Tourism leaders blast ‘exit permits’ as politically motivated

A new permit rule has been launched, adding to England's already strict testing and hotel quarantine requirements for those travelling abroad - Getty

A new permit rule has been launched, adding to England’s already strict testing and hotel quarantine requirements for those travelling abroad – Getty

Travel industry leaders have lashed out at new ‘exit permits’ required for leaving the country, claiming they are complex and lack clear messaging.

The Declaration to Travel form, which comes into effect today, must be completed by anyone in England who enters “a port of departure to travel internationally”, with fines of up to £6,400 for those who flout the rules.

But critics have highlighted a number of issues with the form, arguing that it appears ‘rushed’ and that several valid reasons for international travel are not covered.

Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande, founder of Passepartout Homes, said: “I understand the move and what the Government is trying to achieve. It is a bit too little too late and such policies would have been accepted and tolerated a year ago. A year later, with a successful vaccination program under way and the promise of releasing restrictions, I question the move to introduce a Declaration to Travel, if not for political reasons before elections.

“The document has been rushed through with not so much attention to detail or clear messaging. There is no box to justify you are leaving the country because you have residency elsewhere or are leaving the country for good. There is no box to state kids are visiting a parent working overseas (only those with divorced parents and a court order are allowed). There is no box to state you are reuniting with a spouse or legal partner working overseas.”

Others, such as Abby Penston, CEO of Focus Travel Partnership, called the form a “half-cocked rushed out process”, adding: “Today’s imposition of the Declaration for International Travel form has been deliberately designed to dampen demand in international travel.”

Scroll down for the latest travel updates.​

05:00 PM

Comment: We must continue to travel the world in the spirit of the late, great Charles Allen

My dear cousin Charles spent his life spreading the spirit of curiosity – we must hope to do the same, says writer and explorer Benedict Allen. In a touching tribute, he writes:

“Benedict,” intoned my lugubrious lunchtime companion, a certain Clement Freud MP, “there will come a time in your life when they’ll begin to ask you to write obituaries…” And Sir Clement might have elucidated further during that memorably lavish meal (at The Groucho Club, thankfully at his expense) but he was keen to get off to the races. This was something he proceeded to do with gusto, speeding us along to Ascot through horrendous traffic by liberal use of the offside lane.

He was quite right, though. For some years now, whenever any explorer, adventurer or (I sometimes feel) day-tripper of any prominence gets to the advanced age of about 45, I’ve been getting little emails from newspapers requesting a thousand words about this or that person’s sterling outdoor achievement, so that the obits desk can keep them “on file”. This is all very lovely, it goes without saying, but if I’m totally honest, the one person I need to write about presently is my cousin, Charles Allen, the writer on India, who passed away last year.

Read the full article here

Charles Allen

Charles Allen

04:43 PM

International Women’s Day: New scholarship announced for female Kilimanjaro guides

With women sorely underrepresented in Tanzania’s tourism industry, one travel firm is taking steps to redress the imbalance.

Adventure holiday specialist Exodus Travels has pledged to fund the Mountain Lion Scholarship for the next three years, helping 10 women a year train and qualify as mountain guides for the ascent up Kilimanjaro.

Trained in mountain ecology, wilderness rescue and first aid, the inaugural class of ‘lionesses’ has now graduated, and the next 10 will begin their studies in September.

“Being a porter or mountain guide was always seen as a man’s job,” said scholarship student Kitaba Wadia Kapanya. “It’s a tough job for most women but I want to prove that we can do it too. Men, women, girls – as long as they’re passionate, they can do this. As long as they have the passion, women can do any job if they put their heart in it – there’s nothing they can’t do.”

04:30 PM

Qatar Airways ups capacity for Seychelles holidays

Qatar Airways has announced it will increase the number of flights from Doha to the Seychelles, with the latter set to welcome international visitors again from March 25.

There will be three services a week between the Qatari capital and the Indian Ocean archipelago, with passengers transported by Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Travellers arriving in the Seychelles from Doha will have to provide proof of a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before departure, but will not have to quarantine.

“We are happy that Seychelles is back online with clear entry criteria and simple travel measures,” said the chief executive of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherin Francis.

“We depend a lot on our airline partners to complement our efforts in restarting this industry, one which is very important for Seychelles given its contribution to the economy.”

04:13 PM

Virgin announces new cruise ship for 2022

Virgin Voyages, Sir Richard Branson’s new cruise line, has revealed that the third ship to join its fleet will be called Resilient Lady, reports Benjamin Parker.

The ship, which is due to make its debut in 2022, will join Virgin’s two other ‘Lady’ ships: Scarlet Lady and Valiant Lady. It will two Mediterranean itineraries that year, sailing from Athens.

Sir Richard, founder of the Virgin Group, said: “Sailing in the Med is such an extraordinary experience, and we’re so excited to bring the adventure of a Virgin Voyage to this beautiful place. I’m so proud of the incredible work the team has accomplished to introduce Resilient Lady.”

Virgin Voyages was due to begin sailing from Miami on its first ship Scarlet Lady in March 2020 but it the spread of coronavirus forced the cancellation of her maiden voyage. The line plans to sail again from June 2021.

03:58 PM

We relocated to our favourite holiday destination – and never looked back

Barbados, Lisbon and Tenerife are among the destinations welcoming UK expats, writes Emma Featherstone, in her study of the many Britons who chose to leave the UK during the pandemic.

Spurred on by the prospect of more and longer lockdowns, many have seized the chance to move to corners of Europe that offered warmer winters, fewer restrictions or which seemed to have a tighter handle on Covid, including Katie Holmes and her partner Carl. Both in their mid–late thirties, remote workers and child-free they were able to move relatively quickly. Their route out? The Barbados Welcome Stamp Scheme:

They said that this visa Barbados was going to introduce that would allow people to come for a year and we were basically like, ‘that’s what we’re going to do, that sounds amazing’. I was helping my partner build up his marketing agency so we were both already working from home, without any need for an office.

Read the full story.

Katie Holmes and her partner Carl have moved their lives to Barbados for at least a year

Katie Holmes and her partner Carl have moved their lives to Barbados for at least a year

03:45 PM

How slow can you go? The best British adventures to enjoy at a slower pace

“If, like me, you fancy becoming a slow adventurer, I recommend the finest, not the fastest route,” writes Tor McKintosh, whose new National Trust book Slow Adventures covers every kind of languid trip, from rockpooling in Sussex to bird watching in Bristol.

His favourite slow adventures include:

Rockpooling at Birling Gap

The UK boasts numerous rockpooling locations, where the ebbing tide leaves behind deep pools, each teeming with marine life. Peering into them reveals a fascinating world, often without any need to scoop a hand or container through the water. As you nudge some seaweed to one side, a fish, perhaps a goby or a blenny, dashes to safety deep beneath a rocky overhang, while scores of dark red, jellylike blobs of beadlet anemones cling to dry rocks around the pools.

The Swale Trail is easy riding - Getty

The Swale Trail is easy riding – Getty

East Mountain-biking the Swale Trail

Between Reeth and the village of Gunnerside it was easy riding along a riverside track where lush hedgerows were brimming with blowsy cow parsley, while swallows and house martins nosily darted across fields. Crossing the bridge at Gunnerside, I made a long climb to a stunning open track with views across the valley to the village of Muker across the river Swale. There was an atmospheric beauty to the landscape blanketed in low grey clouds, which occasionally lifted to reveal the rounded high fells. Far below, the river, gushing after days of heavy rain, roared.

Find more slow adventures here.

03:33 PM

Thailand to consider easing quarantine rules to allow ‘hotel bubble’ stays

Thai officials are considering a new proposal aimed at easing the restrictions on quarantine guests. If approved the Area Hotel Quarantine (AHQ) scheme would allow travellers in quarantine to leave their hotel room after the first three days – but they must still spend all their time within the hotel. A Covid test will be taken after the first three days and if negative a guest can use the hotel facilities within a localised bubble.

The proposal is similar to Thailand’s Golf Quarantine programme, which allows guests who test negative after three days to play golf within the resort.

03:24 PM

In pictures: International Women’s Day around the world

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, we round up the best pictures of of the day.

Below, huge numbers of women farmers attend a protest against farm laws at Bahadurgar near Haryana-Delhi border in India.

Women farmers attend a protest against farm laws in India - Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Women farmers attend a protest against farm laws in India – Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Here, a woman waves the Kenyan national flag as human rights defenders from 26 community-based organisations march to commemorate International Women’s Day in Kibera, Nairobi,

A woman waves the Kenyan flag during a IWD march - Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

A woman waves the Kenyan flag during a IWD march – Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

Protesters damage an image of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte during a rally marking International Women’s Day in Manila.

Protesters mark International Women's Day in Metro Manila -  MARK R CRISTINO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Protesters mark International Women’s Day in Metro Manila – MARK R CRISTINO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Demonstrators called for an end to acts of violence against women, improved social welfare benefits for poor families affected by the coronavirus pandemic and access to free and safe COVID-19 vaccines.

Morning yoga in Mumbai - SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP

Morning yoga in Mumbai – SUJIT JAISWAL/AFP

Above, a yoga instructor guides female passengers in exercise while commuting on the ladies compartment of a local train in Mumbai.

03:11 PM

New Declaration of Travel form ‘a pointless hassle for essential travellers’

Seams McCauley, Head of Communications at Holiday Extras, spoke out today against England’s new exit permits:

We’re still in lockdown, which means there’s still a general prohibition against leaving the house without good reason. In that context, the new exit permit is a pointless hassle for essential travellers. People who were allowed to travel overseas are still allowed but have to do more paperwork, while people who aren’t allowed to travel were banned from turning up at the airport already. If the government is serious about supporting and reopening our industry this year, it needs to offer an end date for exit permits in line with the resumption of overseas holidays. The announcement on April 12 should offer clear guidance for when the exit permits will come to an end, so people can plan their summer and have something to look forward to after a rotten start to the year.

03:02 PM

Stena Line aims to double female management by 2022

Swedish ferry company, Stena Line, plans to become one of the most diverse shipping companies in the world. To do this, it has increased the number of female managers it employs by 42 per cent in the past 5 years and has now set a target to ensuring that women account for 30 per cent of all management by the end of next year.

Only a meagre 2 per cent of the 1.2 million seafarers globally are women, and Stena Line is hoping to change that with it’s work to tackle the gender gap. Currently, 20 per cent of the company’s managers are female – before the end of 2022 its intention is that 30 per cent of all managers, on all levels of the company, shall be females; from ferries and ports to management teams and, importantly, at board level.

Margareta Jensen Dickson, Group Head of People, Stena Line, commented:

We need to ensure that we can attract, recruit and keep the best talents by actively recruiting from all genders for all positions. Gender equality gives us more competence to choose from in a world where companies are competing for talent. Research shows that when companies are more equal, they are also more creative and innovative, as well as making more money.

02:44 PM

Declaration to Travel forms ‘deliberately designed to dampen travel demand’

The introduction of ‘exit permits’ for those leaving England is yet another blow for the hard-hit business travel community, argues Abby Penston, CEO of Focus Travel Partnership:

Thankfully the furlough scheme has offered our sector a lifeline to ensure we have the resource and skill set in place ready for recovery, but Government travel restrictions have effectively forced the shutdown of a number of our partners’ businesses.

These travel restrictions are tightening in the short term and today’s imposition of the Declaration for International Travel form, which has been deliberately designed to dampen demand in international travel, means that again the Government has failed to listen to the Business Travel community.

There was nothing specifically tailored for Travel Management Companies in last week’s budget, which just did not recognise the importance our sector will play in kickstarting the UK’s country’s economic recovery – and we will enter this next period with one hand tied behind our back.

02:28 PM

The life and times of explorer Isabella Bird – and tips for solo travellers in the Covid age

America was no place for tourists in the years surrounding the American Civil War. It was a lawless, dangerous country, certainly not the place for a young English girl to be riding thousands of miles in crammed “stages” (stagecoaches) or “cars” (trains). But Isabella Bird was fearless and, in 1854, wrote about being stuck on a train with prairie men telling stories, hunters with rifles, Mexicans singing Spanish songs and New Englanders belting out Yankee Doodle. She dodged outbreaks of cholera, took steamers (which promptly sank) on the Great Lakes, befriended freed slaves and smoked a peace pipe in a wigwam with “Mic-Mac Indians”, all during the Victorian age when women had few freedoms.

With International Women’s Day set to focus minds on women’s rights, it seems fitting to remember this 4ft 11in “pocket rocket” of an explorer, whose stout and regal appearance reminded some people of Queen Victoria.

Read the full article.

Isabella Bird Bishop, who was dubbed the 'pocket rocket', pictured in 1880 - Royal Geographical Society

Isabella Bird Bishop, who was dubbed the ‘pocket rocket’, pictured in 1880 – Royal Geographical Society

02:08 PM

Canary Islands ‘ready and eager’ for British tourists

The Canary Islands are ready to lay out the welcome mat for returning Britons, and officials are working to ensure the archipelago is a safe holiday destination this summer.

The Minister of Tourism for the Canaries, Yaiza Castilla, said: “The Canary Islands are ready for British tourists, in fact we are eager for them to come.

“We are prepared, we are also vaccinating ourselves very fast, in order to have a guarantee of health reciprocity.

“We continue talking about test before travel but now we also talk about vaccination. The UK is doing very well. We want to be at the same level at the UK and also be ready with the same health protocols so that we can guarantee their safety, so that they can enjoy their holidays in the Canaries.”

01:42 PM

Travel declaration form: everything you need to know about the new departure rules

Passengers travelling overseas from England are now required to complete a form declaring their reasons for travelling, writes Hazel Plush. The new legislation came into force on March 8, as part of the ongoing restrictions on international movement.

Before you travel, here is what you need to know

Entering an English port of departure to travel internationally without a completed form is now a criminal offence - Getty

Entering an English port of departure to travel internationally without a completed form is now a criminal offence – Getty

01:30 PM

Big, fat and clever – the Austrian wine that consumes my travel dreams

It’s only at 3,000 metres that the life-giving minerality of the Ott grüner veltliner comes into its own, writes William Sitwell.

It’s big, it’s fat, it’s clever and I’ve yearned in vain for it ever since my first encounter a few years back some 2,000 metres above sea level. I was by the town of Sölden, an Alpine ski resort in the Austrian state of Tyrol where women wear dirndls. No reason, they just wear them.

The big, fat and clever thing was a magnum of Ott, a large bottle of grüner veltliner produced by the similarly generously formed Bernhard Ott. Bernhard is of the fourth generation of his family, who have been making wine in Wagram in Lower Austria since 1889. He took over the vineyard in 1993 in his early 20s and became obsessed with making the best possible grüner veltliner that grew on fine, silty loess soil.

Read the full story.

01:23 PM

Will I be able to go on holiday this summer if I haven’t been vaccinated?

Many British residents won’t be fully vaccinated by the summer holidays – below Greg Dickinson answers the questions these holiday hopefuls may have.

When will I get my vaccination?

Currently, anyone aged 60 and above can expect a call to receive the vaccine. The NHS says if you are not eligible yet: “Wait to be contacted. The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have the vaccine. It is important not to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.”

Who will be able to travel with vaccine passports?

It is likely that any vaccine certification will only be issued to people who have received the full course of a recognised Covid-19 vaccine – so, as it stands, this means two doses.

Will unvaccinated adults be allowed to travel?

The good news is that, while vaccine passports could be accepted as a means to introduce restriction-free travel, this does not necessarily mean that those who have not received two doses of the vaccine will not be able to travel. The expectation is that countries will continue to accept negative Covid test results, in lieu of a vaccination certificate.

How many tests will I need to take to go on holiday?

This is the slightly less good news. If you do not have a vaccine certificate, you could well be looking at a number of tests, and likely at your own expense.

Read the full story

01:10 PM

The best hotel gift experiences and afternoons teas to book for Mother’s Day 2021

From patisserie to cognac, there’s something for all tastes in this round up from Rachel Cranshaw. Her top picks include:

Ham Yard afternoon tea, London

Savoury starters in the afternoon tea from Firmdale boutique classic Ham Yard include tomato arancini, and olive and ricotta palmier, while on the cake menu there’s lime and dark chocolate tartlet, raspberry macarons and white peach and vanilla choux. The teas, available for one, two or four, also include a RIKRAK by Kit Kemp Wheatgrass Bay scented candle, and a sparkling option for four is available.

From £45; order by noon on March 10.

Firmdale boutique classic Ham Yard will bring afternoon to her (and your) door

Firmdale boutique classic Ham Yard will bring afternoon to her (and your) door

The Savoy at Home, London

The Savoy is covering all bases with the options of afternoon tea or a roast dinner (with beef tenderloin). Cakes for the former, which can also be ordered individually, include strawberry and pistachio, and raspberry and mascarpone tarts, while seasonal flowers are also available to add on.

Afternoon tea from £65 for one; roast dinner £150 for two via Slerp (available for collection or delivery within a 12-mile radius of the hotel).

Find more Mother’s Day ideas here.

12:50 PM

‘I needed to be alone’ – Jenny Packham on the life-changing Himalayan trek that healed her grief

For fashion designer Jenny Packham, an arduous Himalayan trek turned out to be a balm for bereavement.

I was still grieving when I booked to go to the Himalayas with a friend in 2012. My mother had died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm the year before and it had been a very difficult few months. Her death had shaken me to the core and strangely, even though I was in my mid-40s, the fact that life didn’t last forever had finally hit me – it could end at any time. I needed something extreme to satiate my increasing desire to feel alive.

That November, my friend Julia and I flew into Kathmandu, which is the craziest place I have ever visited. As it was the night before the start of our epic trek, we visited Nepal’s child goddess, the Kumari Devi: it is rumoured that even a glance of her can offer you some good fortune. I took the opportunity to catch a glimpse as the goddess peered from her window, just for luck.

Read the full interview.

12:38 PM

Mauritius offers free vaccines to Premium Visa Holders

The government of Mauritius has expanded its Covid-19 vaccination programme to include all citizens, residents and long-term international visitors over the age of 18.

This means visitors holding a Premium Visa are now eligible to receive a Covid vaccination free of charge. Mauritius’ Premium Visa is aimed at ‘digital nomads’ – there has been a boom in these kinds of travellers during the pandemic – and allows international visitors to stay in Mauritius for up to 12 months to work remotely, retire or simply enjoy a longer holiday. The visa is renewable.

Mauritius is the only country in the world which offers this kind of long-term visitor visa both free of charge and with a free Covid vaccine included. The expanded vaccination programme is part of the national campaign to continue keeping Mauritius Covid-secure and to allow the full reopening of international borders once herd immunity is reached.

International visitors have their own dedicated vaccination centre: the International Vaccination Centre, Mutual Aid Building, Port Louis, and can book their vaccine appointment by phone.

12:24 PM

From passport control to relaxing, I’m worried that I’ve forgotten how to go on holiday

As the tantalising idea of travelling again makes us giddy with hope, holidaymakers are gripped with fear. Have we forgotten how to do it, asks Laura Fowler.

Going on holiday is a lot more effort than not going on holiday. What a tremendous faff it seems now, putting together not just a matching pair of shoes for a trip to Waitrose but an entire suitcase of outfits that don’t double as nightwear. All that business of getting on and off buses and taxis, trains and planes; all that looking at things and talking to people who don’t live in your house, and let’s not even start on swimwear.

Like a divorcee on a first date, I’ve forgotten how to do this. You know it’s supposed to be fun, and there might even be some actual fun later, if you can only get over the embarrassment of removing your clothes and pretend to enjoy yourself when really you’d rather be at home watching the telly.

Read the full story.

12:10 PM

The best hotels to book in Europe once lockdown is over

With the news that foreign holidays could be on the cards again from May 17, provided the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown goes according to plan, thousands are already rushing to book accommodation on the continent in time for summer.

Tom Mulvihill and the Telegraph Travel team have selected their favourite European hotels for a post-lockdown break:

Amanzoe, Peloponnese, Greece

Amanzoe is an ultra-exclusive resort with an emphasis on health and wellbeing. There are just 38 freestanding pavilions, each with its own fragrant garden, large tiled terrace and private pool. The very stylish spa offers treatments based on the healing philosophy of Greek medicine and a range of holistic therapies, including Pilates, yoga and aquatic bodywork.

A room at The Retreat Hotel

A room at The Retreat Hotel

The Retreat Hotel at The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon has drawn visitors to Iceland for decades; a thermal pool, fringed by moss-covered lava fields and with mysterious restorative qualities. Now one of the country’s most ambitious luxury resorts has opened on site, promising a rarefied spa experience without compare.

Find more of Europe’s best hotels here.

11:56 AM

Melia Hotels boss backs UK-Spain ‘safe travel’ corridors

The boss of Melia Hotels International has backed plans to create safe travel corridors between the UK and Spain.

Gabriel Escarrer, executive vice chairman and chief executive of Spain’s largest hotel company, argued that travel restrictions have been enforced without any scientific basis and called for destinations and source markets to share “consistently thorough” security standards and controls. He continued:

Although the vaccination process is progressing steadily, especially in the UK, which is way ahead of the European Union, we all need to learn to live with Covid-19, as it is likely here to stay. We know that transmission of Covid-19 takes place mainly internally and not through travel.

We believe that the only way to enable safe travel is to create and share a cross-border Digital Health Pass, that certifies not only whether a traveller is vaccinated, but whether he/she has undergone the correct testing and at the same time, we must be able to audit and certify the destinations’ tourism value chain in its integrity, to make sure that destinations and source markets share consistently thorough security standards and controls.

The Spanish tourism sector has demonstrated that it is extremely safe and responsible – as far as we know, there have been no Covid outbreaks reported in Spanish tourism facilities whatsoever – and we truly believe that we’ll be able to progressively restore travel before this summer.

With this in mind, we could not agree more with the proposal to create safe travel corridors between Spain and the UK and are hopeful that this will be implemented soon.

11:40 AM

Women in a warzone: Meet the female pioneers of skiing in the most unlikely destination

Young girls in Afghanistan are forging a new track in one of the world’s most remote ski regions, thanks to a charity initiative, writes Justine Gosling.

Being a woman in Afghanistan is not short of adversity. In fact, the UN have declared the war-stricken country to be the worst place in the world for a woman to live, due to the lack of women’s rights, poor access to education and the high maternal mortality rate.

20 years of war has ravaged the country, but despite all of this, the mountains of Bamyan Province in Central Afghanistan, are proving to be a safe winter haven for young women keen to take on a positive challenge.

Read the full story.

The Afghan Ski Challenge is the ultimate goal for a new generation of skiers, but skiing in the country is not for the faint-hearted - Massoud Hossaini/Getty

The Afghan Ski Challenge is the ultimate goal for a new generation of skiers, but skiing in the country is not for the faint-hearted – Massoud Hossaini/Getty

11:27 AM

Laura Whitmore: ‘Going off piste through rural America was a great way to escape’

The TV presenter shares her travel experiences, including:

I went Awol in Bangkok while on a long layover

When I was 23, I was sent by MTV to Boracay Bay in the Philippines on my own. I had eight hours to kill between flights in Bangkok, so rather than sit around, I jumped in a cab and asked to see the markets at dusk. No one would have known where I was and I only told people afterwards. They were like, “What? Why would you do that?” but when you’re young, you don’t want to waste an opportunity.

Interrailing through Europe with your mates is a rite of passage that makes you a stronger person

Each person in our group had a different job, such as picking a hostel or being in charge of directions and the route. One place we arrived at was infested with spiders and we were like, “Right, who picked this, then?” At least we could laugh about it.

Read the full interview.

11:15 AM

Covid travel curbs ‘imposed in one in three destinations’

One in three destinations worldwide are now completely closed to international tourism, latest data from the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) shows, with total closures to tourists are most prevalent in Asia, the Pacific and Europe.

Though vaccination efforts are ramping up across the globe, many governments have reversed efforts to ease restrictions on travel due to the emergence of new variants of Covid-19 – 32 per cent of all destinations ( 69 in total) are shut for international tourism. Of these, just over half (38 destinations) have been closed for at least 40 weeks. At the same time, 34 per cent of worldwide destinations are now partially closed to international tourists.

Of the 69 destinations where borders are completely closed to tourists, 30 are in Asia and the Pacific, 15 are in Europe, 11 are in Africa, 10 are in the Americas and three are in the Middle East. The UNWTO travel restrictions report covers 217 countries.

On a more positive note, the research also indicates a trend towards adopting a more nuanced, risk-based approach to travel restrictions: as many as 32 per cent of all worldwide destinations now have the presenting of a negative PCR or antigen test as their main requirement for international arrivals, often combined with quarantine. The same amount have made tests a secondary or tertiary measure.

UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Polilikashvili said:

Travel restrictions have been widely used to restrict the spread of the virus. Now, as we work to restart tourism, we must recognise that restrictions are just one part of the solution. Their use must be based on the latest data and analysis and consistently reviewed so as to allow for the safe and responsible restart of a sector upon which many millions of businesses and jobs depend.

11:02 AM

Will cruise holidays make a comeback in 2021, and where will we be able to go?

After a year in which Britons have hardly been able to travel abroad, cruising is coming back – but starting close to home, writes Dave Monk.

Britain will be one of the safest bets for post-Covid cruising: P&O Cruises and Princess are planning to begin with round-Britain cruises, though dates and itineraries have yet to be announced, and Saga has pushed back its restart on Spirit of Discovery until June 27, with the inaugural cruise of sister ship Spirit of Adventure on July 26.

Fred Olsen has cancelled until the end of June. Cunard, currently suspended until the key date of May 17, is yet to show its hand. MSC Cruises is looking forward to basing MSC Magnifica at the new fifth terminal in Southampton.

Find more 2021 cruise options here.

Some of the UK's most beautiful corners can be found on British Isles cruises in 2021, such as Portree on the Isle of Skye - EASYTURN

Some of the UK’s most beautiful corners can be found on British Isles cruises in 2021, such as Portree on the Isle of Skye – EASYTURN

10:43 AM

Foreign travel permits are as grounded in reality as Willy Wonka

Those frustrated by today’s introduction of the Declaration to Travel form may find solace in Chris Leadbeater‘s takedown of the move. Comparing it to Roald Dahl’s timeless children’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he call the new forms “as pointless and impractical as a piece of confectionery that turns the consumer into a big blueberry.” Ouch.

In his acerbic send up, members of the government are considered for their casting potential as Willy Wonka:

Dominic Raab doesn’t have the hair to pull off the illustrated version of Roald Dahl’s most celebrated character, as sketched by Quentin Blake; Michael Gove doesn’t have the charisma for Gene Wilder’s 1971 movie impersonation. And we’ll skip swiftly past Johnny Depp’s wilfully eccentric 2005 cinematic take on the reclusive businessman, unless Jacob Rees-Mogg wants a crack at it.

As for the rest of the Westminster front-bench crew, Boris Johnson feels much better suited to the Augustus Gloop part – and perhaps Matt Hancock could be encouraged to don a green wig, clone himself, and perform a synchronised dance as an Oompa-Loompa. But while I’ve no doubt that Priti Patel can pull off a note-perfect Veruca Salt, no one really fits the persona of the figure at the centre of one of Britain’s most enduring stories.

Read the full story.

10:36 AM

How could vaccine passports work in practice?

Shawn Richards, the CEO of Ink Aviation, is the owner of tech that will hopefully make the vaccine passport process smoother. Below he shares what vaccinated travellers might be able to expect.

To make the experience more seamless for both passengers and airlines, Ink has developed a solution called Health APIS, which incorporates both paper and digital vaccination proof into a checking system. In practice, the airline would be able to scan any type of digital or paper health and vaccination certificate and, with the passengers’ consent, share the relevant data securely with the airline and destination government for evaluation.

Richards elaborates:

This technology is currently in place for Covid-19 test results and will work in the same way for vaccination records. Better yet, it can create a secure chain of communication from labs and health authorities all the way through to destination immigration, completely avoiding the possibility of fraud and assuring vaccination status even if the passenger does not have a phone.

Currently, checking documents is slowing down the departure process, leading to queues and delays – only four extra seconds checking each passenger can add an extra ten minutes to boarding time – so speed is critical. Some airlines have even been calling for the widespread adoption of purely digital travel passports to counter this, but most emerging solutions involve scanning QR codes into their own authenticator or app so it either does not work with existing airport infrastructure or each airline needs to choose which QR code to support.

The introduction of any QR Code wallet also faces an adoption ramp because most people will turn up to the airport with hard copy proof or software that is not integrated with the airline’s departure control process. Airlines will try to do pre-checks in the check-in hall but web-checked passengers without baggage tend to go straight to the gate. Fully automating all forms of data will be key in preventing vaccine passports from adding further delays to the travel experience.

10:17 AM

Vietnam could welcome vaccinated tourists from July

Tourism experts in Vietnam have stated that the country could start welcoming vaccinated foreign visitors back from July.

Nguyen Huu Tho, chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association (VTA), said that Vietnam has been one of the most successful countries in containing Covid-19 outbreaks, creating good conditions for the tourism industry to open up to international markets.

Thailand, which plans to open its doors to vaccinated foreign tourists already vaccinated from July 1, was used as an example, as was Singapore, which plans to do the same.

“Vietnam should prepare to receive international visitors from July to help the heavily-hit tourism industry recover as 95 percent of inbound travel firms have suspended operation,” Tho said during a meeting on March 3 to discuss the future of tourism in Vietnam.

Vietnam could reopen to tourists from July - Getty

Vietnam could reopen to tourists from July – Getty

“Promoting domestic tourism could bring in revenue but cannot save the tourism industry. The roadmap to opening up the international market is the only solution.”

Nguyen Thi Khanh, chairwoman of Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Association, added that a set of criteria for acceptable travellers would be essential, as many countries do not require isolation of vaccinated tourists or those carrying Covid-19 negative certificates. “The industry should aim at international markets that have responded effectively to the pandemic,” she continued.

Vu The Binh, VTA deputy chairman, said the opening of international markets could face public opposition, due to fears it could cause further Covid-19 outbreaks. However, Binh agreed that Vietnam shouldn’t fall behind other countries that are gearing up to recognise vaccine passports.

10:01 AM

Travel bookings surge as Cyprus and Portugal reopen to UK tourists

Cyprus and Portugal announced last week that they would open to British tourists this summer, and travel agents have reported a booking surge in response to the news.

Many are still reticent over timings, however, with most recent holiday bookings made for July and August – Cyprus has said it will start to welcome UK visitors from May 1, but very few have planned a holiday for that month.

“Cyprus has always been a favourite for our customers and we’ve seen a real uptick in bookings,” said a spokesperson for Tui, the package holiday company.

A spokesperson from Thomas Cook also reported a quarter more searches for Cyprus on Friday than on Thursday. People also spent 40 per cent longer on hotel pages, suggesting they were more likely to book. “So far, Portugal has not had as many bookings as normal. I think we will see an increase in interest this weekend,” they commented.

The Cypriot government said on March 4 that those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can enter the country without restrictions from May 1, while on March 5 Portugal said those who tested negative or were “immune” could visit.

09:42 AM

Virgin Atlantic names two planes after women

In celebration of International Women’s day, Virgin Atlantic has named two of its state-of-the-art planes after women.

The first, ‘Lady Emmeline’ pays homage to the founder of the Suffragette movement and women’s rights activist, Emmeline Pankhurst. All charitable donations received on-board Lady Emmeline will be distributed to a selection of women’s charities, when the plane enters service in April 2022.

The 'Lady Emmeline'

The ‘Lady Emmeline’

The second is named ‘Fearless Lady’, in celebration of the mother of the airline’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, after she sadly passed away in January: Eve Branson. Eve enlisted in the WRENS during World War II, taking gliding lessons disguised as a boy and working as a pioneering air hostess on the treacherous British South American Airways routes. Both planes are Airbus A350s.

09:24 AM

I’ll be taking my son out of school for a term-time holiday – and fines won’t stop me

As the daughter of a headmistress I was brought up to believe Teacher is Always Right – but not this time, writes Laura Fowler.

Back in December, this newspaper was full of stories about how the UK’s holiday cottages were all getting snapped up – saying if you wanted a Great British Break in 2021, you had to act fast. I myself wrote one of these stories. At home I would read such headlines aloud to my husband and we would discuss the urgency of booking something for ourselves, then promptly get stuck into a bottle of wine and forget to do anything about it. Imagine, then, my chagrin now that I come to book our own family holiday only to find that everything is indeed, exactly as predicted, booked solid from mid July to the start of September.

Read the full story.

09:12 AM

UK should prepare now for ‘difficult autumn’ and ‘hard winter’, warns Public Health England official

The UK should prepare for a “difficult autumn” due to the threat of new coronavirus variants emerging and a potential surge in other respiratory viruses, a senior health official has warned.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England’s strategic response director for COVID-19, said the population may have less immunity to respiratory viruses such as flu due to the coronavirus pandemic. She stated it was “highly unlikely” that a new COVID variant would derail the plan to start easing England’s lockdown “for the next three to five weeks” on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, but added: “We’ll need to monitor carefully as new strains come into the country from around the world.”

“We’ll need to be very ready for an autumn that could be challenging as these variants are there,” she continued. “We’re working very closely with vaccine manufacturers to see what they could do to develop new vaccines, but we’re also very conscious of the fact that what happened last summer, in late summer and early September, could happen again and we need to prepare for that and hope that it doesn’t happen.”

She went on to say that “six months away is a long time” and that it is “really difficult to predict what’s going to happen in the future” but “we have to prepare for a hard winter”, both from potential Covid variants and the flu, which the locked-down population may have lost their immunity to.

“We could see surges in flu, we could see surges in other respiratory viruses and other respiratory pathogens. It’s really important that we’re prepared from the NHS point of view, from public health and contact tracing, that we have everything ready to prepare for a difficult autumn.”

09:01 AM

The 30 best river cruises for 2021 and beyond

Even today’s grim travel news, can’t stop us dreaming of where we can go next. Voyages on these stunning routes are just the tonic for those craving an escape, writes Sara Macefield, who has selected 30 great river cruises for the months ahead.

Pull back the bamboo curtain to discover some of China’s most awe-inspiring landscapes on a three-night Yangtze River sailing through the deep canyons and sheer cliffs of the Three Gorges and Three Gorges Dam. The cruise is part of an 18-day tour that showcases the ancient attractions of Beijing’s Forbidden City and Great Wall with the Terracotta Army at Xi’an and neon metropolis of Shanghai. An endearing highlight is a chance to see baby pandas at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Institute.

Find the full list here.

The Three Gorges are found in one of the Yangtze river's most spectacular sections - Getty

The Three Gorges are found in one of the Yangtze river’s most spectacular sections – Getty

08:44 AM

Exit permit questions answered

Do I need a form to travel in the UK?

No, England’s ‘Declaration to Travel’ form is not required for travel within the UK, to Ireland, to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, the government’s guidance states. Different border rules apply for travel abroad from the devolved administrations.

When can I go on holiday again?

Foreign holidays are currently prohibited under lockdown legislation, and will not be permitted from England until May 17 – at the earliest. Read more on when holidays might return here.

Will I have to quarantine when I return to England?

Yes. All travellers returning to England are subject to a 10 day quarantine, with arrivals from red-listed countries required to pay up to £1,750 for a stay in a designated hotel. Find the full list of red-listed countries here.

What counts as an essential reason to travel?

At present all holidays – at home or overseas – are illegal under the “stay-at-home” rule. The limited number of exemptions include certain types of work, urgent family matters and medical treatment. The earliest possible date for going abroad from England for leisure is 17 May.

08:14 AM

What happened last week?

The main headlines from Friday:

  • Cyprus to open up for vaccinated tourists on May 1

  • Seychelles to reopen to all visitors from March 25

  • Eurowings to enter UK holiday market

  • RNLI issues warning ahead of fair weather weekend

  • Thailand considers allowing vaccinated tourists to skip quarantine

  • Andalucía introduces Covid-19 insurance for visitors ​

  • Save Our Summer campaign: Replace travel corridors with testing

Now onto today’s news.

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