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UK holiday bookings for summer 2021 soar despite travel ban

  • Airline industry reports a spike UK holiday bookings for summer 2021
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson being pressure to shut borders in the UK
  • Boris Johnson holds COVID press conference
  • UK travel and tourism sector battered by lockdown restrictions

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tightened UK travel restrictions earlier this month and yet there have been reports of a surge in UK holiday booking in the last week due to COVID vaccine confidence.

Under current national lockdown restrictions, Britons have been advised to stay home and avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, the UK government has closed all its travel corridors and required all arrivals into the UK, including British nationals to provide proof of a negative COVID test taken within three days of departure.

However, travel expert and CEO of the PC Agency, Paul Charles, said that he and fellow industry professionals had noticed an uptick in bookings for short-haul trips into 2021. They noted that vaccine rollouts had boosted optimism over the resumption of international travel.

Mr Charles said: “I’m hearing from a large number of my clients that holiday bookings are ‘off the charts’ for staycations and European trips.”

Spain’s tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, has also boosted Brits hopes of being able to travel to Spain in the near-term after stating, he wants to “reactivate tourism and resume safe mobility on a global scale” as soon as possible.

While Ms Maroto didn’t explicitly state that Britons will be able to travel to Spain any time soon, she did say that the availability of COVID vaccines is boosting optimism over travel prospects.”

Given that the UK is leaps ahead of its European neighbours in the vaccine race, it’s no wonder that holidaymakers are confident about resuming travel in summer 2021.

According to official statistics, more than four million people in the UK have been vaccinated, with nearly two million receiving the vaccine in the past week.

While the number of COVID-19 related deaths continues to grow higher, there has been evidence that the UK infection rate is declining, which is supporting Britain’s recovery outlook.

Yet, even with COVID vaccine rollouts providing some light at the end of the tunnel, Home Secretary Priti Patel dashed dreams of Brits being able to travel abroad in Thursday’s coronavirus update.

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Boris Johnson could close UK borders completely

Environment Secretary George Eustice said the UK government is considering a full border closure to protect British citizens and residents from more deadly COVID variants.

Several countries, including France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Finland have already imposed UK travel bans after scientists confirmed more contagious mutant strains of the virus had emerged in the country.

Since then, more deadly COVID variants have been identified globally, which has seen the UK Prime Minister come under pressure for a complete border shutdown.

European leaders have also acted on the news, and while they are keeping their borders open, they are discouraging all non-essential travel.

Travellers departing from EU member states with high infection rates will have to produce a negative test and self-isolate upon arrival for 10 days when flying to another country in the bloc.

With the UK on the brink of shutting down its borders and Europe tightening restrictions, airline shares have plummeted.

At the time of writing, shares for British Airways parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG) are 3.35% lower at 151.68, while EasyJet (EZJ) is down by nearly 4% at 778.20. German airline, Lufthansa (LHA), has also slipped by 2.73% to 9.96 on Friday.

Only days ago, the UK government announced the closure of all its travel corridors and mandated arrivals produce proof of a negative COVID test, taken three days before departure to be allowed entry into the country.

However, Environment Secretary George Eustice said that further action could be necessary, due to the worsening global coronavirus situation.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson holds COVID press conference

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was joined by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance today in a televised address to the nation regarding coronavirus updates.

Mr Johnson expressed his optimism over the UK’s COVID vaccine rollout and the turning point in the infection rate but urged the public to adhere to lockdown restrictions to prevent the COVID-19 case count from increasing.

On Thursday, Tory ministers urged the Prime Minister to produce a timetable for easing lockdown restrictions. However, with approximately 1 in 55 people in the UK suffering from COVID, Mr Johnson said it is too early to tell when rules will be lifted.

Downing Street has also refused to rule out the possibility of the third national lockdown being extended into the summer due to the severity of new COVID strains.

Mr Johnson is also expected to address reports that have suggested that anyone who tests positive for the virus in England will receive a GBP 500 coronavirus self-isolation payment to deter people from breaking the rules.

Yesterday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said people caught breaking lockdown restrictions will face more severe penalties and announced a GBP 800 fine for those who attend house parties where more than 15 people are present.

But despite cases in the UK being stubbornly high, a 70-strong Covid Recovery Group (CRC) made up of Tory MPs are pressuring the Prime Minister to start easing restrictions by March to prevent further economic devastation.

CRC Chairman, Mark Harper, said: “People must see the light at the end of the tunnel and feel hope for the future and businesses need to be able to plan our recovery.”

Meanwhile, UK Hospitality Chief Executive, Kate Nicholls, warned that “many pubs and restaurants could have no future if they are forced to stay shuttered.”

However, UK scientists have told ministers that reopening pubs and restaurants any earlier than May could trigger an exponential rise in COVID cases.

Recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests that Britain has passed the worst of the second COVID wave, with the number of people testing positive for the virus declining for the twelfth successive day.

According to the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the UK’s R-value – which measures the number of people one person can infect – has also fallen, from between 1.2 – 1.3 last week to 0.8 and 1 this week.

However, King’s College London epidemiologist, Professor Spector warned that the prevalence of COVID-19 is still high across the UK and that NHS hospitals are still inundated with patients.

With businesses facing additional months of financial hardship, a group of more than 80 politicians have signed a letter addressed to Boris Johnson requesting a “recovery package” to offer additional support to the aviation, travel and tourism sectors.

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UK travel and tourism industry is in urgent need of support

Conservative MP for Crawley, Henry Smith, who also chairs the Future of Aviation parliamentary group is one of 85 ministers who call for Boris Johnson to provide additional support for airlines, travel agents and other aviation and travel firms.

Henry Smith has urged the UK government to produce a “comprehensive” support package as many businesses within these sectors will not survive another lengthy period of travel restrictions.

Mr Smith warned that it was “now or never” for the aviation industry, which has seen its revenues destroyed by the pandemic.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) head, Alexandre de Juniac, the global airline industry needs USD 80bn in government support to survive the coronavirus crisis.

The letter to Boris Johnson comes just days after the UK’s largest aviation bodies urged the government to put an aviation and aerospace recovery plan in place following the decision to close the travel corridors.

Industry leaders also called for a 12-month waiver from Air Passenger Duty, business rates relief for firms, a more resilient testing system and access to fresh funding.

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