UK: Holiday bookings jump as COVID-19 travel tests axed

Holiday bookings have jumped with “notable increases” in trips planned for February half-term and Easter ahead of coronavirus (COVID-19) travel tests being scrapped.

Jet2 said bookings had increased by 30 per cent on last week after the announcements that rules would be relaxed for people arriving in the United Kingdom.

The rule changes mean fully-vaccinated people arriving in those countries from abroad do not need to take Covid tests.

The change will come into effect from February 11.

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2, told the BBC the removal of testing was “game-changer” for the travel industry.

He said demand was “already strong” before the rule changes for England and Scotland were announced on Monday, but said bookings had since risen further.

On Tuesday, the Welsh government confirmed it was “reluctantly retaining alignment” with the UK government to also remove tests.

However, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the devolved government would “implement measures to encourage travellers arriving into Wales to take a lateral flow test, plus a follow-up PCR test if positive”.

Northern Ireland has since announced it will align with the other nations.

The phasing out of domestic testing rules has resulted in demand growing for flights and holidays through January, though the increase in bookings is from a lower base than pre-pandemic times.

Jet2 has said it has planned a larger summer holiday package for 2022 than 2019.

“We have seen a notable increase in demand for holidays and flights across all seasons, particularly February half term, the Easter holidays and Summer 22,” Heapy said.

The company said the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, mainland Spain, Italy and Portugal were “selling strongly”. It added there was “enormous growth” for bookings for Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

Ski flights to Geneva, Salzburg Grenoble, Chambery and Lyon were also up, the company said, after being buoyed by France also easing some restrictions on UK travellers.

‘Confidence returning’

Although testing requirements have been removed in the UK, people travelling abroad will also be required to follow the isolation and testing requirements of the country they are heading to.

According to online travel search firm Skyscanner, there are currently 106 countries, including Spain, Italy and the US, with low restrictions where people who are fully vaccinated can visit by showing proof of vaccine status or a negative test.

The Netherlands, along with 19 other destinations, have moderative restrictions where forms of quarantine are required. A total of 30 places still have major travel restrictions, such as Australia and New Zealand.

Laura Lindsay, head of consumer travel at Skycanner, said “confidence” was returning for people to book, with the travel search engine seeing the “firm favourites get straight back on travellers’ agendas”.

“Spain, Portugal and the US are all topping the charts again as they did in 2019 before the pandemic,” she said.

Aside from changes for fully-jabbed travellers, rules have been eased for unvaccinated people, who will no longer have to take a day eight test or self isolate, but will still need pre-departure and day two tests.

However, everyone arriving in the UK, regardless of vaccination status, will need to fill in a passenger locator form. (BBC)

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