Holiday companies have seen bookings “explode” as COVID-19 travel restrictions are set to be relaxed next week.
According to data and comments collated by the BBC from lastminute.com, tour operator TUI (TUI.L), and the Eurotunnel, bookings have surged since the UK government announced that Brits will be allowed to travel to certain European countries without having to spend two weeks in quarantine upon their return, from 6 July.
Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI UK and Ireland told the BBC, “we’ve already seen bookings increase by 50% this week, versus last [week], with holidays to Spain and Greece looking the most popular this summer.”
Lastminute.com reported an 80% increase on holiday sales compared to last week, attributed to Spain lifting the quarantine for Brits.
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Spain-holiday.com, the third biggest holiday rental site in Spain, said it experienced record-breaking Saturday sales.
Peter Jarvis of Spain-holiday.com, told the Mail Online: “We’re already seeing a huge increase in online interest in our holiday homes from the UK market, with pool properties being the most popular — up 104%.
“Vigilance is absolutely still needed but with sensible precautions on either end we are confident we will see a safe summer in the sun for Brits again this year.”
Meanwhile, the Eurotunnel website crashed on Friday as “too many customers [were] trying to make a booking”, the company said.
John Keefe, director of public affairs at Eurotunnel, said phones had been “ringing off the hook.”
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However, he added that Eurotunnel saw an increase of bookings “weeks ago,” suggesting many Brits had already started to “discount the quarantine measures.”
The full list of “travel corridors” — agreements between countries to let tourists travel without restrictions — is set to be announced next week.
Trips to Spain, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Turkey, Germany and Norway are expected to be allowed — but not Portugal or Sweden.
Travel companies reported their biggest sales ever as holiday-makers rushed to book before the “traffic light system” letting Brits travel to the safest destinations is announced on 1 July and put into effect on 6 July.
The systems will rank how badly countries have been hit by coronavirus, with “travel corridors” or “air bridges” opening to “green” and “amber” nations.
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Only those travelling to “red” nations will still have to follow the 14-day quarantine upon return rule, which is enforceable with a £1,000 ($1,233) fine.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky News: “As we see rates of the virus drop with other countries in the world, and also as we see domestic transmission fall, it is right we look at how we facilitate travel and the air corridors, or the travel corridors, that I and my colleagues have spoken about.”
And a government spokesman told the BBC its measures would give people “the opportunity for a summer holiday abroad” while also boosting the UK economy, but stressed that it “wouldn’t hesitate to put on the brakes,” if the situation changes.