Travel-starved Brits are rushing to make bookings and enquiries about holidays in sunny Portugal and Cyprus following news that both countries are hoping to accept vaccinated UK travellers from as early as May this year.
With both destinations desperate for tourism currency and Brits hungry for opportunities to get off their island after a year of lockdowns, it could be a win-win for everyone.
But many ‘ifs’ still to be sorted out
Providing the ‘ifs’ can be sorted out in time. If UK authorities prove willing to open the nation’s borders to holidaymakers heading overseas. If Britain’s vaccination rollout program is sufficiently far advanced by that time. If there’s a suitable way for tourists to prove their vaccinated and/or immune status to foreign immigration authorities. If there are no new outbreaks.
Rita Marques, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, recently told the BBC: “I do believe that Portugal will soon allow restriction-free travel, not only for vaccinated people, but those who are immune or who test negative. We hope to welcome British tourists from 17 May.”
She added that the situation in Portugal was “stable” and said: “Everything will be ready by mid-May.”
But Portugal is currently on Britain’s red list, which means travellers coming from there have to quarantine when they arrive in the UK.
Cyprus also wants British tourists
It’s a similar situation in Cyprus, where Deputy Tourism Minister, Savvas Perdios, said the country would allow Britons who had been given vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to enter without the need for a negative test or to quarantine.
According to the BBC, which quoted the Office for National Statistics, British tourists make up the largest group of visitors to the island and made more than a million trips to Cyprus in 2019.
However, Britain’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has warned that it is still too early to book a foreign trip. The UK Government is at pains to point out that, just because a country would like to welcome Brit tourists, it doesn’t mean they will be able to go.
Currently foreign travel without good reason is banned in Britain – with lying on a sun-drenched foreign beach not being considered sufficient reason for going overseas.
Travel agents see surge in interest
But the London-based Guardian newspaper reported that travel agents have seen a big surge in interest and bookings for holidays abroad since Cyprus and Portugal announced that they plan to open to British tourists this summer.
A spokesperson for the Thomas Cook travel group told the publication it had seen a quarter more searches for Cyprus on Friday than on Thursday and people were spending 40% longer on hotel pages, suggesting they were more likely to book.
Similarly, a spokesperson for Tui, the package holiday company, said it had seen “a real uptick” in bookings.
There is also strong interest in Greece, which announced last month that it hopes to welcome UK holidaymakers in May.