel Taskforce's plans for a May 17 restart, as indicated in its findings published today.
As it stands, Tui was still planning to resume trips on May 17.
'Use of cheaper tests for travellers would risk third wave'
The managing director of a clinical testing company set to provide PCR tests for travellers this summer, has warned that the use of cheaper lateral flow tests risks a third wave in the UK.
Today the Government said arrivals from “green” list countries will need to take PCR tests before returning to the UK, but there is growing pressure from consumer groups and operators to use lateral flow tests to bring cost down.
Ben Paglia, managing director of Akea Life, linked to the first PCR test facility at a UK airport at Liverpool John Lennon, said such a move would be “frankly astonishing”.
He said: “The idea of using a lateral flow test as a ‘cheaper’ alternative to PCR testing and to make this more affordable to airline passengers is frankly astonishing.
“After we have made such incredible progress with the vaccination programme rollout – and the incredible hardships and sacrifices many people have had to make in lockdown – why would the Government drop its guard now and risk a potential third outbreak and a rise in infections?"
He also warned against holidaymakers being able to administer their own tests.
“The number of false negatives can increase significantly simply due to the lack of understanding people will have in testing themselves. This in itself can also lead to the ‘false reassurance’ that a person is ‘negative’ when in fact they may be positive or asymptomatic but carrying the virus,” he said.
The UK's most popular travel destinations
Which of these will make the "green" list? Very few at this rate.
We crunched data from 2019, the last full year of pre-pandemic data, to show which countries welcome the most Britons.
Vital Government reviews 'green' list regularly, says Abta
Abta, which represents British tour operators, has said testing costs could provide a barrier for travel, even to "green" list countries.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive, said the Government should consider dropping testing requirements for vaccinated travellers.
“While the framework isn’t perfect – the requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people - we welcome the fact that the Government commits to engaging with industry on this issue," he said.
"Small changes, like requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against re-importation of the virus.
"The Government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility."
He also said it is vital for the survival of the indsutry that the Government regularly reviews the "green" list.
"Closing off destinations unnecessarily will significantly affect the industry’s opportunity to recover this summer," he said.
Which countries could make the green list through vaccinations?
A threshold of 50 per cent has been rumoured, but it is not clear if this will refer to first doses given, or fully vaccinated. Or, indeed, whether it will be lower.
Here is how key countries are getting on with their programme.
Jet2: 'We need more detail on holidays'
Jet2 has said the Government has not given enough clarity or detail for its customers to have confidence in their summer plans.
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2 and Jet2holidays, said:
We welcome the UK Government’s announcement, which demonstrates a clear ambition to restart international travel, which is what our customers have been calling for. We now need further detail and clarity on the plans. We want our customers to enjoy a happy and healthy holiday, but without the additional cost of expensive pre-departure and post-arrival testing on top, so we are now calling for further clarity on a cost-effective Covid-19 testing regime for customers. We know how much our customers want to get away to enjoy their well-deserved holidays in the sunshine and we have a huge range of hotspots and leisure city destinations on sale from across our network of UK airport bases for Summer 21.
Morning, and the focus of today is the release of the Global Travel Taskforce's findings. The main concerns are:
Which countries will make which list?
How much will testing cost for travellers?
Will there still be compulsory hotel quarantine?
Will tour operators help with PCR test cost?
Should I book now or wait?