Even as the United Kingdom lifts some of its restrictions on international travel Monday and thousands of travellers line up at airports across the country, some experts and politicians are saying they should still avoid going abroad this summer to so-called “amber” or “red” countries.
“People should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it’s absolutely necessary, and certainly not for holiday purposes,” Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock told Times Radio, adding that travellers would need an “absolutely compelling reason” to do so.
A member of the government’s vaccine task force, Professor John Bell, said that visiting Europe remains risky as many countries remain “largely unvaccinated” and “vulnerable to new variants.”
With only 12 countries on the list of “green” countries for quarantine-free travel, including such unlikely destinations as the Falkland Islands, St. Helena and the South Georgia Island, the number of true holiday hotspots is limited.
Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel firm The PC Agency, told the Daily Mail that sales data showed that people were ignoring the amber list advice and booking trips to coincide with the end of the official travel ban.
“The government has to change its message. It is not illegal to travel, you can travel safely and responsibly to any country if they will let you in,” Charles told the newspaper.
“Now is the time to travel safely. But they are still trying to instil fear into people at a time when the most vulnerable have been jabbed and mortalities are at a record low,” he said.
British Airways and Heathrow executives said the government was being too cautious and should release a list of destinations under consideration for summer travel so that people can plan their holidays.
Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said that France, Greece and Spain should be included on the green list as soon as possible and told The Guardian that he was “surprised and disappointed” that the Caribbean wasn’t included.
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said that it is “clear to us that America should be on the green list.”
“The importance of the US and UK [air travel market] cannot be underestimated,” he said during a press conference.
There are some indications that the green list will be expanded in the near future with Spain’s Canary Islands being a likely addition, according to a report in The Express.
Meanwhile, at least one nation on the amber list is offering cash incentives to lure British travellers:
Malta will pay tourists up to 200€ to visit its islands this summer. Would this be enough incentive for you to plan your summer holidays in Malta?
PS: Malta is currently on UK Government's "amber list" for international travel. #COVID19 https://t.co/iAANeaWsTr
— Nezahat Eve Sevim (@sevimnezahat) May 16, 2021
You’d think that travel agents would be selling holidays to anyone who wants them, but at least one UK agency won’t be booking trips for this June, July and August to avoid the hassle of refunding them in case they are cancelled.
Every travel firm in the UK wants to sell as many holidays this summer as they possibly can.
Or do they?
Online travel agent On the Beach says: “We’re not selling holidays for June, July & August.”
Aims to minimise number of rearranged/refunded trips.https://t.co/KK01rBkzxy
— Simon Calder (@SimonCalder) May 13, 2021