Dismay over green list expansion as travel sector says it's not enough to save summer

  • ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent reports on holiday uncertainty

The travel industry has criticised the government for its "overly cautious" approach to reopening foreign travel, saying the limited easing of rules will not be enough to save summer.

Travel retailer On the Beach has such little confidence that holidays will go ahead with minimal disruptions that it will not take new bookings for July and August.

The government announced on Thursday it would add 14 countries and territories to its green list, destinations from where travellers do not have to quarantine upon returning to the UK.

However, all but one – Malta – were put on a watchlist, meaning they are at risk of returning to the amber list.

Some popular hotspots, including Ibiza and Mallorca, are on the list.

Mainland Spain, France, Greece and Italy remain on the amber list, meaning Brits will have to self-isolate upon returning to the UK.

The new rules come into force at 4am on June 30.

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There are also fears of EU-wide restrictions on British tourists after German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for all European Union countries to impose quarantine requirements on travellers from the UK due to the spread of the Delta variant in the country.

Chief executive of On the Beach, Simon Cooper said: “Booking a holiday to these destinations is not a guarantee that you won’t have to self-isolate when you return home.

“While this uncertainty continues, we will continue to not sell holidays for July and August until we have greater confidence these holidays will go ahead with minimal disruptions.”

Airport Operators Association Chief Executive Karen Dee said the government’s overly cautious” approach would continue to have “major financial impacts” on the travel sector.

She said: “Any extension of the green list is welcome, however small, but we also have to be realistic: this is not yet the meaningful restart the aviation industry needs to be able to recover from the pandemic.”

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Chief UK Policy Director Matthew Fell said: “While welcome, these limited movements on green list countries won’t be enough to salvage the summer season for the international travel sector.

“International connectivity extends far beyond tourism and underpins our whole economy. The UK’s successful vaccine rollout means we should be in the vanguard of safely restarting international travel.”

However, Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French appeared more optimistic, saying he expected a “bumper weekend” of bookings.

He said the announcement was “fantastic news for our customers who are desperate for a holiday and have been waiting with bated breath for this latest update”.

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The limited easing of restrictions on foreign holidays provides “a little bit of relief for the travel industry”, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted, amid claims it has not gone far enough.

Mr Shapps told Sky News: “It does mean there is a little bit of relief for the travel industry and for people who wish to get away.

“It won’t be quite like it was in 2019 and the old days, but we are moving in a positive direction.”

On Thursday, Mr Shapps rejected accusations the government was being too careful, saying protecting public health was its top priority.

He said: “It’s right that we continue with this cautious approach, to protect public health and the vaccine rollout as our top priority, while ensuring that our route out of the international travel restrictions is sustainable.”

He also held out the possibility that fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber list countries would not need to self-isolate on return.

Amid decisions on whether under-18s should be offered the jab, regular testing will be looked at as an alternative to quarantine for children accompanied by vaccinated adults.

An announcement is expected next month.

But the travel industry says it fears the announcement will be too late to rescue the summer season.

Boris Johnson did warn 'this summer for travel purposes isn't going to be like any other summer'

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is a "real opportunity to open up travel" in the coming months to people who have two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, but warned "it's going to be a more difficult summer to take a holiday".

"I think the real opportunity we have now is to open up travel through the double jab and if you look at it more than 60% of the population has now had a double jab, I think 83% have had one jab, we’re really getting through it now.

Stay up to date with the changing travel situation in the UK and abroad with news, information and advice at itv.com/holidaynews.