Surely, then, by the end of February we will have seen a run of far more encouraging numbers. And there is a very good chance that there will be a big uptick in confidence and a growing desire to get back to normal. A week or two in the Mediterranean will surely be high on many people’s wishlist as a way of celebrating.
Of course there are many unknowables. We don’t know for sure how effective the vaccines will be against new strains, how many people will refuse to take them, and how long any immunity offered by the vaccine will last.
And – though it would be wonderful news – bringing down the death rate in Britain doesn’t necessarily solve the problem for the would-be traveller. If transmission stays high among young people during the coming months (those in their 20 and 30s aren’t expected to be vaccinated until next summer) then countries with less advanced programmes of vaccination may not be so keen on welcoming British visitors. So we are unlikely to see an end to frequent adjustments and sudden changes to the travel corridor arrangements for some months to come.
However, it may well be that some form of proof of vaccination enables those who do have immunity to travel. And given that the Pfizer vaccine has now been approved for use in the EU, it seems likely – Brexit setbacks aside – that holidays to Europe will be the first to return to something like normality. The USA has already begun rolling out its vaccination programme and looks like another likely contender for a significant restart of tourism, though traditionally far more of us travel there in summer than at Easter.
Another factor to consider is how airlines and tour operators, which have been so badly burned by so many false starts, respond to growing consumer confidence and a relaxation of travel restrictions. They will be wary, but they will also be extremely keen to start taking bookings and increasing capacity again as soon as possible.
Finally, I suppose, we must also wait to see what happens in the Brexit negotiations. However, while it is certain to make life more difficult for travellers, I don’t think the outcome will make much difference to our determination to go on holiday in 2021.
So that is my rationale for predicting an Easter restart. Maybe things will improve slightly earlier, maybe we will have to wait for May. But surely if the vaccine developers are right and they are rolled out on schedule, by the spring we will be back on the road again. Touch wood.