Covid: Holiday bookings set to soar after government announces relaxation of international travel rules

Travellers who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed on Friday (17 September) that the traffic light system is set to be replaced from 4 October by a single, reduced “red list” of destinations where travellers arriving in England will have to quarantine in a government-supervised hotel.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • People who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations
  • From the end of October travellers will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test
  • The chief executive of Thomas Cook said October half-term bookings were up 200% compared to August
  • Online travel agency Skyscanner said it saw a 133% spike in traffic in the 30 minutes following Mr Shapps’s announcement
  • There had also been “huge increases” in searches for destinations such as Turkey and the Maldives ahead of Friday’s announcement

What’s been said

Alan French, chief executive of travel firm Thomas Cook, said October half-term bookings were up 200% compared to August. He said he expected this figure to increase as a result of the change to travel rules.

He said: “Based on our bookings already today, I would expect this weekend to be the biggest of the year so far as people take advantage of the great deals on offer, the new easier rules on testing and the simplified system for international travel.”

Andrew Flintham, managing director of holiday company TUI UK, said he had seen “an uptick in bookings for Turkey in October” and expected a boost in customer confidence with the new travel rules.

Background

Following the announcement, concerns have been raised over the changed approach to Covid-19 testing when it comes to travel.

Labour has raised concerns over how the monitoring for Covid variants will continue amid the plans to scrap PCR test requirements.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “PCR tests play a crucial role in identifying variants of concern and ministers must now set out in detail exactly how they will continue this surveillance – including whether they plan to increase sequencing of tests – to ensure we do not see a repeat of the failings that allowed the Delta variant to spread rapidly through the country.”

The Scottish Government said it would also drop the traffic light system, but will not follow England in removing the pre-departure test requirement for fully vaccinated travellers returning from non-red list countries.

Scotland will also not follow England in using lateral flow tests on day two at this stage.

The Welsh Government said it would consider the UK Government’s proposed changes, but health and social services minister Eluned Morgan warned they could “weaken the line of defence on importing infection and increase opportunities for new infections and new variants to enter the UK and Wales”.

However, both Scotland and Wales said they would mirror the changes to the red list destinations.