Holiday bookings surge as England’s entry restrictions eased

The effects are being felt throughout the travel industry

People living in England are rushing to book foreign holidays on Friday after the UK announced changes to Covid-fighting travel restrictions to and from the country.

Some travel companies reported bookings had risen by more than 200 per cent, especially for the period including the October half-term school break.

Airline stocks rose last week in anticipation of an easing of restrictions.

Ryanair and the owner of British Airways, IAG SA, both rose about 9 per cent, and EasyJet was up 11 per cent.

A “red list” of countries from which quarantine on return is mandatory has been retained, but the “amber list” has been scrapped.

Some conditions remain even for countries on the green list.

People who are fully immunised with a Covid-19 vaccine recognised by the UK – those of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen – will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before arriving in, or returning to, England from non-red list destinations.

From the end of October, the PCR test on day two will be replaced by a cheaper lateral flow test.

The changes were announced on Friday.

Eight countries will move from the red list to the green one on September 22. They are Turkey, the Maldives, Egypt, Oman, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

Alan French, chief executive of travel agency Thomas Cook, said half-term bookings were up 200 per cent compared with those in August.

“I would expect this weekend to be the biggest of the year so far as people take advantage of the great deals on offer, the new easier rules on testing and the simplified system for international travel,” he said.

Steve Heapy, chief executive of and Jet2holidays, said bookings had soared “by more than 250 per cent” and that Turkey was “exceptionally popular”.

“Thanks to the certainty that [the] announcement has given customers, destinations right across the board are selling well, whether it’s for late-summer sun, winter or next summer. As you might expect, half-term dates have also seen a surge in bookings for families,” he said.

Andrew Flintham, managing director of holiday company TUI UK, said there had been “an uptick in bookings for Turkey in October” and expected a boost in customer confidence with the new rules.

Flight-booking website Skyscanner said it had a 133 per cent spike in traffic in the 30 minutes after the announcement by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Chris Parker, a director at ferry company DFDS, said: “We’ve seen an immediate spike in visits to the website and uptick in bookings for October onwards.”

The devolved nations of the UK set their own entry rules.

The Scottish government said it would drop the traffic light system but would not follow England in removing the pre-departure test requirement for the fully vaccinated returning from non-red list countries. It said it would not change to using lateral flow tests on day two.

The Welsh government said it would consider the UK government’s proposed changes.

Both administrations said they would mirror the changes to the red list destinations.

In Northern Ireland, the traffic light system will change on October 4, with a single “red list” of high-risk destinations and a “simplified process” for travellers arriving from anywhere else in the world.

Updated: September 18th 2021, 6:53 PM