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Q&A: Is it too early to book a summer holiday?

by Sharron Livingston

The most potent question on every travel lover’s mind is whether or not they should book a summer holiday right now. Perhaps the question should also be, how much of a daredevil are you?

Here’s what the current travel landscape looks like, and it is all dependent on Covid or more specifically, being vaccinated against it.

Currently, UK residents are not permitted to travel or go abroad on holiday. UK border restrictions are tightening and all incoming travellers – including British nationals – are required to present a negative Covid-19 test. Travellers entering from 33 countries on the Red List must quarantine in a Quarantine Hotel for 11 days and undergo a Covid-19 test on day 2 and then again on day 8 for their quarantine. And pay £1750 for the privilege.

On top of that the travel corridors scheme – which enabled those entering the UK from countries with low coronavirus rates to forgo mandatory quarantine – has been scrapped. So everyone should quarantine went they enter the UK.

When Secretary of State for the Home Department Priti Patel was asked this question during the Downing Street briefing all she could offer was :

“It’s far too early to speculate around restrictions and far too early to even contemplate easing restrictions”.

Since then Matt Hancock says he has arranged his break in Cornwall, then a few days later  Grant Shapps tells us not to book a holiday – not even in the UK

Even PM Boris Johnson had none of his usual bluster and enthusiasm about the possibility of any restrictions being lifted before the summer.

In the meantime, the travel industry is promoting a “Save our Summer” and book now campaign at a time when we are advised not to book.

It’s very confusing. 

The point is, things change and restrictions are put in place often without notice.

Then there is the question of which countries feel comfortable allowing Brits to enter. Covid-19 has resulted in more than 113,000 fatalities making Britain the country with the worst toll.

Spain, traditionally the go-to holiday destination for Britons – 18 million UK tourists in 2019 – has been sending out mixed messages.

Spain’s tourism minister Reyes Maroto insisted that the country will open up progressively for holidaymakers by the spring. Yet prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, warned the frontiers could remain closed until autumn saying:

“Only mass vaccination will open the way to the normality we want.”

We have already witnessed the shambles of the peak summer season of 2020: the UK put in place a quarantine-free “travel corridor” with Spain on July 10, but then suddenly and at the last minute removed this two weeks later. The point is, things change and restrictions are put in place often without notice.

The USA is not showing signs of opening its borders to British travellers, Australia has closed its borders until the end of 2021 and Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel is even talking about closing EU borders to Brits until such time the UK can show it has handled COVID.

Travel companies are looking at options: Saga, the holiday company that specialises in holidays for the over 50s,  is the first travel company to insist on compulsory inoculation to cruise with them. Will others follow suit? Qantas was the first airline to insist on the same stipulation followed by Korean Airways.

Saga is restarting their schedule on May 4th and is unsure if their clients will have had time to have the jab since the time between each dose has been extended to 12 weeks from the original six weeks.

As the vaccination process is progressing so well a huge chunk of the population will have been vaccinated by May. Greece, Israel and Cyprus have already said they would allow vaccinated British to enter without any quarantine. Singapore is looking at doing the same.

There are optimists who are booking holidays enticed by cheaper holiday deals. However as no one has a crystal ball, any booking remains laced with some risk.

Set this against the backdrop of pent up desire for travel it is hard to patient. Then there is a chance is that if we don’t book there may be a shortage of holidays or holidays prices become too high for some.

If you do book a holiday, be sure it is ABTA protected with a solid cancellation policy.

If you do book a holiday, be sure it is ABTA protected and that the company has reassured you that a full refund would be payable or are willing to offer a free change of date for travel.

But before you hang your head down in frustration there is some hope. The vaccine rollout is on schedule and collectively fingers are crossed that we will be on the road again within months. But nothing is guaranteed.

Verdict: If you can wait a few weeks, then do so.



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