Right now it feels like we will never travel again. Much of the public is crying to shut the borders, ban all flights (How’s cargo getting here then? Good luck getting your food, medicine, and vaccines). Despite the fact that the current high levels have been mainly caused by the Kent variant of Covid which appears to be more contagious, travel is being demonised and more and more restrictions brought in. However, many experts are still believing that travel this year will be possible.
So rather than write about more travel restrictions, I thought I would round up what people are predicting and which countries look like they are likely to be an option this year.
When will we be able to travel again?
When we will be able to travel depends not just on regulations, but also our own appetite for travelling with some restrictions. With the test and release program, you could still travel to many countries once it’s legal again and be released after 5-6 days quarantine.
Whether and when we can travel again depends on:
- If the travel ban is lifted with lockdown. Current lockdown legislation applies until 31 March, but they could of course extend this. Assuming we go back into tiers, once you are in tier 3 then it is legal to travel for holidays, even from a tier 4 airport.
- Whether variants are found to be susceptible to vaccines
- Infections rates in other countries. After all, is there really any risk to the UK from countries where there are tiny numbers of cases? As countries roll out vaccine programs, overall infection rates should fall rapidly, hopefully leading to less restrictions.
- Whether you are willing to pay for tests and quarantine on your return
- Whether you have had both doses of the vaccine
What is the travel industry predicting?
Paul Charles, a prominent travel consultant believes we will be able to travel from May onwards. But then again he said with some certainty that it would be April a few weeks ago. Basically, no one really knows. When the government doesn’t actually seem to have a strategy and seems to leap from one idea to another at a moment’s notice, it’s virtually impossible for anyone to predict.
Tim Hames, a senior adviser to global consultancy FTI Consulting, also said there could be “intense and potentially tighter limits on travel” until May. But he did also say “International travel is not automatically doomed for 2021”.
Greg Dickinson in the Telegraph argues that we should not be writing off summer holidays just yet despite the doom and gloom from ministers. “We are a country that received 41 million visitors in 2019, contributing £28.4 billion to the economy. In the before times, London was one of the most important travel and business hubs in the world. It is absolutely in the Government’s interest to lay out, and action, a swift exit policy to ensure we do not squander our global position with prohibitive border restrictions.”
Which countries look likely for 2021 travel first?
While some countries like Jamaica are banning flights until the end of February, these are countries that rely heavily on tourism. Barbados is still open to visitors despite the fact that they are entering short lockdown after a small outbreak has failed to get contained. While they have strengthened their protocols with a 5 day quarantine in your hotel room followed by a second test, they have worked hard to keep tourism open. They have adapted swiftly to changes and tried to keep protocols as strict as is necessary but without deterring all visitors. St Lucia and Antigua are still open for arrivals and have less strict protocols than Barbados.
The Seychelles have plans to get the majority of their population vaccinated as soon as possible. Although the country is on the UK red list, if they vaccinate quickly, they could hopefully reduce cases to a very minimal number and get back off the list by late springtime or early summer. The Seychelles is now accepting travellers from the UK who have had both doses of the vaccine. There is no need for quarantine, although you will still have to have a PCR test 72 hours before departure.
The Maldives is very dependant on tourism and is keen to welcome back tourists. They are no on the UK red list and there is no quarantine for UK tourists inbound. All visitors must present a negative PCR test for COVID-19 on arrival to Maldives. The test and negative PCR certificate must be issued no more than 96 hours prior to departure.
Greece was very keen to welcome UK tourists last year and is already showing that they are keen to welcome back tourists in summer 2021. The Greek Prime Minister has given his support for schemes to allow vaccinated tourists to travel, and is pressing for it to be applied across the EU. Unlike some countries, Greece doesn’t plan to require travellers to be vaccinated to enter. They do support testing and the standardisation of vaccine certificates though which I think is very much needed.
Currently, Brits are still allowed to enter Greece but must have a rapid test on arrival, as well as a PCR test 72 hours before departure.
Cyprus has said that it will welcome vaccinated (with two doses) travellers from March 21. These people will not require further testing or quarantine. Cyrpus will introduce 4 categories of country in terms of what is needed for entry to Cyprus:
- Category A will be replaced by the ‘Green Category’, for which there will be no restrictions.
- Category B will be replaced by the ‘Orange Category’, which will require a negative PCR test certificate not older than 72 hours prior to departure as per now
- Category C will be replaced by the ‘Red Category’, which will require two negative PCR tests, one within 72 hours before departure and another upon arrival in Cyprus. No self-isolation measures apply in this category.
- A forth special category will be introduced which will require self-isolation.
Which category the UK will be in by the time we are able to travel is not known. Currently we are in Category C which would still allow us to travel under the new regime.
Spain is expecting to reopen from late Spring for international visitors. The country is planning to have 70% of their population vaccinated by late summer. As yet they have not indicated any dispensation for those that have been vaccinated.
Currently, people from the UK can’t travel to Spain except for Spanish nationals and those legally resident in Spain.
Despite the fact that the US has been closed to Europe for the last 11 months, it is actually the country that has lost the most money from lack of tourism revenue in the world. Now that Biden is in charge there will be a rapid rollout of vaccines; and even as he takes over they have already vaccinated a good number of people.
While Biden is likely to be cautious, if the UK meets the target to vaccinate all the over 50s by the end of March (which is over half the adult population) then cases should eventually fall to a very low level by late Spring/early summer. If the US also does similar and gets its own cases under control, I would expect Biden to take a pragmatic approach. They are already allowing those who have had COVID recently to not have to present a negative test. I can see the US allowing vaccinated travellers before long and those that can prove immunity. The US tourism boards are working towards a major reopening by late summer, but it could well be selected travellers are allowed in long before that point.