Britain is unlikely to reopen overseas travel to the major European holiday destinations until the beginning of August, UK ambassadors have warned.
With domestic unlocking delayed for four weeks, Toni Mayor, the head of the Hosbec association of Valencia region hoteliers, said he did not expect to see UK tourism take off until August, following a meeting with Hugh Elliott, the UK ambassador.
Turkish tourist chiefs are also understood to have received a similar message after meeting with UK Foreign Office officials, and are not expecting any lifting of overseas travel restrictions out of the UK until the beginning of August.
It comes as airlines have also started shrinking their schedules until late July in face of the Government’s decision to push back “freedom day” by a month and the anticipated further delay in expanding the green list for quarantine-free travel.
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet are cancelling flights until after the new July 19 date as demand plummets. Virgin Atlantic pushed back journeys from Heathrow to Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago until October as well as transatlantic flights until mid-July.
Budget airline easyJet has started dropping trips to Greece and France up until July 17 as Britons face a second summer trapped at home.
Paul Charles, the chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said the uncertainty over any prospective restarting of foreign travel was strangling the industry. He urged ministers to set a date, even if it was the beginning of August.
“Why doesn’t the Government give an opening up date for the travel sector in the same way as it is doing for the domestic sector, so that both can benefit from the vaccination rollout,” said Mr Charles.
British people gather at Faro Airport as they interrupt their holidays in the Algarve to return home in early June due to the Government's revised quarantine rules
Credit: LUIS FORRA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Only 11 countries are currently on the Government’s green list where quarantine-free travel is allowed, with Gibraltar and Iceland being the only two viable holiday destinations. Portugal was axed from the list earlier this month, forcing thousands to race home to avoid quarantine.
It will be reviewed next week to decide if any countries could be added but ministers believe Europe is at least two months behind the UK in bringing infection rates under control and rolling out the vaccine. This would take any possible major lifting of restrictions to at least the end of July.
Mr Mayor said: “The overall infection levels in Spain are still high in places and the picture is uneven, so I think we will have to wait, possibly until July 20.”
He said that this would effectively mean that UK tourism would not get into full swing until August, with tour operators needing at least a fortnight to normalise operations.
It came as Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister, warned that British tourists coming to Italy could be made to quarantine amid alarm over the growing number of delta variant cases in the UK.
The rapid growth of the delta variant
British and other European visitors currently just have to show a negative Covid-19 test or proof they have been vaccinated. But that could change if the number of delta variant infections continues to rise in Britain, said Mr Draghi.
“If the number of cases increases, we will have to reimpose quarantine for those who arrive from England. But we are not there yet,” he said at the end of the G7 summit in Cornwall.