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Greece will open its borders to vaccinated travellers from the UK from next week, as well as those who test negative for Covid-19, the country has said.
A government official said on Wednesday that quarantine restrictions for travellers from Britain, the EU, the US and a number of other countries, will be lifted next week ahead of a full reopening on May 14. Visitors will be allowed to enter Greece via nine designated airports, including Athens, Kos and Santorini, and two land borders.
“We will gradually lift the restrictions at the beginning of next week ahead of the opening on May 14,” a senior tourism ministry official told Reuters.
Arrivals from the UK will not have to quarantine so long as they can prove they have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine or can show results of a negative PCR test carried out 72 hours prior to arrival, the Greek tourism ministry said.
Overseas holidays are currently illegal in England but could resume as early as May 17, when the Government is set to introduce a “traffic light system” governing the level of required testing and quarantine measures.
Greece is keen to make the “green” list, allowing unfettered travel but for a test, but the UK Government has so far refused to be drawn on which countries will be classified as “green”.
Croatia prioritises vaccination of tourism workers
The inoculation of 70,000 tourism workers in Croatia will begin next week, including both permanent employees and seasonal workers – in a bid to make the destination Covid-secure before the summer.
“Croatia is among the first countries to vaccinate tourism workers and this is extremely important for us to further position as a safe destination. In addition to the Safe stay in Croatia project, this is an additional guarantee for tourists that Croatia meets all the prerequisites for a safe holiday for every guest who chooses our country as their tourist destination,” said Nikolina Brnjac, Croatian Minister of Tourism and Sports, who has held meetings with representatives of the Croatian Institute of Public Health to confirm the vaccine rollout.
Talks also discussed the potential for testing guests in the future, with plans to appoint staff to specifically conduct this role. Here’s a look at how the country’s vaccine drive has been going so far:
Figures show impact of pandemic on economy
New data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the travel and tourism sector – the latest figures compare February 2021 with the same month last year.
The nine Greek access airports
As mentioned above in our main story, British travellers with proof of vaccination or a negative test will be able to enter Greece next week via nine designated airports.
Here is the list:
The same rules apply to citizens from the EU, the US, Serbia, Israel and the UAE.
‘It was just nice to be out of pyjamas’
Adventure writer Simon Parker embarked on a soul-cleansing cycle through the Suffolk countryside this week, as the UK reopened for business.
From Leiston we headed north, under the tall beech trees at Minsmere Nature Reserve, then out to the pebbled beach at Dunwich. An icy breeze gusted in from the North Sea, yet a bobble-hatted family flinched their way through ice creams. “This is lovely,” I heard the teeth-chattering father say to his near-hypothermic offspring. “Where would you rather be?”Heading north, we passed gaggles of grey-haired Nordic walkers and pelotons of Lycra-hugging MAMILs. Zooming along on feather-light bikes, their dozen knees nodded up and down, like the pistons of a steam engine. I, meanwhile, squirmed from the perineum up. “These new padded shorts are nowhere near padded enough,” I grumbled. “And I’m pretty sure my saddle has got harder.”We were thankful to reach
The Swan at Southwold. If only to give my backside a rest and for Alana to have a brief respite from my moaning.
Remote Shetland isle completes vaccination programme
News from islands closer to home now; all 35 adults on one of the UK’s most remote inhabited islands have now been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Fair Isle, home to around 60 people, lies between Orkney and Shetland and is renowned for its knitwear and migratory birds.
NHS Shetland said all adults on the island were given their second dose on Monday after a small plane flew in vials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine encased in a cool box.
There have been no reported cases on the island, which is three miles long and around 1.5 miles wide.
Edna Mary Watson, NHS Shetland’s chief community nurse, said travelling to some remote islands by air could be challenging with unpredictable weather.
Greece set to reap rewards of ‘Freedom’ vaccination push
It may not come as too much of a surprise that Greece is planning to reopen to British tourists as soon as next week.
As early as January, the Greek government set itself a target to open to tourists to visitors before summer, with a vaccination plan codenamed Eleftheria (“Freedom”) the key.
The nation’s Aegean islands, which attract most of the tourists, has made good progress, with those with populations smaller than 1,000 the first target. It is hoped that by the end of April many will be able to advertise themselves as “Covid-free”.
That said, Greece’s nationwide figures do not look too impressive, having inoculated just 10 per cent of its population.
Stepping up the focus on tourism and hospitality, authorities said this week they will offer free self-testing kits to some 900,000 workers in retail, restaurants and transport.
Britain’s hotspots almost fully booked amid staycation boom
Demand for UK holidays has skyrocketed this week, as England enters phase two of the roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions.
Following the reopening of self-catered accommodation, campsites and beer gardens on Monday April 12, parts of Britain are close to fully booked.
A report by the Rest Easy Group confirmed 98 per cent of properties in Cornwall across its platforms are booked this week – with Devon and Yorkshire also close to full capacity.
“Only 3 per cent of properties in Devon are now available to book, followed by 5 per cent in Yorkshire and 2 per cent in Cornwall,” said Matt Fox, CEO of Rest Easy Group, which is a marketplace for UK holiday rentals.
Calendars are also brimming with bookings in other popular destinations, as the future of international holidays remains uncertain.
“We are still seeing the staycation market boom, with both Silverlake, Dorset and Lower Mill Estate, Cotswolds, fully booked today [Monday] and at 90 per cent capacity next weekend. We expect to see this increase in demand continue long into summer whilst international travel is still uncertain,” said Red Paxton, director at Habitat Escapes, which offers lakeside self-catering properties in The Cotswolds and Dorset.
Lunchtime research: Britain’s crowd-free alternatives you should visit this summer
Demand for UK holidays is likely to be at an all-time high this year, with questions still surrounding how much international travel will be possible this summer. The good news is that self-catering accommodation has officially reopened in England, so holidays on home turf are finally back on the menu after a four-month hiatus.
With reports of nearly full capacity in popular hotspots such as Cornwall and the Lake District, we’ve chosen some of best underrated places to holiday in the UK, which will likely have fewer crowds and better availability.
Go on, dare to be different – find a hidden gem here.
Vaccination race: the European islands most likely to welcome Britons this summer
In the early days of the pandemic islands were held up as the ultimate source of shelter; places to batten down the hatches, shut the borders and bask in splendid isolation.
Now, as the resumption of international travel nears, the same destinations are using their geographical context as a tool to woo back holidaymakers, writes Hugh Morris.
With promising noises coming from the likes of Greece, Italy and Spain, an island getaway looks like it could be the best hope for thousands of British tourists this summer, if only in Europe.
We run through the runners and riders in the vaccination race here.
Turkey imposes partial lockdown amid record cases
Leaders in Turkey have announced a partial lockdown during the frist two weeks of the Muslim month of Ramadan in an effort to curb rising cases of Covid-19.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a ban on intercity travel in a televised address yesterday – he also banned people over 65 and under 18 from using public transport, closed sports and leisure centres and extended the existing curfew.
Turkey reported 59,187 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the highest single-day figure since the start of the outbreak – it now ranked among some of the most badly hit countries in the world as a third-wave of the pandemic sweeps across Europe.
The future of airports in Japan
Pictures have been released from Japan of a new technology that could transform the future flying.
Narita International Airport, Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have launched a new departure procedure system at the airport with NEC’s face recognition technology ‘Face Express.’
When using the technology, departing passengers do not need to show their passports and boarding passes at security check point and boarding gate.
No details on ‘green list’ before early-May
The UK’s Aviation Minister has said it is still too early to say which countries will be on the ‘green list’ this summer.
Aviation minister Robert Courts told MPs: “I accept this is a cautious unlocking of international travel. It is meant to be, because it’s meant to be robust and it’s meant to be something that is sustainable and that protects public health and ensures that we don’t have to go backwards again.
“So it is intended to enable people to travel, but to do so in a way that is safe, secure and not reversible.”
He continued: “In the early part of May we’ll be able to give some more detail. .. We are giving as much notice as we can.”
Indonesia’s most active volcano erupts
‘Overcautious’ roadmap forces airlines to ‘curtail’ plans for summer
Mark Tanzer, chief executive at travel trade organisation Abta, told the Commons Transport Select Committee the Government’s plan for reopening foreign travel “is overcautious and doesn’t recognise the huge change that vaccination has created”. He said: “Certainly for the green category, the PCR test is a sledgehammer to crack a nut really.
“We’d like to have no testing, but in the short term (allow) a cheaper, faster test, and if that were positive then you can proceed to a PCR test if necessary.
“Otherwise you are going to hobble the industry and you are going to stop people from travelling, even though they’ve been vaccinated.
“They’ll say ‘well I’ve been through the vaccination process, you wanted me to get vaccinated, and actually nothing’s changed from last year’.
“So you’ve got a job explaining that to customers.”
During the meeting, Brian Strutton, general secretary at pilots’ union Balpa, described the Global Travel Taskforce report as “a bitter disappointment to everybody working in the industry.
He said: “There is no specificity in it at all. So as a result many airlines have already told us that they will be curtailing the plans they had for the summer.”
Border checks are far too slow, says Heathrow chief
Chris Garton, chief solutions officer at Heathrow Airport, told the Transport Select Committee that “dramatic improvements” are needed in reducing the time it takes arriving passengers to pass through border checks.
He said: “Our biggest issue in terms of the summer particularly is the performance at the border.
“We need to see a dramatic improvement in border performance if we are to increase passenger numbers travelling through Heathrow.”
Hopes for Britain-US travel
The chief executive of British Airways has boosted hopes that America will make it onto the Government’s ‘green’ list, saying the airline is well placed to lead the recovery of transatlantic travel.
“There’s an immediate opportunity to open up the US,” said Sean Doyle during a live industry event this morning.
With the two countries “more or less mirroring each other” on vaccination, Doyle said, “that should lead to the UK and the U.S. being able to lead the way in terms of opening up.”
Let’s take a look at how the vaccine rollout is going across the Pond:
When can I go on holiday?
Holidays in England and Wales resumed on April 12, with self-catering accommodation reopening in the former, and cross-border travel allowed to the latter (where self-catering accommodation has already reopened). Scotland will follow suit on April 26.
Meanwhile, foreign holidays could resume as early as May 17 for people in England, with a traffic light system set to replace the current ban on international travel on that date.
Find all the latest advice on travelling abroad and in the UK here.
Irish quarantine hotels reach capacity
Passengers arriving into Ireland from high-risk countries are temporarily unable to book stays at the nation’s mandatory quarantine hotels as the facilities have reached capacity due to a high number of ‘walk-in’ arrivals.
Ireland’s Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the decision to pause bookings was due to a high level of passengers not booking their stays before arriving in the country. Some airlines were allowing people to board flights from ‘red list’ countries without ensuring they had pre-booked.
The Department of Health announced that the booking portal had been “temporarily paused” in what is being described as a “precautionary measure to enable further assessment of capacity within the mandatory hotel quarantine system for the coming days”.
There are currently 650 rooms available via the scheme – now, due to the demand, this will increase to 960 next week and then 1,300 the week after. Passengers with existing bookings are not affected and bookings will recommence from April 19 onwards.
Travel sector ‘crippled’ by pandemic
In his interview with Sky News this morning Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, said: “Airlines, aviation and the whole travel sector are on their knees, being crippled by the coronavirus crisis.
“We won’t know until next month which countries the Government say are on this so-called green list that it’s OK to travel to, or on a red list or an amber list.
He slammed the Global Travel Task Force’s recent report, saying:
“The report that came out the other day, the Government called it a road map, but I’ve never seen a road map with all the destinations blanked out.
“People are going to have to take expensive tests, there may be queuing at airports to go on holidays. People actually want to know when they can go and where they can go, those are the answers we need.”
Jersey prepare to welcome back visitors
Hotspots like Cornwall and Devon might be booming in popularity, but staycationers are also looking to the Channel for their summer break.
Jersey’s borders will reopen to visitors on April 26 and following the announcement traffic to the Visit Jersey website surged, with an increase of 48 per cent in UK holidaymakers browsing what the island has to offer. Need a clue? Expect secluded beaches that hold the title of the sunniest spot in the British Isles.
“After more than five months, we can’t wait to welcome visitors back to our shores. As part of the British Isles, we are pleased to be able to open our borders and offer visitors a safe place to take in our beautiful island culture, pristine beaches and uninterrupted coastal paths for a well-deserved getaway close to home,” said Amanda Burns, chief executive officer of Visit Jersey.
What’s more, last week British Airways announced the launch of a new route to Jersey from London City Airport, with flights commencing on June 25.
Antonia Windsor visited the island last summer, when it offered Britons a Covid-safe holiday haven. Read about her trip here.
Companies cut the cost of testing
Coronavirus test provider Eurofins is the latest company to slashed the cost of testing for future travellers – after The Telegraph exposed profiteering by the industry.
It has drastically reduced the price of test-at-home PCR kits to £44.90 – reportedly through investments in technology and automation – making it the cheapest on the market.
The company said it recognises the importance of testing in the fight against Covid-19 and that only the PCR test can provide the accuracy, reliability and variant tracking required to ensure safety for UK travellers.
However, speaking on Sky News this morning, Brian Strutton, the general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said there was a “danger” associated with people hunting for the cheapest possible tests in order to go on holiday. Instead, he suggests, the Government should subsidise the cost of tests and offer free kits to key workers who “deserve a holiday”.
Want to know how to get a test for your summer holiday? Find out here.
What will a holiday to Britain’s holiday hotspots really be like this year?
Staycation bookings are booming as Britons prepare to load up the car and head for a holiday on home soil – in fact, by March 3, up to 90 per cent of UK school holiday options had sold out among some providers.
With it set to be (another) bumper summer for Britain’s tourism hotspots, what can visitors expect?
Emma Featherstone has taken a closer look at the plans that are underway in some of Britain’s most popular holiday destinations, from Cornwall to the Lake District. Read her full report and start planning your summer getaway.
Reaction: ‘Huge relief’ for Scottish tourism sector
Holiday companies in Scotland are ‘delighted’ by yesterday’s news – they can now begin to prepare to welcome guests to self-catered properties from April 26.
Emma Crabtree, founder of Crabtree & Crabtree which has a collection of around 250 handpicked properties in Northumberland and the South of Scotland, said:
“This news is a huge relief to Crabtree & Crabtree and indeed the whole Scottish tourism sector. Around 50 per cent of our property portfolio is north of the border and a significant amount of those bookings into our properties in the South of Scotland come from England and Wales – so needless to say we are absolutely thrilled to be in a position to welcome our English and Welsh guests back to The Scottish Borders, Midlothian and East Lothian.”
Traffic light system: where will be green?
EasyJet’s Lundgren is optimistic that “almost all” major European countries will be classified as ‘green’ this summer, but our experts are being a bit more cautious with their predictions.
These are the seven countries that we (currently) think will get the go-head for holidays this summer:
- The Caribbean
Read our predictions for the green, amber and red list here.
What does the traffic light system mean for holidaymakers?
The Government’s proposed traffic light system will see destinations rated green, amber or red this summer – with different rules for arrivals from each. Here’s the lowdown on those rules:
‘Almost all’ major European countries to be ‘green’
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren has said he expects “almost all” major European countries to be on the Government’s “green” list when overseas travel is permitted to resume.
He told reporters: “We would expect that, if the Government continues with the approach on the testing regime that they have said, I would expect almost all major European countries, that by the time it comes to travel reopening, that most countries in Europe should be in that category.”
“If the PCR test and the lateral flow test will need to be in place for ‘green’ countries, I couldn’t see that there would be many countries in Europe that wouldn’t be in the ‘green’ category.”
Foreign holidays are currently banned but could resume as early as May 17 for people in England, with a traffic light system set to replace the current ban on international travel on that date.
Government should subsidise the cost of testing
Travel bosses are urging the Government to review plans for mandatory testing for holidaymakers, with calls for costs to be subsidised and free tests to be offered to key workers.
Speaking on Sky News this morning, Brian Strutton, the general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: “I think if the Government’s demanding these tests, the Government should be subsidising them to make the price reasonable.
“And I think Government should kick-start the whole of international travel by offering all the tests free to our frontline key workers – they deserve that, they deserve a holiday. It would be a really good way to get this initiative under way.”
Strutton was joined by Luke Petherbridge, Abta’s director of public affairs, explained the report released by the Global Travel Taskforce “doesn’t say anything about the treatment of vaccinated individuals and whether or not they will be exempted from testing requirements.” It also doesn’t confirm whether children will be required to test or not.
MPs are meeting with travel leaders this morning to discuss the future of international travel, following the release of the report last week.
Learn more about what it means for holidaymakers this summer here.
EasyJet to ‘ramp up’ flights this summer
EasyJet is reportedly ready to “ramp up” its services for the busy summer holiday season, with more flights from late-May, as travel restrictions ease.
“We continue to closely monitor the situation across Europe and, with vaccination programmes accelerating, most countries are planning to resume flying at scale in May,” said chief executive Johan Lundgren.
“We have the operational flexibility to rapidly increase flying and add destinations to match demand.
“EasyJet is ready to resume flying, prepared for the ramp-up and looking forward to being able to reunite people with their families or take them on leisure and business flights once again.”
Lundgren went on to urge the government to review plans for mandatory testing for travellers. “EasyJet was founded to make travel accessible for all and so we continue to engage with Government to ensure that the cost of the required testing is driven down so that it doesn’t risk turning back the clock and make travel too costly for some,” he said.
Reaction: Scotland reopening
Following the news that travel restrictions in Scotland will be lifted on April 26 and self-catered properties can reopen, Scottish tourism bosses are “thrilled.”
Euan Ramsay, managing director of Newhall Mains, a collection of converted cottages and suites on a rural estate in Scotland’s Black Isle peninsula, said:
“As a business heavily reliant upon UK tourism, we are thrilled to hear that the cross-border travel restrictions will be eased on April 26. The discord in national policies have seriously affected consumer confidence and have been heightened in recent months by what appeared to be nothing more than political-point scoring. We gladly welcome the updated timeline which we hope will provide a much-needed boost to the wider hospitality industry.”
Private jet travel rises to near pre-Covid levels
Private jet flights have returned to near pre-pandemic levels as business executives and wealthier travellers charter planes as “safe” alternatives to unreliable commercial airlines, reports Charles Hymas.
Official figures show Easter flights globally were double the rate of last April – and only six per cent short of the numbers before the pandemic in 2019. By contrast commercial airlines were down at least 40 per cent on Easter 2019.
The number of UK private jet flights at Easter was four times greater than last year, but they have not seen the same bounce back compared to other European countries like Spain and Italy due to Britain’s third lockdown and its ban on non-essential travel.
Camping bookings hit record high
It’s not just holiday rentals that are proving popular with staycationers. Campsite bookings continue to reach record highs –last week Cool Camping reported an increase in bookings of 500 per cent compared to previous years.
Campsites in Cornwall, Pembrokeshire, the Cotswolds and Herefordshire are proving most popular, as longer holidays spike in interest too.
“Everyone’s looking to get outdoors this summer, with Wales, the Lake District and Cornwall currently the most popular locations. People are also booking longer holidays than before, with camping trip duration up by 12 per cent compared to pre-pandemic stays,” said James Warner Smith, editor of Cool Camping.
Here’s everything you need to know about camping this summer.
Firm agrees to cut cost of Covid test by half
One of Britain’s leading Covid testing firms has slashed its PCR test prices for holidaymakers just days after The Telegraph exposed profiteering by the industry.
Randox announced it will charge customers flying with its partner airlines just £60 for the tests that are currently being sold by private companies for an average of about £130.
An investigation by The Telegraph found some companies on the Government’s approved list of firms were charging up to £300 for “out of hours” weekend tests, six times the amount offered by their best-value competitors.
What happened yesterday?
Good morning, here’s a look back at yesterday’s top stories:
- Scotland travel restrictions to be lifted earlier than expected
- Italy’s islands in vaccine row as they battle to save summer season
- Bermuda issues stay-at-home order after rise in Covid cases
- Russia suspends flights to Turkey, jeopardising plans of half a million tourists
- Israel to welcome vaccinated arrivals from May 23
Now, on with today’s travel news.