Travel returns as restrictions ease across the South

  • Video report from ITV News Meridian's Mike Pearse

At the crack of dawn this morning, ITV News Meridian reporter Mike Pearse was at Gatwick Airport.

It was an uncharacteristically busy scene compared to what we've been used to over the past 12 months. The easing of coronavirus travel restrictions means people could now fly to green list countries.

These passengers were quick to board the EasyJet flight for the two hour flight to Lisbon. Portugal is the closest green list country offering sun and sand, much to the excitement of passengers at Gatwick this morning.

  • Passengers eager to take to the skies

The first ITV News Meridian spoke to said "We're going to Portugal to start an eleven day holiday. It's very important for our mental health and wellbeing".

"We usually go 6-8 times a year and we haven't been since last September so we've really suffered".

Others weren't too concerned about Coronavirus, having had both jabs. One couple said: "We're safe, we're find. We'd just like to get into the sunshine and get a break".

Passengers board the flight to Lisbon. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Many holidaymakers, for now, are keeping their cards close to their chest, in the hope that many of the popular destinations on the amber list will soon become green too.

Find out which countries are on the amber list here.

  • The full breakdown of what the easing of restrictions means

Across the South, normal service resumed at hotels, including the Hampton by Hilton in Bournemouth.

Hotel manager, Jason Davies, spoke of his joy at the smallest things, like welcoming customers back down for breakfast.

He reflected on the difficulties of the last year, but is remaining optimistic: "There's definitely been ups and downs over the past year. Especially emotionally".

"There's been caretaker fatigue for the hotel. But it's really great now to be back open and to put the last year behind us and really look forward to welcoming guest back in the summer to Bournemouth".

  • Jason Davies, Manager of Hampton by Hilton in Bournemouth

Soon to be taking up residence in hotels like Jason's in Bournemouth, will be holidaymakers who're looking for a getaway a little closer to home.

Domestic tourism is set to boom this summer following what's been dubbed 'The Staycation Scramble' - in which ITV News reported record bookings for 'staycations' this summer.

Among those eager for a change of scenery were those boarding this coach in Winchester this morning. We were there as they climbed aboard and found their seats. The coach will only be 50% full to allow for adequate social distancing.

Their destination: The Lake District.

  • Paul Hughes, Coach Driver

Coach driver, Paul Hughes, explains the safety measures onboard: "We've got hand sanitisers throughout the coach, everyone has to wear a mask and we check everyone's temperature before they get on the coach".

"We keep everyone apart and there's stickers on the seats to keep people where they should be".

"We've got 24 people on board but we've got 44 seats. Just so we can keep people apart and more safe".

  • Coach passengers share their excitement

One coach passenger said: "We're very excited to go away at last, after a very long time!".

Another was asked if they ever worried that their trip might not ever happen, they replied: "Yes, every day and up until last night! I was waiting for that phone call saying it's not going to go ahead. Just incase Boris or the government changed their minds again".

Another optimistic passenger said "I was thinking positive, I knew we'd go. It's no good being miserable".

Coach driver Paul Hughes checks passenger's temperature before boarding Credit: ITV News Meridian

Meanwhile, for those looking to getaway via rail, a new train timetable starts today.  

250 extra services are now running daily on South Western Railway, with more than a thousand additional trains per week on Southern, Great Western and Gatwick Express.