What are our prospects for a summer holiday abroad?

·4-min read
faro, algarve - Getty
faro, algarve - Getty

Next week we are expecting the second review of the traffic light ratings. I hate to strike a negative note, but when the announcement is made on Thursday (June 24), I just can’t see the Government deciding to give the green light to any significant destinations.

I really hope I’m wrong. After all, logic would say that the situation is looking more positive than ever from a travel point of view. According to the raw data, infection rates across the whole of western Europe (bar Georgia) are now lower than they are in the UK. And while, across the Channel, they are mostly falling, here they have been rising for the last month. Frankly, heading for the continent looks like a safer bet than staying at home.

But despite this data, it seems to me inconceivable that ministers would suddenly decide to start taking the brakes off international travel when they have only just postponed the lifting of restrictions in England. Even for a government which specialises in mixed messaging, that would surely give off too many negative vibes.

Talking of mixed messaging, it has now become quite clear that the traffic light system, which we hoped would be a progressive construct which would enable a steady unlocking of holiday destinations, is being used in an entirely different way. Initially it enabled the Government to end the rather disturbing situation where it was illegal for us to travel abroad. But it has since been manipulated to create as many obstacles as possible to prevent us from exercising that freedom. A month after travel restarted there are now no significant destinations with a green rating.

And, the extraordinarily swift removal of Portugal from the green list last week was surely intended to put the frighteners on holidaymakers – ministers gave just four days' notice of the change. So much for the promised watchlist, which was to have flagged up countries most at risk of changing status, so that holidaymakers had time to alter their plans if necessary.

So, given this approach from the Government, and if there is no relaxation in the traffic light system next week, what does that mean for the rest of our summer?

Most critically, it suggests the earliest possible date for any key Mediterranean destinations to be given the green light is Monday July 19 – the same day slated for the lifting of domestic restrictions. If previous timings are anything to go by, the announcement of the next traffic light review will probably be made on Thursday July 15, and will give three or four days’ notice of any changes. That is just in time for the first day of the school holidays.

Whether enough destinations are then rated green, or whether we are still faced with a mainly amber-rated Europe, that is incredibly late notice both for the millions of holidaymakers who have their trips booked, and for the tour operators which are operating them. It looks as though we are condemned to a frantic few days when some of us will be able to head off and enjoy ourselves, and others will be left struggling to make new holiday arrangements at the last minute.

I’ll look at the best ways of navigating those stresses if and when we have confirmation that next week’s traffic light review really is as negative as I fear it will be.

Incidentally, there is also another big unknown in all of this – the potential for a change in FCDO advice. Currently, even though it is legal for people to travel to amber-rated countries as long as they have tests and self-isolate on their return – the FCDO advises against all but essential travel to most of them. Tour operators are not allowed to offer packages under these conditions so holidays are only feasible for independent travellers who book their own flights and accommodation.

There are currently only a handful of amber-rated exceptions to this advice where package holidays are continuing to operate, including the Canary Islands and the Greek Islands of Corfu, Zakynthos, Crete, Rhodes and Kos. That could all suddenly change if the FCDO relaxed its advice. But there is no published schedule for reviewing this and the basis on which changes are made still isn’t clear.

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