Pressure mounting on governments to ease travel restrictions

  • Spain remains a popular destination for British expats
  • UK Foreign Office travel advice due to change following UK government green list announcement
  • Heathrow Airport welcomes Virgin Atlantic and Delta airlines back to Terminal 3
  • Germany lifts travel restrictions against the UK and Portugal
  • US President Joe Biden comes under pressure to reopen US borders

Despite Brexit, COVID-19 and stop-start travel restrictions, new research has shown that London remains one of the most attractive destinations for property investment.

According to the international property firm, Astons, recent global events have failed to dampen investor appetite for prime real estate in the UK’s capital.

Astons also forecasts strong growth for 2021 and predicts prime real estate values will increase by 1.8% year-on-year to an average of GBP 717,429,  as the world’s wealthiest buyers look to capitalise on investment opportunities in the market.

The real estate firm analysed 18 global destinations in 2020 and found that prime property in London, Monaco and Hong Kong will remain above GBP 1M post-pandemic – considerably higher than average.

But while the UK is a popular destination for overseas investors, Britain maintains its position of being one of the most prominent investors in Spanish real estate.

Spain has long been a popular destination for UK expats, albeit recent concerns over travel restrictions and border policies have impacted investment links with the country and made Brits hesitant about moving abroad.

However, some expats argue that COVID-19 and Brexit should not deter people from fulfilling their dreams and relocating to the Iberian country.

More than 250,000 Britons currently live in Spain, and author of Moving To Spain: From A Dream To Reality, David Wright said he believes that now is the “perfect time” to emigrate to Spain.

Although he acknowledges that the world is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, he said that there are “always challenges associated with a move such as relocating abroad” and urged Britons to follow their dreams.

However, uncertainty over travel and anxieties over new COVID variants has had a significant impact on plans to relocate abroad.

Furthermore, with Spain on the UK’s green list for travel, only vaccinated Britons can enter the country without quarantine.

Unvaccinated Britons will need to produce evidence of a negative PCR test to bypass this policy. However, with coronavirus tests costing anywhere between GBP 60 and GBP 200 in private clinics, this is a significant deterrent to travel.

Many hope that the following announcement on travel, scheduled for July 15th, will see the UK government move EU destinations such as Spain, Greece, Majorca and Portugal to the green list.

Life in Spain

UK government working on plans to lift travel restrictions

On Monday, July 5th, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the British government was working on relaxing travel restrictions.

Mr Johnson said that Britons who had received both COVID jabs might be able to travel to amber listed destinations without needing to self-isolate upon return to the UK.

Although Boris Johnson was relatively aloof about travel prospects, he noted that coronavirus vaccines are severing the link between hospitalisation and deaths.

The aviation industry – hard hit by coronavirus rules and travel bans – welcomed the news and are now looking ahead to the July 15th update, when UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will deliver the finer details.

Although fully vaccinated Brits arriving from green listed destinations do not need to quarantine unless they test positive for COVID, they must produce a pre-departure test before holidaying abroad and a negative PCR test upon their return to the UK.

News that some of these measures may be removed by mid-July will more than likely fuel a surge in holiday bookings and enquiries even though there is no date set for when people can roam freely around the world.

UK airlines are also mandating face coverings for travel despite confirmation that the law on mask-wearing will be removed come July 19th.

Still, signs that COVID-19 is now having a minimal health impact on people in Britain has seen several other countries open their borders to UK tourists, bar Australia, China, New Zealand and the US.

After criticising Portugal and Spain for allowing British tourists into the country, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would welcome double-vaccinated Brits.

From July 7th, Germany will relax border restrictions against fully vaccinated travellers from Britain, Portugal and India. Angela Merkel also said that these countries, which were perceived as “virus variant areas”, will now be categorised as areas of “high incidence.”

To-ing and fro-ing on travel rules have caused significant confusion over the past year and made travelling extortionate for many.

Under the current traffic light system, Brits returning to the UK from “red” destinations must stay in government-designated hotels for ten days at the cost of GBP 1,750 per person.

However, recent headlines have pointed to a significant U-turn on the draconian rule.

Gatwick Airport

UK government amend rules for red list arrivals

Earlier this week, it emerged that travellers arriving in the UK from red list destinations would not need to pay the hotel quarantine fee if they can prove that they have financial difficulty.

Following threats of legal action, the British government agreed to waive the GBP 1,750 fee for those that are financially vulnerable.

Global law firm PGMBM had applied for permission to judicially review the UK government’s policy and launched high court action after claiming that the hotel quarantine policy discriminated against those on low or no income.

PGMBM senior associate, Taylor Burgess, said: “Parliament introduced the hotel quarantine policy without due thought as to how its one-size-fits-all application would impact vulnerable residents.

Taylor Burgess added: “While it is frustrating that it has taken legal action for Parliament to respond, we are glad to know our challenge has caused the government to reevaluate the policy.

“However, thousands of people have been forced to pay astronomical costs or been prevented from undertaking essential travel entirely due to financial hardship.”

Despite renewed hope over travel, several tour operators such as TUi have cancelled more holidays this month amid lingering uncertainty over the upcoming travel announcement.

TUi reviews its holiday programme and makes additional cancellations

The world’s number one tourism group, TUi, has cancelled more holidays in July, citing “ongoing uncertainty over travel” as the reason.

According to the latest reports, TUi has cancelled an abundance of holidays up to July 22nd, including bookings to holiday hotspots such as Greece, Ibiza, Majorca and mainland Spain.

Meanwhile, holidays to non-EU destinations such as Mexico, Florida and Egypt appear to be off the cards until August 1st at the earliest.

TUi has said that the cancellations align with its ongoing review of its holiday programme and the British government’s travel updates, with the next announcement expected on July 15th.

However, the tour operator said that holidaymakers affected by cancellations would be contacted directly and offered a full cash refund, a booking incentive or the choice to move their holiday forward.

TUi is one of many travel and tourism firms that the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged.

Data from The Travel Association (ABTA) revealed a third of people working in the sector had been made redundant or were on the brink of losing their job due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, more than 50% of small travel firms have warned that they would not survive another three months without trading or targeted financial support.

However, following the latest announcement on coronavirus restrictions in England, with the final unlocking given the green light for July 19th, a top travel agency in the UK, Flight Centre, reported its largest spike in travel enquiries in 2021.

Hopes have also been boosted by news that Heathrow Airport has allowed US airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Delta Air Lines to resume operations in Terminal 3, which has been closed for more than 12 months due to COVID.

The latest move ramped up pressure on the Biden administration to reopen US borders and ease restrictions on transatlantic travel.

Joe Biden

US under pressure to reopen US borders

Travel groups and public health experts have urged the Biden administration to restart international travel now that the global vaccination rollout is accelerating.

It comes after Europe confirmed that it would welcome vaccinated Americans this summer, and hopes of a UK-US travel corridor being established faded.

Except for American citizens returning from abroad and specific exempt individuals, international travel in the US is essentially banned. Travellers from Britain, China, Iran, the EU, Brazil, South Africa and India who resided in any of these countries within the past 14 days are prohibited entry into the USA altogether.

The international travel ban was introduced by US President Joe Biden in April, following a spike in global COVID cases. However, experts are now saying that determining which countries are safe to travel to based on the infection rate is arbitrary. Several groups have also highlighted that the more contagious Delta variant already makes up 20% of all US cases.

Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law, said the Biden administration should lift the ban and introduce measures that facilitate transatlantic travel while protecting public health.

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