UK travel firms report sales boom after green list review

  • UK travel firms record holiday sales boom after travel green list review
  • Most European holiday destinations have been added to the amber list
  • Green list countries include Portugal, Australia and Israel
  • What are the latest rules and restrictions on foreign travel and holiday abroad?

UK travel firms reported a holiday sales boom after the UK government unveiled which countries would feature on its green list when COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted from May 17th.

Countries have been categorised relative to their infection rate, vaccination rates, the prevalence of mutant variants and availability of healthcare facilities, with the safest or lowest risk nations being ranked “green” and riskier countries being labelled “amber” or “red“.

According to the Global Travel Taskforce (GTT), there are twelve green list countries, meaning Brits visiting these destinations will not be required to self-isolate upon returning to the UK.

Most European holiday destinations have been added to the “amber list” except for Turkey, which will be moved to the “red” list at 4AM on May 12th.

While Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Brits should not travel to red list destinations except in most exceptional circumstances, he also advises against all non-essential travel to amber countries.

Nonetheless, UK travel firms are in high spirits following the announcement on Friday, which many described as the “best day” for holiday sales in months.

UK travel firms record holiday sales boom

Travel and tourism firms report holiday sales boom

The world’s largest travel and tourism firm, TUi, said it had added a host of new flights and holiday packages to its programme after witnessing a sales boom on Friday.

The German-headquartered tour operator said it had seen a 600% increase in holiday bookings to Portugal alone.

Given that Portugal is the only European holiday destination to make the green list, travel firms anticipate a surge in travel bookings to the Iberian country.

British travel group, Thomas Cook, has also reported an increase in holiday bookings to Portugal, describing the destination as its “number one seller” since the UK government’s announcement.

A Thomas Cook representative said: “We recorded more bookings to Portugal on Friday than those who had bought holidays abroad for the whole of the remaining year. Although demand remains depressed, this is giving holidaymakers plenty of choice of where to stay.”

The travel firms also noted that Britons are choosing to holiday abroad for longer than a week and that most bookings made in Portugal were for five-star hotels – “an indication that people are splashing out this year”, said a Thomas Cook spokesman.

At the same time, Jet2holidays said they had witnessed a staggering 600% increase in trips to holiday hotspots Faro and Madeira in the 24 hours following the announcement.

Jet2 Chief Executive Steve Heapy said he has witnessed “enormous pent-up demand from holidaymakers”, with the rush in flight bookings and travel packages to Portugal demonstrating how eager Brits are to “escape to the sunshine.”

On Friday, Gary Piazzon, founder of the Porter Travel website, said the number of Google searches for “holidays to Portugal” skyrocketed by 3,233% following the Global Travel Taskforce announcement, compared to the hour before.

He noted that searches to other green list countries such as Israel and Gibraltar had also soared by 1,329% and 488%, respectively.

However, not all travel firms are happy with the green list review, and some have criticised the GTT for being overly cautious.

Some have said that the list is too narrow and have made calls for popular tourist destinations such as Greece, Spain, and Italy to be categorised as “green.”

UK travel green list review

Travel firms disappointed with the green list announcement

There has been growing backlash over the number of countries the GTT has featured on the quarantine-free green list from several countries’ tourism and airlines, including EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair.

Garry Wilson, the CEO of EasyJet, said he was “extremely disappointed” to find out that only twelve countries would feature on the UK’s green list, “and of European destinations, the only major holiday hotspot is Portugal.”

It comes amid confirmation that 53,041,048 COVID vaccines have been administered in Britain. More than 35 million adults have received their first COVID jabs, and more than 17.5 million are fully vaccinated.

According to, nearly 70% of the UK population have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and as of May 10th, there have only been two daily deaths within 28 days of the last positive test.

Other travel firms such as Virgin Atlantic have said that the UK government is being “too cautious” and said US holidays should be allowed.

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle also expressed his disappointment and stressed the importance of restarting travel between the UK and the US to boost the economy and support ravaged industries.

However, that’s not to say that these firms haven’t been taking bookings to countries that do not feature on the green list.

Steve Witt of Not Just Travel revealed that he had received a high volume of holiday bookings to Spain and Greece, both of which are currently listed as amber countries.

What are the UK’s green list countries?

From May 17th, Britons will be allowed to travel to the following destinations:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira
  • Singapore
  • South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha

Holiday hotspots such as Canada, Cuba, France, Greece, Italy and Spain feature on the “amber” list.

Unlike UK tourists returning from green list countries, those arriving from amber countries will be required to self-isolate at home for ten days.

However, those arriving into Britain from red list destinations will have to pay GBP 1750 to stay in government-designated quarantine hotels for ten days or face fines of up to GBP 4000.

Currently, the red list includes favourites such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Africa and the Maldives.

While the UK government said trips to red countries should only be embarked upon if necessary, they also advise against leisure travel to “amber” destinations due to COVID-19 risk in those countries.

However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the lists would be reviewed every three weeks, meaning Britain could add more nations to the quarantine-free list if the coronavirus situation in that country improves.

During the Downing Street press conference, Mr Shapps said: “I regret that summer hotspots such as France, Greece and Spain are not yet ranked as green, but this is just a first step.

“The signs overseas are now more promising as a result of their vaccination programmes beginning to crank up. And as the summer progresses, we hope to unlock more traditional tourist destinations.”

What this means is that countries could switch lists as early as June 7th. However, given that there’s no guarantee that countries will stay in their current categories and the situation could rapidly change, Mr Shapps has advised holidaymakers to purchase cancellation insurance.

Travel abroad in 2021

Latest rules on foreign travel and holidays abroad

While restrictions on international travel are being eased from May 17th, Britons will still need to follow an abundance of rules to ensure they can holiday safely.

From May 17th, fully vaccinated Britons travelling outbound will be able to demonstrate their vaccination status via an NHS app or with a letter from the NHS.

Although it is still possible to travel without receiving a COVID jab in the UK, some countries may have different rules, so we advise checking their travel information before you make a booking.

Holidaymakers departing from or arriving in the UK will also be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test, irrespective of whether they are travelling to green, amber or red destinations.

Currently, all passengers taking overseas flights from UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and London Luton airport, are required to produce a signed travel declaration form.

When the traffic light system comes into effect, passengers travelling to green list countries must provide evidence of a negative COVID test taken within three days of departure on both legs of the journey.

Those arriving from amber countries will need to pre-book two COVID tests before arrival and self-isolate at home for ten days. Meanwhile, those returning from red list destinations will also be required to stay in government accommodation.

Most airports and airlines have also made wearing a face-covering inside the building or aboard the plane mandatory.

Furthermore, some airports, such as Stansted, are trialling temperature screening technology, so if you display any symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay at home.