Domestic holidays will be allowed in England as soon as 12 April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday confirmed, but those who want to holiday abroad will have to wait until 17 May.
The Stay at Home orders the UK has lived under for months will end from 29 March.
However international travel will only begin again from 17 May at the earliest, once a travel taskforce helps to put in place a scheme to allow trips abroad with reduced risk of bringing mutant variants back into the UK.
Travel companies such as Tui, Easyjet and other said today holiday sales have surged as pent up demand turned into a digital bookings boost overnight and this morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons today of his roadmap out of lockdown, which included fewer restrictions on social mixing, retail and hospitality trading and more.
Stays must be with your households only and in self-contained accommodation.
At that point international holidays will still be prohibited.
The travel, transport and aviation sector has been one of the worst-hit by lockdown restrictions, so the earlier-than-expected prospect of domestic holiday will provide some comfort to English travel providers.
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency said, overall, the announcement was good for the industry:
“Unlocking confidence, unlocks revenues.
“Naming a date when international travel can resume, 17 May, is the best move the Prime Minister could have made and it didn’t cost him money, there wasn’t an announcement on furlough or business grants. It’s about giving people the confidence to book.
“Now 17 May is down as a marker to work towards. It saves June, June and August and means we can plan for a proper Summer”.
Travel taskforce for trips abroad
A travel taskforce is being put in place to plot out how Brits can safely travel abroad without the when international travel is allowed once more, looking into schemes like vaccine passports and reducing the need for hotel quarantine and the dreaded “red list” of banned countries.
Airport operators association chief executive Karen Dee said airports “look forward to working with [the] taskforce to ensure we have a robust system in place to safely restart international aviation”.
The airports lobby boss said the same approach should be taken by the UK and devolved administrations.
Dee added: “The UK Government has stated that international travel restrictions will not ease before 17 May. As the worst-hit economic sector in 2020, this will ensure we will also be the worst-hit sector of 2021. The UK and devolved governments must set out sector-specific support to help ensure there are viable airports to be able to restart.”
Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) boss Dane Keller also pushed for sector-specific support for the aviation industry, but said airlines “stand ready” to help the government come up with solutions to the challenges stopping international travel.
It was a line echoed by the pilots union Balpa.
Brian Strutton, Balpa general secretary, said, “I am pleased the Prime Minister listened to Balpa’s pleas, and those from the whole airline industry, to have at least some idea of when international travel may resume.
“Airlines can now start to make effective plans and we can build the confidence of the travelling public to make bookings for summer flights.
“However, airlines and airports need financial support to survive until then because we have got at least three more months of grounded aircraft ahead, with virtually no revenue coming in to the airlines at all.”
Bring it forward
However, Johnson was today pushed by former Prime Minister Theresa May to bring the 12 April date forward so that the industry can plan to open up.
May said that the timelines for similar travel policies had previously slipped and that the industry needs “many months” to gear up for the return of mass tourism.
Charles agreed that the industry needs time to plan for the changing requirement of international travel but “the travel sector can’t be opened up overnight”.
“We’re not like a hairdresser, so it’s wise to be cautious”.
Travel and transport shares rallied at the end of trading today, with British Airways owner IAG approving the Prime Minister’s statement, with shares closing up 7.1 per cent.