Now for the holiday BOOM: Bookings to Tenerife soar by 220% and New York is up 100% as Jet2 returns to pre-pandemic levels and travel operators say relaxed Covid rules have ‘uncorked the confidence bottle’ as families spend £500 MORE than before pandemic
The end of Covid test requirements for travel has sparked a boom in bookings and enquiries – with some firms reporting a 220 per cent increase on last week.
Painful, expensive and slow PCR testing under rules imposed by Boris Johnson‘s government had decimated the travel industry.
The regulations – which often saw tests have to be paid for before and after UK arrival – bewildered sector experts.
They said it was an utterly unnecessary expense that turned people off going away and made everything cost more money, when the variant they had been introduced to stop was running rampant through the UK.
But now fully-vaccinated people returning to the UK no longer needed to take a covid test before travelling and will not need to self-isolate until they receive a negative test result after arrival.
The requirement for a PCR test within two days of arrival for fully-vaccinated people has also been replaced with a cheaper lateral flow test.
It has given the industry a much-needed shot in the arm with some companies claiming an up to 220 per cent increase in bookings or enquiries.
Tenerife has proved popular with people enquiring and booking about new holidays this year
New York has seen the highest UK travel boost as tourists flock to the Big Apple to holiday
The fun and excitement of theme parks and attractions at Orlando has also been chosen
Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, said: ‘Demand for holidays this year is quickly beginning to pick up. Holidaymakers were keen to react to the relaxation of testing rules this weekend and we’ve noticed departures before the end of March are beginning to grow with over 20% of new bookings representing a lates market.
‘Our holiday enquiries have increased by 165% and we expect a buoyant market in January for forward bookings.
‘For our top destinations – Tenerife, Orlando and New York – there has been noticeable growth this week as customers look to secure deals for 2022 getaways. Bookings to Tenerife have soared by over 220%, Orlando is up by 64% and New York has grown by over 100%.
‘There’s a trend for familiarity this year: holidaymakers are definitely returning to their most-loved destinations this year – reflected in the sharp rise in bookings for our favourite holiday spots. Summer 2022 was already the most popular booking season due to holiday postponements and the volume of rebooking from last year.
‘Availability will begin to dwindle sooner than is usual for this time of year and we recommend that anyone looking to travel in 2022 – particularly for spring or summer – should book sooner rather than later.’
Passengers no longer needed to have taken a pre-arrival lateral flow test. The changes will have a family of four about £300
Pictured A busy terminal 5 arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport yesterday after the rules were relaxed so passengers arriving back into the UK no longer need to take a PCR test
Fully vaccinated travellers and under-18s arriving in the UK will be able to take a lateral flow test rather than the more expensive PCR version for their post-arrival test from 4am on Sunday
What will the new travel rules be for UK tourists?
If you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England (meaning at least 14 days has passed since your second jab), and you will arrive in England from today (Friday, January 7), you do not need to:
- Take a Covid test before you travel to England
- Quarantine when you arrive in England
If you qualify as fully vaccinated and will arrive in England after 4am this Sunday (January 9), you can choose to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test after you arrive in England.
If you take a lateral flow test and test positive, you will need to self-isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR.
You must book the test before you travel to England. You can book lateral flows from today.
You must take the lateral flow test no later than the end of day two after arriving. For example, if you arrive on a Monday, this would be by the end of the Wednesday.
You cannot use a lateral flow until after 4am this Sunday. Before this time, you must use a PCR test after arrival.
The fully vaccinated rules also apply to children aged 17 and under, people taking part in an approved vaccine trial, and people who are unable to have a vaccination due to medical reasons. Click here for more details
Travel expert Paul Charles told MailOnline the end to the restrictions had given people the encouragement to holiday again.
He said: ‘People had been worried the government might keep onerous testing rules in place.
‘The relaxation of thee restrictions has uncorked the confidence bottle.
‘I think the end of January could see a lot of last minute trips. Across the board sales for Europe and the Caribbean are doing very well.
‘I think people are sensing the Government has turned a corner on this and won’t be going back.
‘I think France will make some change this week but will be fully opened up by the end of January, just in time for the ski season
‘I was speaking to the CEO of the Wild Frontiers firm and they have seen a 166% increase in inquiries since last week.
‘They, like a lot of places, were hit hard during the heavy restrictions.’
Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: ‘Bookings have gone through the roof since the move away from pre-departure and PCR testing last week, which proves what we have always said about demand being there for holidays and trips abroad.
‘People have just been waiting for these onerous resrictions to be removed and they have responded in droves, with bookings in some cases almost back to pre-pandemic levels. Ministers should be commended for moving us in the right direction, but we will never return to full health as long as we persist with even the less expensive LFDs.
‘With Omicron now known to be less severe than initially feared – and transmission very much spread across the whole of the UK – we should follow the example set by other countries across europe and scrap testing altogether for the fully-vaccinated. We need to go further to ensuring a proper vaccine dividend for international travel.’
Britons can fly to 16 countries for under £10 this month – including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain
Cheapest flights available for Britons this month
- £4 to Croatia: London Stansted to Zagreb (Ryanair, January 22, 0830-1150, 2h20m)
- £5 to Italy: London Luton to Rome (WizzAir, January 22, 1020-1350, 2h30m)
- £5 to Netherlands: London Stansted to Eindhoven (Ryanair, January 22, 0615-0830, 1h05m)
- £6 to Norway: London Stansted to Oslo (Ryanair, January 22, 1800-2100, 2h)
- £6 to Poland: London Stansted to Krakow (Ryanair, January 22, 0840-1155, 2h15m)
- £7 to Austria: London Stansted to Vienna (Ryanair, January 22, 0830-1135, 2h05m)
- £8 to Bulgaria: London Stansted to Sofia (Ryanair, January 25, 0635-1135, 3h)
- £8 to Ireland: London Stansted to Dublin (Ryanair, January 25, 0530-0745, 1h15m)
- £9 to Czech Republic: London Stansted to Prague (Ryanair, January 25, 1145-1435, 1h50m)
- £9 to Denmark: London Stansted to Copenhagen (Ryanair, January 26, 0840-1125, 1h45m)
- £9 to Germany: London Stansted to Berlin (Ryanair, January 22, 0730-1010, 1h40m)
- £9 to Greece: London Stansted to Athens (Ryanair, January 25, 1545-2115, 3h30m)
- £9 to Latvia: London Stansted to Riga (Ryanair, January 19, 0620-1055, 2h35m)
- £9 to Portugal: London Stansted to Lisbon (Ryanair, January 25, 0620-0910, 2h50m)
- £9 to Romania: London Luton to Bucharest (WizzAir, January 22, 1650-2205, 3h15m)
- £9 to Spain: London Stansted to Zaragoza (Ryanair, January 22, 1245-1555, 2h10m)
- £9 to Sweden: London Stansted to Gothenburg (Ryanair, January 25, 1845-2140, 1h55m)
Checked by MailOnline on Skyscanner. Flight arrival and departures times are local.
Jet2 and Jet2holidays chief executive Steve Heapy said: ‘The relaxation of travel restrictions is welcome news for both the travel industry and Scottish holidaymakers, and comes during what is traditionally a very busy period for holiday bookings.
‘We have seen an immediate and dramatic spike in bookings, with volumes since the Government announcement heading towards pre-pandemic levels, which demonstrates just how much demand is out there amongst people in Scotland wanting to get away for a much-needed holiday.’
Mainland Spain, the Canaries, the Balearic Islands, Turkey, and Greece were among the most popular choices for holiday makers.
Dame Irene Hays, the owner of Britain’s biggest independent travel agent, said on Saturday she believed 2022 could finally be the year Britain got a proper holiday.
As soon as Boris Johnson scrapped stringent Covid tests for holidaymakers heading overseas, the phones started ringing off the hook at Hays Travel.
With staff at her 455 shops now rolling their sleeves up to handle the surge of bookings to holiday hotspots from Spain to the Maldives and Caribbean cruises, she says: ‘When the announcement was made, it was such a sense of relief that this barrier and constraint has been removed.
‘The feeling at Hays Travel was one of jubilation.’
Bookings are up 53 per cent since the Prime Minister confirmed on Wednesday that predeparture tests and quarantine on arrival would be scrapped for healthy vaccinated passengers from 4am last Friday.
Lateral flow tests have now replaced PCR tests on arrival and are much cheaper.
As a sign of the huge pent-up demand and lockdown savings, Dame Irene says her sun-starved customers are spending £478 more than before the pandemic.
An average family has splashed out £2,698 on a holiday over the past few days compared with £2,220 in 2019.
Hotel booking platform hoo said it thought things were on the up for the industry.
Co-founder, Adrian Murdock said: ‘We hoped 2021 would be a better year after 2020, but really it was much the same.
‘Very difficult for lots of people and the rise of Omicron halted many planned Christmas celebrations.
‘With any luck, however, 2022 really is going to be better, so what better way of putting the hard times behind us than with a January getaway?
‘Whether it’s sun or snow you’re looking for, there are some great locations that are not only affordable but also accessible thanks to eased travel restrictions and increasing vaccination levels.
Add to this the fact that hotels around the world are keen to attract winter customers with generous room discounts and there’s never been a better time to take an early break from reality.
‘Just be sure to check the current travel guidelines before booking.’
Mr Johnson announced the move in the House of Commons on Wednesday, telling MPs: ‘When the Omicron variant was first identified, we rightly introduced travel restrictions to slow its arrival in our country.
‘But now Omicron is so prevalent, these measures are having limited impact on the growth in cases, while continuing to pose significant costs on our travel industry.
‘So I can announce that in England from 4am on Friday, we will be scrapping the pre-departure test, which discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense.’
The announcement – which covers those passengers who are fully-vaccinated or are under the age of 18 – was broadly welcomed by the travel industry, which has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said it would be a ‘massive boost’ for the sector at a ‘critical’ time of the year.
NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel, and the tests must be brought from a private provider.
People who have already brought PCR tests for travelling needs can still use them.