British holidaymakers are in a state of confusion as quarantine rules are relaxed for Portugal and tightened for Croatia (among others). Jenny Southan reports
A week after countries including France, Malta and the Netherlands were added to the UK’s “red” list, meaning arrivals have to quarantine for two weeks to make sure they don’t have Covid-19. Austria, Croatia, and Trinidad and Tobago are also having their “air corridor” status removed. They will go on the red list from 4am BST on Saturday.
With the rules changing so quickly and with so little notice, this means that unless holidaymakers are comfortable with quarantining on return (they can work from home and don’t have children that need to be in school, for example), and are content to over-ride FCO advisories to avoid all but “essential travel” to these places, then this will put an end to summer holidays abroad.
Patrick Ikhena, Head of Travel Insurance at comparethemarket.com says: “As yet another round of restrictions are announced, it is becoming clear that no travel is risk-free in 2020. Even if you have booked a holiday to one of the smaller islands in Croatia or Greece, where some of these may have low to non-existent infection rates, your trip will fall under the same remit as visiting the mainland, affecting your travel insurance as a result.
“Generally speaking, if the FCO has not explicitly stated that you shouldn’t travel to these regions but you want to cancel to avoid quarantine, your policy will likely not pay out as your decision will be considered ‘disinclination to travel’.
“Many providers have begun to offer ‘enhanced Covid-cover’ to give passengers additional cover and peace of mind before travelling abroad. Whilst these policies are unlikely to cover you or your travel companions if you travel to a region against FCO advice, this type of cover is likely to pay out for cancellation should you contract Covid-19 before travelling. Such enhanced coverage is also likely to protect you in the event that FCO advice prevents you from going away, as well as any emergency medical care and repatriation costs.
“If your holiday plans have been impacted by the government’s decision, it may be worth contacting your airline or other transportation providers who may be able to offer you a change of destination. Those who still choose to travel to Croatia, Austria or Trinidad and Tobago must follow FCO guidance first and foremost and check for any local restrictions and requirements ahead of departure.
“With popular tourist destinations such as Spain, France and now Croatia increasingly seen as more risky holiday destinations in light of growing Covid-19 infection rates, it is essential that travellers keep a close eye on restrictions, infection rates and the latest FCO advice for your desired holiday destination, as these can change daily.”
On the plus side, Portugal has finally managed to find its way on to the UK’s “green” list, meaning holidaymakers (for the time being) can visit the country without the hassle of quarantining on their return. This is great news for the country as more tourists come from the UK than anywhere else (about two million a year).
Virginia Messina, managing director for the World Travel and Tourism Council, says: “WTTC is relieved that thousands of British holidaymakers can now at long last go on holiday to Portugal thanks to the country finally being removed from the UK government’s quarantine list.
“This news is a welcome shot in the arm for the fragile travel and tourism sector – both in the UK and Portugal. We hope it will also go some way to restoring the confidence of consumers to travel in safety again and enjoy a late summer holiday away.
“But many more holidaymakers will be hugely disappointed that if they go to Austria, Croatia, and Trinidad and Tobago it will mean they face having to quarantine for 14-days on their return. It just creates more uncertainty for the travel and tourism sector when they can least afford it.
“With countries moving so quickly on and off the quarantine list, in response to changing coronavirus rates, it shows now more than ever how important it is that we have strong international co-ordination and a comprehensive programme of testing for anyone who wants to travel either for business or leisure.
“Only a rapid, reliable and affording testing regime will help stop Covid-19 in its tracks and save the three million travel and tourism jobs at risk in the UK alone.”
According to travel data and analytics expert Cirium, between August 20 and August 31, a total of 719 flights are scheduled to depart from the UK to Portugal. This equates to 127,975 seats and many of them will be booked as people rush to fit in a last-minute holiday.
There are a total of 75 routes from the UK to Portugal, operated by seven carriers – Ryanair, British Airways, Jet2, Easyjet, TUI Airways, TAP Portugal and Wizz Air.
AITO director Noel Josephides says: “I and fellow AITO members specialising in holidays to Portugal are delighted to be able to sell this wonderful destination again – just in time for the last couple of weeks of the peak summer season, but also in time for the glorious autumnal months of September and October, right into November.”
Countries such as Croatia, on the other hand, will now suffer a downturn in tourists as people from the UK cancel trips. According to Cirium, between August 19 and September 30, a total of 767 flights were scheduled to depart from the UK to Croatia – this equates to 129,796 seats. But many of these will be empty and some flights might be cancelled.
There are a total of 45 routes from the UK to Croatia, operated by six carriers – Easyjet, Jet2, British Airways, Wizz Air, Croatia Airlines and Ryanair.
Over half (57.8 per cent) of all scheduled UK-Croatia flights over the period are operated by Easyjet, followed by British Airways (17.5 per cent) and Jet2 (15 per cent).