Pressure is mounting on the Government to reduce the testing burden on holidaymakers when international travel rules are reviewed on Wednesday.
Some travel industry insiders are calling for pre-departure tests to be scrapped entirely and day 2 PCR tests to be downgraded to rapid tests, with rules requiring arrivals to self-isolate until they receive their result to end.
Travel consultant Paul Charles tweeted that though he expected the requirement to take a test before returning to the UK be axed, arrival test rules should also be eased.
“These particular measures kill off inbound business and leisure travel and still cost a small fortune on top of the trip itself. LFT (lateral flow) tests are good enough,” he wrote.
The calls follow reports that senior government figures are pushing for pre-departure tests, brought in to prevent the arrival of omicron from overseas, to be scrapped because of omicron’s dominance within the UK.
Henry Smith, the Tory chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on aviation, told The Telegraph last week: “These emergency restrictions simply aren’t required any longer, but every week they are imposed means more money lost to the Treasury, a further erosion of our international competitiveness and jobs threatened.”
Scroll down for the latest updates.
The world’s Covid hotspots
Eastern Europe remains the hardest hit region when it comes to Covid deaths. Moldova has a seven-day fatality rate of 24.18 per million, the highest of any country, while Georgia (12.89), Poland (12.23) and Hungary (10.25) occupy fourth, fifth and sixth place.
The figure for the UK is 1.87, below the European Union average of 3.73 and the US average of 3.71.
Travel shares rise as omicron fears allayed
Ahead of the expected easing of testing rules for UK travellers tomorrow, Ryanair shares rose 10% on Tuesday, while British Airways-owner IAG gained over 12%, reflecting expectations that omicron’s impact on the holiday industry would be less severe than initially feared.
“As far as markets are concerned omicron is in the rear view mirror,” Colin Asher, senior economist at Mizuho, told Reuters.
“The main focus was on a collapse in demand and now because demand has recovered so quickly, the focus is more on the supply… it will prolong supply chain delays and push prices higher rather than push activity down.”
Mexico welcomed a remarkable 31 million international arrivals in 2021
While most nations endured a worse 2021 than 2020, tourism wise, new figures have shown that Mexico recorded an impressive 28.1% year-on-year rise in international visitors, to 31m.
How has Mexico made a relative success of tourism’s double annus horribilis? Simply put, by making holidays simple. Its Covid restrictions are almost non-existent. Visitors must simply register their details online before boarding their flight, and then show a QR code upon arrival. No testing, no vaccine requirements and no wonder so many have flocked there for a laid-back escape.
When is the next Covid travel update, and what can we expect to change?
Costly and stressful testing requirements could be reduced or even scrapped in this week’s travel update, writes Emma Featherstone.
Pre-departure tests for travel to the UK could be axed following the January 5 update.
A number of senior figures in the Government are pushing for this test requirement to be dropped, with ministers insisting that the rapid spread of the omicron variant has made it pointless.
Day 2 PCRs, and the requirement to self-isolate until testing negative, could also be reconsidered.
Before the tightening of testing rules in early December, a lateral flow test on or before day two (with the arrival day being day zero) was deemed sufficient – and no self-isolation requirement was in place for fully vaccinated adults or under-18s.
Additions to the red list seem unlikely – the UK’s own high infection rates should rule this out. Keep in mind that the red category was initially introduced as a mitigation against “variants of concern”. The quarantine hotel policy remained in place following the latest review, despite the emptying of the red list. The Government said it was a “crucial line of defence against the importation of variants of concern”.
10 predictions for travel in 2022
Things may feel a little uncertain right now – but in 2022, you can be sure that your holidays will be more wonder-filled in every way, writes Laura Fowler.
Of all the seismic shifts in travel right now, it’s our desire for different that over-ridingly informs how we’ll be holidaying in 2022.
We want escapism and otherness, mountains and oceans, a trip that’s as far away from the routine of daily life as it’s possible to get. Even if we’re not planning on getting on a plane any time soon, we still want something special.
Destinations are opening up, and after so long to dream – and save – we’re spending more, going for longer, embracing offbeat experiences and immersing ourselves more deeply in exciting and unfamiliar cultures, and doing it more conscientiously. Despite the uncertainty, one thing’s for sure – in 2022, travel will be better, bigger, more wonder-filled in every way.
Brazilian cruise ships suspend operations after Covid outbreaks
Cruise lines in Brazil will pause operations until January 21, after health authorities advised against cruise travel following several offshore Covid outbreaks, reports Reuters.
The industry association Clia said no ships will set sail during the “voluntary” suspension period, which could be extended, while those already at sea will complete their trips.
Last week, Brazil’s national health regulator Anvisa recommended cruise companies temporarily halted operations after five ships off Brazil’s coast detected more than 300 new Covid cases.
“In the last few weeks, (cruise lines) experienced a series of situations that impacted directly in the operation of their ships, making the continuity of the cruises unworkable at this moment,” Clia said in a statement.
The easiest last-minute winter holiday options
With the Government expected to ease testing requirements this week, our experts highlight the best options for a last-minute winter break.
For hassle-free sunshine
While countries around the globe have been tightening restrictions in recent weeks, Mexico lingers in a restriction-free, pre-Covid timewarp.
It is mandatory to register on the Mexico Vuela Seguro Platform before boarding your flight to Mexico, and to show a QR code generated by the system upon arrival at the airport. But that’s it. No vaccine requirements, no testing.
The Yucatán Peninsula, a sultry, low-lying limestone plateau full of sinkholes and fringed by white-sand beaches, is the best place for the sort of laid-back holiday we’re all in need of right now.
For guaranteed sun and good-value luxury, the Caribbean may appeal most this winter. A number of islands have welcomed visitors with stipulations such as quarantine periods during which they must remain in the grounds of their hotel. Jamaica has this type of policy in place, but the bounds of its ‘resilient corridor’ rules should not thwart your holiday enjoyment – you stay within your hotel or resort and can take permitted excursions.
There are two portions of Jamaica open to tourists through this policy: a Northern section that stretches from Negril across the northern coastline to Port Antonio and a south coast segment running from Milk River westward to Negril. Here’s our insider guide to the home of reggae and rum.
Cyprus considers new Covid measures as per capita rate tops world
Authorities in Cyprus are set to meet today to consider new restrictions to control a Covid infection rate that is now the highest in the world per capita.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and scientific advisers will discuss measures that could include a delayed start to the new school term and restrictions on church gatherings as the island prepares to mark Epiphany, a key date in the Greek Orthodox religious calendar, on Thursday.
Like other European countries, the Mediterranean island has been hit by a surge in cases of the highly contagious omicron variant.
According to Agence France-Presse figures, Cyprus recorded the world’s highest Covid infection rate per capita over the past seven days, standing at 2,505 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Comment: The ongoing demonisation of cruises flies in the face of reason
Americans have been warned not to sail as the cruise industry is cast as the evil villain of the Covid pandemic once again, writes Sara Macefield.
Cruise case rates are significantly lower than those reported on land and the stringent raft of tests and protocols that cruise companies employ have made their ships some of the safest places to be since cruising resumed.
Yet last week’s advisory by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which warned Americans to avoid taking cruise holidays even if they are fully vaccinated, carried with it all the scapegoating stigma that has tainted this sector since the coronavirus first reared its head in early 2020.
The CDC ruling – and its decision to place cruises on the highest Level 4 alert footing – was prompted by a spate of Covid outbreaks on cruise ships in the run-up to Christmas that saw some vessels turned away from Caribbean ports.
Yes, case numbers had jumped significantly as the omicron variant rampaged across the world, with the CDC reporting that between December 15-29, Covid cases submitted by cruise ships in US waters reached 5,013.
The authority currently lists 110 ships sailing in US waters, with nearly all of them under investigation.
But unlike other market sectors, cruise lines have to report every positive test result and the threshold for CDC investigation is when they reach 0.1 per cent among passengers, or a single case among the ship’s crew. On ships carrying around 6,500 passengers and crew, this equates to seven people.
Thousands of US flights cancelled amid bad weather and staff shortages
Thousands of US flights were cancelled over the weekend due to bad weather and Covid-related staff shortages.
Almost 2,400 flights to and from the US were cancelled on Saturday, and more than 1,100 were delayed, according to the plane tracking company FlightAware.com. The website said more than 1,500 flights were also cancelled Sunday.
A significant snow storm across swathes of the country is expected to add to the travel disruptions in the coming days as Covid-related staff absences. The US recorded more than one million new infections yesterday, a new global record.
‘Good news’ for Scottish ski resorts as snowfall set to increase
Parts of the UK will face localised blizzard conditions and up to 80mph winds as the mild seasonal highs of the past few days are replaced by a cold front, reports PA.
Tuesday will be “noticeably colder across the whole of the country”, the Met Office said, with temperatures peaking at 8C or 9C in the South and about 4C or 5C in Scotland.
In England, this might bring snow over the Pennines and North York moors, but it will be “pretty wet stuff”, forecaster Simon Partridge said.
In Aberdeenshire and northern and eastern Scotland, winds of up to 80mph could create “localised blizzard conditions”, with the Met Office issuing warnings of snow and ice for travellers.
Aviemore, in Scotland, saw five centimetres of snow on Monday, which would be added to overnight, Mr Partridge said, suggesting that this might be “good news” for the Cairngorms town’s ski resorts.
“But I’m not sure they’ll be overly happy about the strength of the wind,” he added.
France increases aid to tourism firms
The French government said it will simplify access to crisis funds and could delay loan repayments for businesses struggling as a surge in omicron cases hits tourism and leisure activities across the country.
“We are standing by firms and workers in difficulty,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said after meeting with representatives of business groups.
“This method has allowed to relaunch economic activity very quickly and very strongly,” he added.
France has reported record numbers of new Covid infections in recent days but continues to ban travel from the UK.
Thailand urges uptake of booster shots as omicron cases rise
Thailand’s health ministry on Tuesday called on people to come forward to get booster vaccinations after reporting cases of the highly contagious omicron coronavirus variant had more than doubled over the holiday period.
The Southeast Asian country has recorded 2,062 cases of the omicron variant so far, health official Supakit Sirilak told a news conference, up from 740 cases before the holidays.
Health authorities have warned of the risk of a surge of infections after the holidays when people travelled home and gathered at restaurants for celebrations.
Up to now, Thailand has vaccinated 64.1 per cent of an estimated 72 million people in the country with two doses, government data shows, while officials said only 9.8 per cent had received a third booster shot.
The country will suspend quarantine-free travel for overseas visitors from January 10, reverting to its Phuket ‘sandbox’ programme, where travellers must stay in designated areas.
Passengers leave Covid-hit cruise ship after five days in Lisbon
Almost 3,000 guests stuck on a Covid-hit cruise ship moored in Lisbon’s port for several days finally began disembarking yesterday.
The AIDAnova has been docked in the Portuguese capital since last Wednesday. The ship had been sailing to Madeira for New Year’s Eve, but the cruise was cancelled after Covid cases were detected among the crew.
A total of 68 positive cases, including a few among the passengers have been recorded, port captain Diogo Vieira Branco told the Lusa news agency.
The ship’s operator, AIDA Cruises, said all those infected had mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.
All crew and passengers over 12 had been fully vaccinated and were required to show a negative rapid antigen test before departure, it added.
France vows to go ahead with vaccine pass
French government officials have vowed to enact a law to block unvaccinated people from hospitality venues by mid-January, despite the legislation hitting a procedural hitch in parliament.
“January 15 remains our goal,” for the law coming into force, Clement Beaune, European Affairs Minister told LCI television.
Until now France has enforced a Covid-19 health pass, which means in order to get into restaurants, cafes or cinemas or board trains, people need to either show a fresh negative test, or proof of vaccination.
The legislation will remove the option of showing a negative test, effectively barring unvaccinated people from hospitality venues or trains.
It has faced fierce resistance but is backed by the government which has a majority in parliament.
Feature: The forgotten country that’s home to some of Europe’s best skiing – and still open to Britons
With France closed and rules tightening in the Alps, this could be the winter to discover skiers’ secret, Slovakia, writes Peter Hardy.
Jasná Nízke Tatry – to give it its full name – is located in the Low Tatras mountain range. Understandably you might think that the nearby High Tatras, with resorts such as Tatranská Lomnica, Starý Smokovec and Štrbské Pleso offer superior skiing. In fact, the reverse is true. Jasna has more diverse terrain and longer vertical drop of over 1,000m.
The skiing takes place on both the north and south sides of the rounded 2,024m summit of Mt Chopok. The modern lift system rivals that of major Alpine resorts and the tempting array of equipment and clothing that greeted us in the ski shop would not be out of place in the French 3 Valleys (and it’s half the price). If Jasna were in Austria or Italy it would rank in the top ten of that country’s ski areas.
Germany ends UK travel ban from today
Germany has officially relaxed restrictions on travel from the UK, plus eight southern African countries that were imposed in response to the omicron variant.
The nine nations were removed from Germany’s list of “virus variant areas” today.
Airlines and others are restricted largely to transporting German citizens and residents from countries on the list and all arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of vaccination status.
Germany’s national disease control centre had announced on Thursday that it planned to downgrade the countries’ risk status but said at the time that “short-term changes” were possible.
Indonesia cuts quarantine for international travellers
Indonesia has shortened its mandatory quarantine period for arriving overseas travellers
Most international arrivals will be required quarantine for seven days, down from 10, while those travelling from countries deemed high-risk must quarantine for 10 days, as opposed to 14.
The easing of travel restrictions is in stark contrast to the approach taken in other countries in the Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, which has tightened rules in recent weeks.
French ski ban costing resorts an estimated 600 million euros
A UK ski company has highlighted the devastating impact of the ongoing French travel ban, predicting it could cost ski resorts up to 600 million euros over the course of the season
A spokesperson for the Oxford Ski Company said:
As French resorts continue to plead with the government to relax the current restrictions, we as a UK agent continue to look ahead into the abyss, with no indication of a review date or restriction shift.
When the initial announcement was made, Christophe Lavaut, director of Val d’Isere, said: ‘It’s an economic disaster. No business in any sector can make it, losing 42 per cent of its clients in two days.’
Since then, resorts in France have been told they will receive financial support to fill the void left by the absent UK contingent. In 2018 the revenue generated by ski resorts in France was €1.4billion (Statista 2018), which based on Mr Lavaut’s metrics would suggest a country-wide financial sacrifice of over €600million – and whilst this is said to be “filled” by central government, the repayment of this debt will fall on the citizens of France for years to come, who are already crying out for our return.
As the new year approaches with a proverbial “whiteout” for those wishing to travel to France, we continue to assess the 72 per cent of our clients who are still set to travel to France this year, and for whom the prospect of travel remains exciting and enticing, albeit (for the time being at least) almost impossible.
We remain positive for announcements in the new year, for the benefit of both the UK travel industry and our hosts in France, but also for our clients, who still yearn to hit the French slopes this winter. The snow is deep, the skies are blue and after an 18-month hiatus, the lifts are turning
How to prove you’ve recovered from Covid in order to travel
If you have recovered from Covid, you may be exempt from testing – or even vaccination – requirements when travelling overseas. The likes of Iceland, Croatia and Turkey accept proof of recovery in lieu of a negative pre-travel Covid test result, in recognition of the immunity booster that a natural infection grants. But where can you get that all-important certification? And which countries accept it instead of a test?
Staff shortages see passengers stranded at stations
Rail passengers were hit by disruption on the first working day of the year in England and Wales due to a combination of faults and coronavirus-related staff shortages.
Stuart Lovell was left stranded at St Mary Cray when his 7.18am South Eastern service didn’t stop.
The provider said: “I am so sorry this didn’t stop at the station. The train service manager has informed me there was a shortage of train staff at the station earlier, thus services where unable to stop.”
A number of other people said they had been left unable to get to work on time due to cancellations.
US records one million Covid cases in global daily record
The US reported more than one million new Covid cases on Monday in a global record.
The figure is almost double the previous record of 590,000 new cases, which was recorded four days previously.
Among the hotspots are Florida, which recorded a 948 per cent rise in cases in just two weeks and New York state, which saw more than 85,000 cases last Saturday compared to 6,700 on December 1.
Wizz Air saw 2.6 million passengers in December despite travel restrictions
Budget airline Wizz Air has said 2.6 million passengers booked flights last month despite omicron-related travel rules dampening demand.
The carrier said this was a near-threefold increase on the 666,000 passengers it flew in the same month a year ago, creating a load factor on its planes of 75.4 per cent compared with 56.1 per cent in December 2020.
It meant the airline flew 21.7 million passengers in total in 2021 – up 30 per cent on 2020.
The news comes as the airline announced 14 new routes from Gatwick, including Faro, Palma, Tel Aviv, Mykonos, Milan, Rome, Vienna and Naples. The new flights are slated to launch in March.
Delhi imposes weekend curfew amid omicron rise
Authorities in Delhi have announced a weekend curfew in an attempt to slow the spread of the omicron variant.
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia told a news conference new measures were needed due to to steep case rises in the Indian capital in the past few days.
Employers have also been told to keep offices only 50 per cent full.
Testing holidaymakers ‘adds no value to public health’, says travel boss
More travel industry chiefs have been speaking out ahead of the review of international travel rules tomorrow.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, the UK’s largest independent travel agent group, told The Telegraph:
When the Health Secretary introduced temporary travel rules as a precautionary measure after the emergence of omicron, he made it very clear that they would not be kept in for a moment longer than necessary yet with omicron the dominant variant at home – testing international travellers adds no value to public health.
With consumer confidence plummeting at what should be the busiest time of year for planning and booking holidays and resuming business travel, this week’s review is arguably the most critical review for all businesses within the travel industry.
We are urging the health secretary to remove onerous pre-departure testing immediately along with the need for day 2 PCR testing and isolation until results are received.
The prevalence of Omicron at home makes these tests simply an act of political gesturing to be seen to be doing something but in reality, adding no value to public health.
Israel to start reopening borders despite omicron surge
Israel has announced it will reopen to visitors from countries it considers ‘medium risk’ next week, after being shut to all foreigners since November 28.
The Health Ministry said from January 9, foreign travellers from 199 countries will be allowed to enter if they show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid.
However, Britain along with the US, UAE, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mexico, Switzerland and Turkey remain on Israel’s red list. Visitors from those countries require special permission from a committee to enter.
The border reopening comes despite rising cases in Israel.
‘Redundant’ testing is killing demand, says airline chief
Travel industry chiefs have been calling for testing rules to be eased in a government travel review on Wednesday.
Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, told The Telegraph:
We can’t have international travel – and the hundreds of thousands of jobs and livelihoods that depend on it – being treated differently to hospitality and other domestic sectors.
If omicron doesn’t warrant further restrictions at home, then the case for continuing with testing for aviation beyond Jan 5 is undermined, especially now it is the dominant variant in the UK. We need consistency, not favouritism.
Tens of billions of pounds of Treasury revenue depends on getting this sector moving again, not to mention the ability of families across the country to get away this half-term. There are some amazing deals out there – but this redundant testing is what is killing demand.
New Year’s resolutions for the Government to save our holidays
When it comes to holidays, travellers will be hoping for a smoother 2022. From fixing a passport loophole to ditching draconian Covid rules – here are simple promises would save travel in 2022:
- Never resort to ‘travel bans’ again
- Remove all tests for travel
- Reimburse hotel quarantine victims
- Fix passport expiry grey areas