Non-essential international travel will be the last to re-open, according to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who presented his final road map to recovery late on Monday, outlining England’s return to normalcy in three steps with the complete opening deadline set for June 21.
Johnson said first up for re-opening on March 8 were schools and colleges and allowed gatherings of two people outdoors. As of March 29, people will be encouraged to do things locally and no more than six to meet outside with some outdoor sports facilities reopening.
Phase two set for after April 12, foresees the re-opening of non-essential shops and personal care services. Depending on Covid-19 epidemiolocal data, domestic travel and overnight stays will also be allowed after April 12.
From May 17 onwards, the majority of outdoor restrictions will be eased with the aim to lift all rules by June 21.
Tentative May 17 date for international travel
With regard to international travel, Johnson said holidays would begin after May 17, but added that this date was tentative and would be subject to review.
The UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce is expected to re-examine the issue and draw up a list of recommendations for safe international travel by April 12.
Johnson said this would “give people time to make their plans for the summer”.
International tourism and aviation bodies, which were placing their hopes on Johnson to restore travel in view of Britain’s high vaccination levels, were disappointed with the news.
World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) President and CEO Gloria Guevara warned that “delaying the return of international travel until at least mid-May, could mean the travel and tourism sector simply won’t survive and struggling SMEs will just disappear”.
“The sector was banking its hopes on a quicker return to international travel, so there will be widespread dismay at this news,” she said.
Echoing Guevara, UK Airport Operators Association CEO Karen Dee said “as the worst-hit economic sector in 2020, this will ensure we will also be the worst-hit sector of 2021”.
Meanwhile, within hours of Johnson’s announcement, international holiday bookings surged by as much as 600 percent, Reuters reported.
UK low-cost carrier easyJet said flight bookings from Britain soared by over 300 percent and holiday reservations jumped by more than 600 percent week on week after Monday’s news that travel could restart from mid-May. Crete was among the top newly booked destinations, according to easyJet.
Leisure travel giant TUI UK, which brings hundreds of Britons to Greece each year, also said that its vacation bookings were up by 500 percent. TUI said travel to Greece, Spain and Turkey were the most booked overnight, with people opting to visit from July onwards.
The UK’s travel association ABTA also welcomed the news noting that it “sets an ambition to get people traveling before the summer”.
“We’re pleased to see the government has responded to our calls to engage with industry on a specific roadmap for travel, and we welcome that the Global Travel Taskforce will reconvene to work with ABTA and the wider travel industry on a plan for re-opening travel,” said Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA. However, Tanzer also called on the government to prepare a “tailored financial support” package to travel agents and tour operators.