Anyone departing from the UK will be required to declare their reasons for travelling, as the Government today announces tighter border restrictions – including ‘quarantine hotels’ for arrivals from selected countries.
Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that it “is clear that there are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day,” and set out new measures to “reduce passenger flow so that only a small number of people for whom it is absolutely essential to travel are doing so.”
Transport providers will check passengers’ reasons for travel on departure, police presence will be increased at ports and airports, and people will be directed to return home if they do not have a valid reason – and may face a fine. Patel added that police will carry out more checks at physical addresses, to ensure compliance with the restrictions.
A new ‘quarantine hotel’ policy will also see arriving travellers being forced to self-isolate in hotels. The rule will apply to those returning from countries where international travel bans have already been imposed, including Portugal.
“They will be required to isolate for 10 days, without exemption, and the Department of Health will set out further details on this approach next week,” Patel said.
“Despite the stay-at-home regulations, we are still seeing people not complying with these rules. The rules are clear – people should be staying at home, unless they have a valid reason to leave.”
Scroll down for more on this story, and other breaking travel news.
That’s a wrap
Before we sign off, let’s take a look at today’s headlines:
Visitors from 22 countries to face 10-day hotel quarantine
Travelling Britons ‘will be asked if their journey is essential’
Sturgeon: Hotel quarantine plan ‘does not go far enough’
Aviation needs help to prevent ‘massive’ job losses, says MP
Boeing 737 MAX ‘safe to return to skies’
Join us tomorrow for more breaking travel news.
We’ll leave you with this…
Sandals to offer complimentary Covid testing for all guests
Sandals has announced it will now offer complimentary Covid-19 testing to all guests across its Sandals and Beaches Resorts, prior to their departure.
This follows the recent UK Government announcement that travellers returning to the UK must present a negative COVID-19 test result in order to fly home. Tests will be conducted by medical professionals within 72 hours of guests’ departure, with test results will be available within 24 hours.
Quarantine hotels will be a ‘death knell’ for travel
“The introduction of quarantine hotels is another death knell – for the travel industry as a whole, but especially for business travel,” says Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association.
“Public safety must come first, but we question the timing of this announcement and the lack of investment in a long-term strategy to get the UK travelling again such as pre-departure testing.”
Speaking to Telegraph Travel, Wratten empasised that business travellers “are not just people in suits – they are key workers, humanitarian workers, scientists, students.”
He added: “Placing the burden of proof for the validity of travel onto international carriers is an untenable situation for companies and staff that are already at breaking point.
“The Government must offer targeted financial support to our industry beyond April, as we are handcuffed by these latest restrictions.”
What do people arriving at Heathrow think of the new quarantine rules?
We have a reporter at Heathrow today, who has been speaking to the (few) passengers travelling through the airport. How do they feel about the impending new quarantine rules?
Although it is mid-afternoon, the Arrivals hall at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is as empty as if it was 2am. Despite speculation about the introduction of mandatory quarantine hotels confirmed by Priti Patel this afternoon, Britons have clearly not rushed back to avoid fees that are anticipated to be between £1,500 and £2,000 (the exact figure will be confirmed next week).
Of the few figures scattered throughout the terminal, the vast majority are staff.
Makenna, who is waiting to pick up a niece who has been studying abroad, believes quarantine hotels should not be enforced on people who have private homes in the UK, because many are “struggling to eat already”. However, taxi driver Mathew Luckhurst – who is waiting to drive a business traveller to their quarantine address – believes “they should have been implemented back when Australia did theirs”.
The vast majority of arrivals that I interviewed (except for one woman who admitted she was, in fact, returning from a yoga retreat in Mexico) confirmed that they had been asked to provide proof of their need to travel – and had filled in a passenger locator form on arrival. This suggests that Border Force are already making good on Boris Johnson’s promise that non-essential travel restrictions will be enforced more strictly from now on.
OYO Hotels: ‘We are ready to work with the Government’
Hotel chain OYO has said it “hopes to work with the Government” on the plans to introduce mandatory hotel quarantine. A spokesperson told Telegraph Travel:
Following the UK Government announcement regarding hotel quarantine for international arrivals, OYO Hotels is ready to work with the Government to provide accommodation in line with the new protocols.
With over 250 hotels across the UK, we are well placed to provide convenient, affordable, sanitised accommodation for these purposes.
Throughout the pandemic OYO has worked to keep properties open for those requiring accommodation. Through our ‘Here To Help’ campaign, we have been committed to supporting key workers and communities, and have provided over 200,000 room nights for essential workers and public sector partners.
We look forward to continuing to provide interim accommodation for those who need it over the challenging weeks ahead, and hope to work with the Government to meet this need.
To cancel, reschedule or book?
What do the new border restrictions mean for your summer holiday plans?
Nick Trend, our consumer travel expert, has this advice.
Quarantine hotels will make travel ‘impossible’
Gary Lewis, CEO of The Travel Network Group – the UK’s largest independent travel membership organisation –tells Telegraph Travel:
It is essential that we get the virus under control and protect the UK from emerging variants, therefore we can understand this new level of restriction. However, we urge the Government to deliver a roadmap to restart travel, to review the specific sector support required and deliver a test and release regime that is cost effective and could reduce and/or remove the need to quarantine.Asking travellers to pay for ten days in an airport hotel in addition to the cost of travel and their holiday will be prohibitive to most holidaymakers, and will essentially make travel to or from these destinations impossible.
As an industry, we are willing for the successful rollout of vaccines, and we also need the Government to address agreed protocols with other countries, testing, extension to furlough and revised schemes to protect and support travel businesses.
New quarantine rules: The things we don’t know yet
Priti Patel and Boris Johnson have announced new, tighter border controls – including checks on every passenger departing from the UK, and mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from selected countries.
However, some key questions still remain. Including:
Which 22 nations will be on the ‘red list’, meaning that arrivals must quarantine in hotels?
Which hotels will be turned into isolation facilities?
When will the scheme start?
How will the quarantining travellers gain access to a ‘Test to Release’ Covid test, to minimise their quarantine term?
Patel said in the Commons earlier this afternoon that “the Department of Health will set out further details on this approach next week”.
Priti Patel slams influencers ‘showing off about which parts of the world they are in’
The Home Secretary has criticised social media influencers for posting about their travels during lockdown.
She told the Commons: “We see plenty of influencers on social media, showing off about which parts of the world they are in – mainly in sunny parts of the world. Going on holiday is not an exemption [to the rules].”
Mercure: ‘We are already open for quarantining guests’
With today’s coverage of quarantine hotels, it is worth remembering that some properties have already been offering a self-isolation service for guests.
Although the practice has not yet been mandated (indeed, we are not expecting an update from the Government until next week), some returning travellers have already been seeing out their self-isolation periods in hotels – in order to minimise the risk of bringing potential infection home.
A spokesperson from Mercure Heathrow told us this afternoon:
We are open for quarantine guests. We’ve had a few people stay for quarantine already, whether that’s 14, 10 or seven days, and it’s the same process; you can just make the reservation online.
We are going to be doing special prices too where you can get breakfast, lunch and dinner for £80 [per day].
‘We currently already have very stringent controls at our borders’
Responding to the announcements today of further UK border restrictions, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK – the industry association representing UK airlines – has emphasised the importance of a ‘road map’ to recovery.
He tells Telegraph Travel:
Battling Covid is our top priority. It is worth remembering that we currently already have very stringent controls at our borders, with anyone arriving into the UK – from anywhere in the world – requiring a negative pre-departure test or are prevented from entering. These latest measures come on top of strict controls.
We urgently need a road map out of these restrictions so that travel can resume as soon as it is safe and so airlines and customers can make plans alongside broader economic support from the Chancellor while air travel at any scale is not possible.
We can only help connect the UK to the world – and deliver the Global Britain agenda that is so important to our future prosperity – if we have a viable airlines sector.
Priti Patel: Work on quarantine hotel partners ‘ongoing’
In the Commons this afternoon, Priti Patel was asked about how the quarantine hotels will be selected, and whether a geographical limit will be placed on how far away the hotels will be from airports.
“With regards to hotels and measures, as I’ve indicated already that work is underway,” she said, adding that the Home Office is still looking at potential hotel partners.
“There are logistical and operational aspects we are in discussions about right now.”
Skiers still committed to the slopes
The vast majority of skiers – 96 per cent – intend to go skiing next winter, despite the continued uncertainty caused by the pandemic, reports Lucy Aspden.
The latest research by the Mountain Trade Network (MTN) has revealed several predictions for the 2021/22 ski season, including increased interest for ski holidays that last longer than 10 days as short breaks fall out of favour. People will also leave booking their holiday until the last-minute, with the majority securing their spot on the slopes three months, or less, before they plan to depart.
A third of the market also plans to drive to the Alps, a marked increase on previous years, while apartments have overtaken four-star hotels as the favourite accommodation choice. How busy the slopes in a resort are is now a major concern for skiers when choosing a destination, as apres-ski falls out of the top 10 things they consider.
Hope is not lost for the remainder of this season though – while the majority (51 per cent) said they wouldn’t go skiing this winter, if restrictions are lifted, 43 per cent said they they might if they could, with six per cent saying they definitely would – if it’s possible post-Easter is set to be the busiest time for departures.
‘Absolutely right’ that airports work with authorities
Priti Patel said it is “absolutely right” that airports work with the Border Force and Home Office in checking with carriers that passenger locator forms are completed.
Ms Patel says airports themselves must put protective measures in place to stop the spread of the virus.
A row over health risks from Heathrow passport queues broke out yesterday as Ms Patel said the crowding was the result of increased checking of passengers for Covid test results.
Sources at Heathrow told The Telegraph they were concerned that Border Force had not got enough staff to keep queues down
Who is at Heathrow today?
The Terminal 2 arrivals hall at Heathrow is hushed on the afternoon Priti Patel announces self-funded quarantine hotels for travellers from 22 ‘red list countries’, as well as more physical checks on home addresses to ensure compliance, reports Imogen Lepere.
But about 40 per cent of the chairs are taken – albeit some with signs instructing passengers not to use certain seats to ensure social distancing. A group of baggage handlers are taking advantage of the emptiness to rest their legs on their lunch break. All agree that, despite the tougher regulations, it’s significantly busier in the arrivals hall than during the first lockdown in March.
Those waiting include Nidhin Raj, a masters student who is collecting a friend before travelling on to their quarantine digs (Hotel Manish, £50 per night); Zia, a taxi driver from Nottingham who considers himself lucky to have got this job collecting a business traveller as demand is down 80 per cent from January 2020, and a man who works on an off shore oil rig, returning home to London from Aberdeen.
Most are travelling out of necessity, but there are also those seeking opportunities abroad in 2021. A teenager who didn’t want to share his name is off to South Africa for a year-long yacht master course, while an electrician from Slough, John, described himself as ‘chuffed’ to be on his way to start a new life in Mexico City.
Aviation industry needs help to prevent ‘massive’ job losses, says MP
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, highlights that one million British jobs depend on aviation.
The Government is correct to take an “evidence-based” approach in lieu of a broader one, he says.
Sir Graham says that if further countries needed to be added to the ‘red list’ of countries, urgent financial support would need to be provided to prevent a “massive haemorrhaging” of jobs in Britain.
Priti Patel says work is always “under review” and Government will “always step up in whichever way it can to provide the support needed”.
Government should support travel sector amid new restrictions, says Abta
Abta, the trade body for tour operators and travel agents in the UK, has responded to the Government’s latest travel measures.
A spokesperson said:
We understand the Government’s need to introduce temporary additional restrictions in response to emerging new strains of the virus, but this needs to come with support for the jobs and businesses affected and a clear roadmap forward for travel.
It is now 12 months since the travel industry started to be affected by coronavirus, yet the Government has still not provided any tailored financial support to the sector. Jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and longstanding businesses have gone to the wall. The lack of financial support targeted at addressing the consequences for businesses of international travel restrictions needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
The introduction of quarantine hotels for ‘red list countries’ builds on a mountain of existing measures for travel, and we need to see a clear plan for how these will be lifted. The Government needs to work with the industry to develop a route forward for reopening travel, reviewing all of the existing measures and coordinating with overseas governments. While the vaccine rollout is positive, the industry cannot wait for the whole UK adult population to be vaccinated before travel restarts – and businesses cannot afford to lose another summer. We also know that many people have a desire to get back to experiences that they value highly and have missed dearly, including travel to visit family and friends abroad.
Thinking ahead to summer?
At @Telegraph Travel we often get asked ‘will summer holidays go ahead’.
My answer is this:
It is January 27. The school summer holidays don’t begin for another six months. I repeat. Six. Months. It is far too early to write off a trip overseas in 2021.https://t.co/ZMhBQ4RRT6
— Greg Dickinson (@Greg_Dickinson) January 27, 2021
‘No scientific evidence’ for quarantine hotels
The bosses of British Airways, Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic have criticised the Government’s plans to introduce hotel quarantine for arrivals from ‘high risk’ destinations.
Boris Johnson confirmed this afternoon that arrivals from 22 different countries will have to quarantine in Government-provided hotels “without exception”. The restrictions will apply to arrivals from South America and southern Africa, as well as Portugal.
But in an open letter to the Prime Minister, airline executives said they had ‘seen no compelling scientific evidence’ to support the idea of hotel quarantine, and called on Boris Johnson to discuss financial support for the industry.
“Policy should be based on evidence,’ they wrote; ‘and we have seen no compelling scientific evidence that introducing a policy potentially of blanket quarantine in hotels, is necessary in addition to measures only recently introduced.
‘We request the opportunity to discuss both an exit plan and a bespoke support package with you urgently, at a time of your convenience.’
The Prime Minister also announced this afternoon that non-essential travel restrictions will be enforced more strictly by border force at ports and airports: “[They will be] asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel,” Johnson told the Commons.
Travellers will face more border checks
Priti Patel, speaking in the House of Commons, has said that carriers will check reasons for travel on departure.
Police presence will also be increased at ports and airports, with people directed to return home if they do not have a valid reason, or they will face a fine.
Ms Patel said”only the most important, and with exceptional reasons” should be allowed to travel.
Thomas Cook to offer refunds if hotel quarantine affects holidays
Travel operator Thomas Cook has confirmed it will give customers a full refund on any holidays booked that are affected by the new rules on mandatory hotel quarantine.
Customers already booked to one of the countries affected, or anyone who books a holiday in the coming weeks to somewhere that is subsequently added to the mandatory hotel quarantine list, will be able to cancel and get a full cash refund within 14 days.
Alan French, the chief executive of Thomas Cook, said:
We know that our customers want to feel confident they can travel or, if not, that they can get their money back. We want to reassure our customers that we will amend or cancel in full any holiday where the customer has to quarantine in a hotel on their return if they no longer wish to travel.
While we understand the need to protect the UK from additional strains of the virus, we would encourage the government to be clear how long they expect these measures to be in place and to give the public some idea of how countries will be added or removed from the list.
We’re all desperate for a break right now and having a holiday to look forward to will go a long way to helping us all get through the mental challenges of the pandemic and help the travel industry focus on rebuilding a future.
Stay home if you don’t have a valid reason, says Home Secretary
Priti Patel said that police now are carrying out more physical addresses to ensure compliance self-isolation.
Ms Patel confirmed a new “managed isolation process” of hotel quarantine will be introduced from those arriving home from countries where international travel bans have already been imposed.
They will be required to isolate for 10 days, without exemption, and the Department of Health will set out further details on this approach next week.
Despite the stay-at-home regulations, we are still seeing people not complying with these rules. The rules are clear – people should be staying at home, unless they have a valid reason to leave.
Anyone wanting to travel must make a “valid declaration” about why they wish to do so, Ms Patel added.
Priti Patel is speaking in Parliament
The Home Secretary has told the House of Commons that border restrictions have been tightened to “further strengthen the health measures that we already have at the border… [and] to reduce passenger flow, so that only a small number of people for whom it is absolutely essential to travel, are doing so.”
Non-UK nationals travelling from “red list” countries will be refused entry, she confirmed.
‘We need Government to support the industry’
Reacting to the Government’s tightening of border controls, Julia Lo Bue-Said, the chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, said:
Of course we accept tighter border controls if that is what is necessary to keep the country safe and recover from the pandemic. What we do not accept are ill thought through statements from ministers over the past few days telling the British public not to even think about booking future travel plans particularly when there are many extremely flexible booking options.
Why do members of the Government feel it is their place to further crush confidence. What the Government continually fails to acknowledge is the number of jobs sustained by the outbound travel industry and that being an island nation travel is not just for a holiday.
After nearly a year of disruption, and international travel effectively shut down our members represent hundreds of business owners across the UK under immense financial pressure with over 50 per cent been unable to benefit from government grants due to not being in a designated ‘closed’ retail environment.
We need Government to support the industry, extend furlough until the autumn, stop making ill-informed off the cuff comments, and allow the British public to make their own judgement on future plans to travel later this year once it’s safe to do so.
Tour firm highlights damage quarantine will have on African communities
One person’s holiday is another person’s livelihood, and Jane Palmer of Conservation Travel Africa – a small firm that specialises in volunteering breaks – points out that many communities on the continent are being devastated by the ongoing restrictions.
“In 2020 we made an enormous financial loss. If we miss the peak summer season, I don’t know how many small independent companies like ours will be forced to give up and shut their doors. Obviously this has an implication for unemployment in the UK, but additionally most safari operators, lodges, and conservation organisations on the ground in Africa are the main employers for tens of thousands of wildlife rangers, guides, housekeepers, and other hospitality workers, for whom there is literally no other avenue of employment in their country.
“While we are all desperate to travel, we need to remember that the people and wildlife on the ground in Africa are even more desperate for us to visit. What is just a holiday for us means so much more to the people that companies like ours are trying to support. Does that make travel to Africa an unimportant luxury?”
Sturgeon: Hotel quarantine plan ‘does not go far enough’
The Department of Health is working to establish quarantine hotels “as fast as possible”, the Prime Minister has said.
However, Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the Government’s plan to focus on arrivals from 22 countries “does not go far enough”, and should be a blanket measure.
Speaking after a four-nations call, Sturgeon said she was unconvinced by the measures proposed in response to the South African and Brazilian coronavirus variants.
“I think I do have a duty at this point to say that I am concerned that the proposal does not go far enough, and I’ve made that point very strongly in the four-nations discussions that we’ve just had today,” she said.
“We will be seeking urgently to persuade them to go much further, and indeed to move to a comprehensive system of supervised quarantine.”
Which 22 countries will the new restrictions apply to?
The Prime Minister has said that arrivals from 22 countries will have to see out their quarantine periods in dedicated hotels. However, the list of destinations has not yet been released.
We are expected more detail from Home Secretary Priti Patel, when she addresses the Commons shortly.
Boris Johnson has also not set out a start date for the requirements.
‘We can only hope that we have now reached rock bottom’
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK has warned that the Government must not simply add border restrictions, but begin planning a pathway to the safe reopening of international travel.
Chief executive Dale Keller said:
An expensive 10-day stay in a hotel not of your own choice is distressing, and we support that the Government has specifically targeted this extreme measure to eligible returning passengers from the 22 travel ban countries.
The aviation sector is struggling with the depth and duration of this crisis and we can only hope that we have now reached rock bottom.
Coming out of this crisis, the Government should have the benefit of improved science and hindsight, so right now is the time to support the sector and to effectively plan a strategic pathway towards the safe re-opening of international travel in conjunction with the industry.
Visitors from 22 countries face 10-day hotel quarantine, Boris Johnson announces
Boris Johnson has confirmed that arrivals from 22 different countries will have to quarantine in Government-provided hotels “without exception”.
“I want to make clear that under the stay at home regulations, it is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes and we will enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel,” Mr Johnson told the Commons.
“We have also banned all travel from 22 countries where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations.
“And in order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in Government provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception.”
Quarantine hotels ‘will plunge the aviation and travel industry deeper into crisis’
The International Air Transport Association has criticised the Government’s plans to tighten quarantine measures, saying that any changes will put the aviation and travel industries “deeper into crisis”.
An IATA spokesperson told Telegraph Travel this afternoon:
We recognise the Government must take steps to protect public health. However, coming only two weeks after the Government announced further restrictions at the border, new rules on hotel quarantine will plunge the aviation and travel industry deeper into crisis.
There are several vital questions that need to be answered:
What is the scientific assessment of the further advantage to public health to be achieved from mandatory hotel quarantine, given a flight ban is already in place?
What economic impact assessment has been drawn up, especially for the UK’s global connectivity, the aviation industry, and vital air cargo arrivals such as vaccines?
Most importantly, how will the rules will work in practice, particularly with regard to crew operating cargo-only flights?
If Ministers cannot answer these key questions, it damages public confidence that there is a coherent strategy for suppressing COVID-19 and a roadmap in place for returning to normal life.
The 34 countries from which arrivals could face a stay in a quarantine hotel
Plans to force arrivals from dozens of high-risk countries to spend 10 days in a “quarantine hotel” – at their own cost – are expected to be confirmed this afternoon.
Oliver Smith takes a look at the 34 countries that could be on the list.
‘Bagged breakfasts’ and an isolation annex: Ibis outlines hotel quarantine plans
Speaking to Telegraph Travel this afternoon, a spokesperson from Ibis Styles London Heathrow Hotel described how the hotel is poised to serve as an isolation facility – with ‘immediate effect’:
Nothing has been confirmed to our hotel with regards to the Hotel Quarantine plans, however we are aware this is something that will be announced once the Government has approval.
If the Hotel Quarantine plans go ahead, with immediate effect our hotel is organised in a way which can allow quarantine guests to be accommodated without coming in contact with non-quarantine guests. Our hotel has been accredited by the ALLSAFE cleanliness and prevention label, which is verified by Clifton. We are also fully compliant with health and safety, with the assistance of Saeker and Leisure Safe.
The hotel building has two parts, and the second section – the ‘Annex’ – would be used for quarantine guests. They would be isolated only in the Annex, which is clearly separated from other parts of the hotel and the main building.
All non-quarantine guests would be advised to avoid entering the Annex area, with signage throughout. Quarantine guests will be instructed not to leave the Annex building area for the duration of their quarantine stay. Housekeeping of the rooms will be provided every three days. Bagged breakfasts, including disposable items, is already being offered to the guests currently – and the same would be done for quarantine guests.
Meals would be available for collection from a dedicated room in the same quarantine block, to minimise room service items being returned to the kitchen. If anything was to be delivered to the guest, it would be left outside their door. Guests will be instructed to leave their rubbish outside their rooms daily, at a regular time to suit the hotel operations. All our team members will continue to follow the PPE guidelines as they do already in line with the operating procedures of the hotel.
We believe this can work seamlessly, and would help control the spread of coronavirus and save lives.
Travelling Britons ‘will be asked if their journey is essential’
Home Secretary Priti Patel will issue an update on border controls and quarantine hotels this afternoon.
Ahead of the announcement, travel expert Paul Charles – CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency – says that travellers’s reasons for travelling will be questioned at UK borders – and non-essential travellers will be fined:
Among the new measures to be announced, all departing passengers from the #UK will be asked by airlines and border officials if their journey is essential. Airlines will be fined if they fail to enforce non-exemptions properly. @ThePCAgency #Quarantine
— Paul Charles (@PPaulCharles) January 27, 2021
Belgium demands ‘sworn statement’ for essential travel
The Belgian Government has introduced a ‘sworn statement’, which travellers must carry with them to prove they are exempt from Covid rules on cross-border trips, Emma Beaumont reports.
The statement or ‘declaration of honour’ can be downloaded in English, Dutch, French and German and should be presented to the police if requested.
Belgium currently restricts foreign travel to ‘essential journeys’. This includes certain business trips, cross-border commuters, travelling for educational purposes and compelling family reasons. Other necessary journeys covered include those made to care for animals.
Explaining the introduction of the statement Interior Minister, Annelies Verlinden, said: “In this way, we make it difficult for the virus to cross the border, but not unnecessarily difficult for people who have to travel abroad for work, to care for a family member or to visit a partner.”
Remote working allows families to book extra long staycations
Remote working is allowing families to book extra long staycations, tourism bosses have told The Telegraph, with bookings of up to five weeks reported.
Families are using the extra flexibility offered to them by remote working to extend breaks beyond the standard week, while others are planning an extended blowout for the entire family after a year of not mixing.
James Mason, of Welcome to Yorkshire, said the increase of working from home had led to the rise of the “work-ation” as people could more easily mix business with pleasure, particularly domestically.
He added: “People have been working from home therefore the physical hard stop that used to be leave work on a Friday and put on the out of office isn’t as hard as it was. People feel they can extend their break by a few days or a week and do some work., especially domestically.”
Sam Meadows has the story.
Boeing 737 MAX safe to return to skies, European regulator says
Boeing’s 737 MAX airliner is safe to return to service in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said today, reports Emma Beaumont.
The aircraft has been grounded for almost two years following two crashes that resulted in 346 fatalities.
Lion Air Flight 610 crashed shortly after take-off from Jakarta in October 2018, while Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 came down in similar circumstances close to Addis Ababa airport the following March.
Patrick Ky, EASA Executive Director, said: “We have every confidence that the aircraft is safe, which is the precondition for giving our approval. But we will continue to monitor 737 MAX operations closely as the aircraft resumes service.
“In parallel, and at our insistence, Boeing has also committed to work to enhance the aircraft still further in the medium term, in order to reach an even higher level of safety.”
The jet returned to the skies in the United States back in December, flying between Miami and New York.
Finland launches ski sharing scheme
Borrowing a bike to explore a city is nothing new, but borrowing a pair of skis is the latest trend in Scandinavia, where the Finnish city of Lahti is launching the world’s first urban ski-sharing scheme.
The city, which is the current European Green Capital, wants to encourage its residents to reduce their carbon emissions – by trading cars or buses for skis.
Lahti is often blanketed with snow during the winter. There are three ski points across the city, and new cross country ski trails are being laid throughout, adding to the already extensive 180km network in the area.
“We hope the City Skis can bring joy to locals during the coldest season – and at the same time, we want to promote emission-free ways of getting around the city all-year round,” said Saara Vauramo, the programme director of Lahti European Green Capital. “As the current European Green Capital and the unofficial skiing capital of Finland, we want to save our winters and motivate people to make climate-friendly choices.”
Could you hack two weeks confined to this room?
In all likelihood, it will be airport and motorway hotels that serve as the UK’s quarantine hotels. But while they are no doubt suited to the challenge, the prospect of lengthy stays in airport hotels seem almost contradictory to their purpose.
In normal times they are geared towards fleeting trips, sometimes of only a few hours – with no frills required. Take a look inside some of the places where passengers could be staying…
‘We need a roadmap out of these travel restrictions, or the mental health crisis will be colossal’
Some people reading this will think I sound pathetic and should get a grip, says Simon Parker – but this isn’t just about a travel writer stuck at home with his flipflops gathering dust. It’s about the millions of people around Britain who are currently struggling on in silence.
If I can’t leave the country for another year, then so be it, I can handle that. But the Government’s commitment to this lockdown – coupled with the shrugged shoulders as to when it might actually end – is doing irreparable damage to people’s mental health.
Read the full story.
Staycation bookings ‘up 60 per cent’, says holiday rental firm
Holiday at Home, a UK holiday rental company, has reported a 60 per cent rise in bookings over the past fortnight. Some holidaymakers are making bookings as far ahead as 2022, a spokesperson told Telegraph Travel this morning. Bookings for larger properties are particularly strong.
It is not the only company to report rising bookings. Last week, holiday rental company holidaycottages.co.uk reported an 85 per cent week-on-week rise in advance bookings. Half of all reservations were for the south coast and Wales.
Meanwhile, Sawday’s, a booking site for British hotels, B&Bs and self-catering, is currently reporting a 200 per cent year-on-year increase in searches for coastal properties: predominantly in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.
Booking habits are also being affected by the ways that everyday life has changed during the pandemic: for example, holidaycottages.co.uk has seen a 214 per cent rise in bookings for dog-friendly holidays, in line with the booming pet sales recorded last year.
Interest in multi-generational trips is also increased, says Malcolm Bell, CEO of Visit Cornwall: “A lot of people are looking at a ‘summer Christmas’ – doing all the family-orientated things they missed out on over Christmas. There will still be precautions in place of course, but hopefully we’ll be back to wider mixing with family and friends.”
In pictures: quarantine hotels around the world
‘Don’t impose additional quarantine – bolster testing instead’
Rather than introducing heightened quarantine restrictions, the Government should renew its focus on Covid-19 testing procedures, an immunology expert has urged.
Professor Denis Kinane, a professor of immunology and co-founder of Cignpost Diagnostics, a coronavirus screening service, told Telegraph Travel that the ‘costly’ and ‘excessive’ strategy of quarantine hotels should be replaced by sensible reforms to our current testing regimen:
The Government’s hotel quarantine proposal has the potential to greatly disrupt not only tourism, but also create a barrier for business into the UK. This is a costly strategy that is avoidable, at least in part, if we were to better utilise our existing testing regimen as previously approved through the Test to Release scheme.
With Test to Release, passengers can be released from their ten day quarantine if they test negative on the 5th full day after arriving in England. Given this regimen, hotel quarantine for ten full days seems excessive.
An alternative to the quarantine proposal would be to focus on bolstering our current testing programme with sensible measures that maintain the focus on safeguarding the health of our nation while balancing our need to travel internationally when necessary. We could initially test passengers with a gold-standard PCR test upon arrival, and then test again a few days later to confirm that they are COVID-free and not a threat to the UK and the progress made by lockdown and the vaccination effort.
With sensible reforms and policies, we can avoid effectively closing the door to the UK with a hotel quarantine programme that is not a viable permanent solution.
Quarantine hotels should be applied to more destinations, says scientist
The UK Government is today expected to approve quarantine hotel plans for travellers arriving from 30 countries across South America and Africa, over fears of new Covid-19 variants.
However Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told BBC Breakfast today that the scheme may need to be applied “more comprehensively”, as the virus spreads abroad.
“I can see that the UK Government may decide to start with countries where variants are a real concern, but I think going forward we’re going to have to apply that more comprehensively,” she told the programme.
“I think it’s difficult for us in the UK to think about a system like this but it’s absolutely essential.
“If you look at the genomics work that’s being done, looking at where the virus has come from – for example in the summer up here in Scotland, we got down to two cases on July 12, and tiny numbers in that month of July.
“And then as we headed into the late summer the genomic studies show us that we reimported the virus from overseas and from elsewhere in the UK into the country because of travel.
“And the overseas issue is something we can do something about, so adopting a model a bit like south-east Asian countries, Australia or New Zealand, where we have quarantine that is not just voluntary like it is now, but supported quarantine – that will mean hotels for some people.”
Thailand eyes reopening for vaccinated travellers
Tourism bosses in Thailand have appealed to the country’s government to re-open borders for vaccinated travellers, without imposing the current 14-day quarantine requirement.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Suphajee Suthumpun, chief executive of hotel group Dusit International, also urged the Thai Government to prioritise vaccinations of hospitality and tourism workers: “This would also protect locals and travellers alike, and limit the risk of infection,” she said.
William Heinecke – chairman of Thai hospitality group Minor International – has called for the country to drop its isolation requirement: “There are tremendous numbers of people who won’t come to Thailand, or won’t come to any country that has a quarantine, because it takes too much time. We should be very quickly allowing people who are safely vaccinated to travel without quarantine.”
Under the country’s current border rules, all arriving travellers must apply for permission for their visit from the Thai Government. All arrivals, whether nationals or non-nationals, must spend 14 days in a state-run quarantine facility.
Norwegian Cruise Line plans to vaccinate all crew members
Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it will ensure all of its ships’ crew are vaccinated before returning to work.
A spokesperson from the company said it was “exploring all options regarding vaccinations for guests and crew, and it is our intention that all crew members be vaccinated before boarding our vessels to begin their duties.”
Last week, Saga Holidays announced it would refuse any travellers who hadn’t yet received the vaccine – on either its cruises or land-based itineraries. It is not clear whether Norwegian Cruise Line will follow suit.
“The safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit remains our highest priority,” said Norwegian’s spokesperson. “We continue to closely monitor the evolving impacts of the Covid-19 global pandemic and vaccine developments.”
Should I hold off from booking a foreign holiday this summer?
Nick Trend, our consumer travel expert, gives his thoughts on this hot topic:
I think we have good grounds for optimism that travel of some kind will be possible by the school summer holidays. But given the latest government advice not to book, it’s probably wise to hold on for at least three or four more weeks.
However, optimists who want to travel during a peak week from the beginning of July onwards, and who are especially keen to get a particular flight or hotel which is usually in high demand, might take a more bullish line. If you are of such a caste and do decide to commit, make sure that you book with a bonded tour operator so that your money is protected if the company goes out of business.
And I would recommend going with an Abta ( abta.com) or Aito ( aito.co.uk) member – the two organisations have a code of conduct and a dispute resolution service if things go wrong.
“I started to understand why solitary confinement is used as punishment, as torture”
Ben McKechnie, a photographer and journalist, recalls his experience of being locked inside hotel quarantine for 15 days in Taiwan:
Hyatt Hotels to offer free COVID-19 testing
Hotel chain Hyatt has announced that it will offer free Covid-19 testing at 19 of its resorts in Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and South America, for guests travelling back to the US.
The news comes as the US introduced compulsory negative Covid-19 tests from all returning travellers. Though widely welcomed, the new requirement has sparked concerns that testing infrastructure in the Caribbean and South America may not be sufficient to cope with demand.
The company also announced that it would give those who were unable to travel because of a positive result 50 per cent off room rates, and 30 per cent off food.
Which hotels would be used – and where would they be?
In all likelihood, quarantining travellers would have to sit out their isolation in chain hotels, close to airports and motorways.
In countries where ‘directed isolation’ currently takes place, travellers are transported by bus from airports and arrival points, directly to dedicated hotels – often with a police escort.
Only large, self-contained properties are suitable for the task: often part of chains, like the Conrad Centennial Singapore (operated by Hilton), and Four Points by Sheraton Auckland (operated by Marriott).
They usually offer dwellings of various sizes. Apartment hotels are particularly popular, enabling families to isolate together – often with self-contained cooking and washing facilities.
In every instance, guests must stay entirely within their own room, suite or apartment; venturing into public areas is not permitted.
What is it really like to stay in a quarantine hotel?
Karen Edwards spent 14 days in a quarantine hotel in Perth, Australia. She tells Telegraph Travel:
On some days, the lack of fresh air would bring on a stifling headache and I’d sleep during the day for some respite.
Room cleaning wasn’t an option, so spare towels and sheets were left on a chair for us to manage. Two assigned plates and mugs were to be used as needed – and we requested a small cup of washing-up liquid for the dishes, and laundry powder for our clothes. We cleaned both in the bath.
While the food wasn’t the usual Hyatt standard, or very nutritious, it wasn’t to be sniffed at. Lunch was typically a baguette (gluten free for me) and dinner varied from chow mein to grilled fish. There were no options, but straight-forward allergies were catered for.
All the while, the occasional muffled buzz of a security radio – two guards patrolled each of the seven floors – was a reminder that this was serious. We were doing this to help protect the community.
Announcement today to lay out plans for ‘less flow of individuals’ into England
Home Secretary Priti Patel will set out further steps to the Commons today to ensure there is “less flow of individuals” into England to control new strains of coronavirus, Robert Jenrick has confirmed.
He told Sky News: “The Prime Minister has said we do want to go further and the Home Secretary will be making a statement in Parliament later today about further steps we are going to take in this country to ensure that there is less flow of individuals in.”
We will, of course, have more on this as it develops.
Heathrow crowding due to Covid test checks on passengers, says Priti Patel
The Home Secretary was challenged by MPs over crowds at Heathrow over the weekend as some 10,000 arrivals a day crammed into the immigration hall in which Border Force had introduced checks of incoming passengers’ pre-departure tests and locator forms.
Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs committee, said the crowds, with passengers struggling to socially distance, were unsafe and “the very opposite of quarantine”.
Ms Patel responded: “The fact of the matter is those queues materialised because of the compliance checks that Border Force had put in place.”
The Home Secretary said Border Force was working with Heathrow to maintain social distancing as officials sought to check 100 per cent of passengers arriving to ensure they had negative results from pre-departure tests and locator forms to confirm where they would be quarantining.
Charles Hymas and Dominic Penna have the story.
A recap of Tuesdays’s main stories:
Poll suggests Britons ‘support tough travel restrictions’ to tackle Covid
Florida bans ‘vaccine tourists’
ATOL protection for refund credit notes extended to March 31
Biden tightens travel ban
Quarantine hotels could contravene our human rights, says lawyer
New Zealand: Borders to remain closed for much of this year
Now, on with today’s news.