It’s the good news that the travel industry has been waiting for. Finally, Britain could be a step closer to introducing testing at airports – with Heathrow hoping to start trials within the next few weeks. John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, revealed on Wednesday that talks with Downing Street had progressed: “We’ve heard from the Prime Minister that he hopes to go to a trial in the second half of October. It would take a couple of weeks to put into practice.” Unsurprisingly, the travel industry has reacted with relief and support for the plans – and widespread hope that testing could finally quash quarantine. “This could be a real step forward for UK travel,” says Jo McClintock, Global Brand Director for flight search website Skyscanner. “Peace of mind is key: the possible introduction of this critical safety measure at the UK’s busiest airport would be a great step forward in taking the complex but necessary steps to reinvigorate travel.” The news is not a moment too soon, says Andrea Bertoli, managing director at online booking site lastminute.com. “We’ve been calling for more support for the travel industry from the government since March. While we think testing at airports in the UK should have come in well before this summer of chaos and uncertainty for holidaymakers, we certainly welcome this news. Test4Travel: The Telegraph campaign to scrap quarantine through airport testing “I’m hoping this is just the beginning of announcements from Boris and other airports will also get the support.” Holland-Kaye also said testing on routes between London and New York by Thanksgiving (November 26) “seems entirely feasible”, adding the demand would be “enormous”. “If we get good results, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to extend it,” he told the publication. “It’s possible that in the first or second quarter of next year, we see ‘rapid point of care’ tests become more normal.” Visit Britain, the authority for inbound tourism to Britain, has stressed the potential economic gains of opening a US-UK corridor: inbound tourism from the US is worth £4.1 billion to the UK economy, with 4.5 million tourism visits from across the Atlantic last year. Hotels have responded positively to the news, too. Jonathan Raggett, Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels, said: “We are delighted to hear this news. Whilst the safety of our hotel guests remains our utmost priority, the Government’s approach to international travel restrictions has been last-minute, with limited consideration given to the detrimental impact on the hospitality industry. “Testing is the lifeline that the hotel industry needs to get back on its feet, giving global travellers the confidence to travel again, while simultaneously removing the need for economically damaging, long quarantine periods. An effective testing programme would be a huge step forward for the hospitality industry, and will ensure we move forward in a safe manner towards recovery.” Tour operators are expressing relief, as well. Sonia Davies, CEO of Scott Dunn, said: “This is such welcome news. Whilst the safety of travellers remains as always of utmost priority, the government’s approach to country travel restrictions to date has been kneejerk, leaving our industry on its knees and at risk of collapse. “It is a balancing act in terms of public health vs. economic health both in the short term and the long term. We have felt for some time that robust and rapid testing programmes – both in communities and at airports – as implemented by many governments around the world since the start of the pandemic, have been the most effective course of action. “Testing at Heathrow airport is a critical step that will enable the industry to get back on its feet, and will also give travellers increasing confidence. This alongside a nuanced approach to quarantine restrictions and FCDO advice will help us move forward in a safe and measured manner towards recovery.”
It is not unusual to hear a rumbling of thunder emanating from the general direction of the Caribbean at this time of year. September and October tend to be the riskiest months of the Atlantic hurricane season (as Hurricanes Irma and Maria demonstrated to notably devastating effect in 2017); a period when the horizon can go dark with horrible speed. This is the reason why prices for flights to – and holidays in – the region are generally at their cheapest during these shoulder months, and why they rise considerably when the storm threat peters out at the end of November – just in time for Christmas on the beach.
This week, American Airlines joined JetBlue, United and Hawaiian Airlines in revealing plans to test passengers before boarding so they can avoid quarantine restrictions on arrival in certain destinations.
As foreign travel options shrink for Brits – we now have viable corridors with only eight countries – more of us will have to turn to the United Kingdom for a holiday.
Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any more surreal, it seems that Germany’s Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BBA), after a 13-year saga punctuated by scandals, bankruptcies and comical setbacks, is actually going to open.
Bars and pubs across the country are campaigning against the new 10pm curfew as of this week. Some are even going so far as to ban MPs from their premises until the restrictions are lifted.
Airport testing at London Heathrow could be in place within two weeks, the Government has suggested, with flights to New York “up and running” by the end of November.
Italy has seen its seven-day case rate double over the last month, from 10.8 per 100,000 residents (August 20-26) to 19.6 (September 22-28), and many fear it will be added to the UK’s quarantine list when the Government reviews its controversial travel policy on Thursday.
It feels like we only ever hear the bad stuff about Kent. With illegal crossings in the Channel, and the likelihood of lorry queues on the way to Dover, a trip to the Kent coast doesn’t sound all that appealing really.
The experience of booking a holiday is now painfully similar to another, disappointment-riddled institution: fantasy football. Hear me out. It all begins with the selection process. You know you want Son this winter, but perhaps that’s outside your budget. Then there’s the lingering fear that a weak Sterling will give you less bang for your buck than in previous years. But you fantasise, and you cobble together a plan. And then, moments after you’ve finally built up the cojones to click “confirm”, what happens? As if from nowhere, your star players (Lacazette, Thiago, Jota/ France, Spain, Portugal) turn “amber” or “red” due to deteriorating health concerns, causing you to make panicked, last-minute transfers. There’s a league table involved, of course. In the case of travel, it’s ordered by Covid-19 cases per 100,000 over seven days – more than 20 and a quarantine could be imposed at any minute. As I write this, Spain is near the top with 164.3, while Singapore is near the bottom on 1.9. The relegation zone features countries like Italy (19.6), Greece (19.7) and Poland (22.8). As a result, in many ways, booking a holiday in 2020 is these days less about fantasising and more about catastrophising – a process laced with anxiety and huge scope for disappointment. But, the sign of any good fantasy football manager, and indeed any determined holidaymaker, is, of course, to do your research and persevere. I may not be qualified as a fantasy football scout (I am currently bottom of La Telegraph Travel Liga), but as your fantasy holiday scout, I can offer a tip or two. The 19 countries you can (feasibly) visit right now As I write, Italy is open, and requires zero tests or quarantine either end – chichi Cortina d’Ampezzo could be a good bet for a ski holiday. Barbados, Anguilla and Antigua do require a test before you fly, but will guarantee sun over Christmas. Germany is currently open to Britons and erupts with colour in autumn; consider the Moselle Valley or the Black Forest. Then, of course, there are delights in the UK. There are plenty of unique options, from going off-grid in Northumberland, to undiscovered hills in Worcestershire and escaping civilization in the Highlands. Our writer Sarah Marshall reels off some of her favourite UK experiences in this article. Plan carefully, with sensible buffers and a sturdy insurance policy, and your fantasy will come true, whether it be a Stockholm city break, an escape to the Caribbean sun, or triple-captaining Patrick Bamford. And my word, it will be sweet when it pays off.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) has ditched its controversial ‘flights to nowhere’ after a staunch backlash from environmental campaigners. With many of its planes still grounded as a result of the ongoing pandemic, the airline had proposed a series of no-destination trips as a way to boost cashflow, selling tickets for three-hour flights departing and landing at Singapore Changi Airport. Demand for the flights was believed to be strong among Singaporean residents, who are currently barred from travelling to all but a few destinations, but SIA has now pulled out of the enterprise after an internal review. Environmentalist groups reacted with outrage when SIA first touted its plans for round-trip flights, with Singapore-based SG Climate Rally (SGCR) leading calls for the idea to be scrapped. SGCR said in a statement: “As a climate movement that prioritises the well-being of people and planet, we believe air travel has always caused environmental harm, and it is now an opportune moment for us to think seriously about transitions instead of yearning to return to a destructive status quo.” Qantas has faced a similar fallout after announcing the return of its 12-hour “flightseeing” routes over Antarctica, which will run between November and February and are expected to sell for as much as AUD 8,000 (£4,445) per seat. The Australian carrier has claimed that the flights’ carbon emissions will be offset by environment projects around the Pacific, although they have still been roundly condemned by campaigners. Mark Carter of Flight Free Australia said: “Our home is on fire. At a time when all industries need to be urgently reducing their emissions massively, Qantas’s ‘sustainability’ claims of offsetting flight emissions is a scam that allows their emissions to continue on the back of buying the reductions of others. It’s like agreeing to pour a bucket of petrol on the burning house for every bucket of water you throw.” For most airlines, however, environmental concerns are overshadowed by the need to stave off bankruptcy, and while SIA has yielded in the face of public opprobrium, its executives are left with the challenge of saving the company after six months of dwindling revenues brought about by worldwide travel bans. The airline is currently operating at less than 10 per cent of capacity, and is now in the process of axing 4,000 jobs – around 20 per cent of its workforce. But an appeal to Singaporeans for ideas on how to boost income has given birth to three new initiatives that could help avert financial catastrophe. From October 12, customers will be able to book tables at a new restaurant located inside one of the SIA’s grounded Airbus 380s (the largest passenger plane in the world), with service from airline staff and different menus according to cabin class. Plane food enthusiasts will also be able to order in-flight meals by delivery, with First Class of Business Class meals brought to the door by cabin crew, and branded dining ware included in the higher-price packages. In November, the airline will begin hosting tours of its staff training facility, with turns on the flight simulator for adults and a cabin crew role-playing area for children. “These experiences offer something for everyone – from frequent flyers who miss our world-class in-cabin products and service, to couples and families who want an exclusive dining experience, and parents who are after an enjoyable activity-filled day with their children during the school holidays,” said SIA’s CEO, Goh Choon Phong. “There has been a lot of interest in our customer engagement initiatives over the last few weeks, and I would like to thank everyone for their great ideas and suggestions. We are very encouraged by and grateful for the enthusiasm and passion that we have seen.”
Well we are all confused now. Except possibly Mrs Jones. We got back from examining megalithic cromlechs in Pembrokeshire just as the rule of six tightened its grip on parts of the Dis-united Kingdom. Then we went out to eat (at my brother’s request) in a basement in Bloomsbury. (Have I blamed everybody else enough yet?)
On a warm late September afternoon any other year, a visitor in Madrid would have to jostle to squeeze into a bar or be facing a long queue outside the Prado or another of the Spanish capital’s world-famous art galleries.
How should governments control travel this winter? Should we be allowed to go on holiday, or even to see our families? Should mandatory Covid testing be introduced at borders? Or should we be doing something else entirely?
Beginner bolthole on the Italian frontier The original La Rosière resort (now known as La Rosière Centre) was developed in the 1960s and 70s at the start of the road to the Petit St Bernard pass to Italy, which is closed in winter. More recent development has been concentrated at Les Eucherts, around one kilometre away and linked by a pretty, snow-covered path through the trees that is floodlit at night and makes a lovely walk. Both parts of the resort feature low-rise, chalet-style buildings of wood and stone and have fast lifts into the slopes. They are very popular with families because of the easy slopes and good ski schools. The views over the Tarentaise valley from both resort and slopes are stunning. The slopes are linked to those of La Thuile in Italy to form the Espace San Bernardo. This sizable 152km ski area suits beginners and intermediates best, though there are attractions for the more expert with some steeper pistes and attractive off piste on both the French and the Italian sides.
Picture the scene. For months you’ve been looking forward to this holiday. The tantalising prospect of a week in the Med has kept you sane throughout the doom and gloom of the Covid saga.
Family favourite in the Portes du Soleil Les Gets is at one end of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area with its 600km of pistes. Its local area of slopes, shared with Morzine, is big and varied enough to keep many people happy for a week – though most will want to explore further afield for a day or two. The main Portes du Soleil circuit, which crosses the border from France into Switzerland, is reached via Morzine and a gondola up to the slopes of next-door Avoriaz. Les Gets itself is a charming village with a small central core and a very French atmosphere. It benefits from the main road to Morzine bypassing it, leaving it largely unspoilt by traffic. Most accommodation is convenient for the slopes, which are beginner and intermediate friendly. Not surprisingly, Les Gets is very popular with families.
Where to go without the crowds has taken on extra importance this year – but when travelling, we don’t necessarily know where is best for minimal contact with others. Enter the A&O; hotels and hostels group, which is offering a ‘social distancing specialists’ concierge service. The specialists are essentially members of the front-of-house team who equip themselves with the knowledge on, for example, the best secluded picnic spot or the best secret cycling route. “We wanted to launch an initiative that would enhance the guest experience and empower our staff members by inviting them to share invaluable insights from each city that travellers would not have access to if they were staying at another property,” said a spokesperson for the group. “Understandably, the concept of exploring a city may seem overwhelming following recent months so we have appointed specialists to reassure guests that they can travel safely by exploring off-the-beaten track experiences in each city to avoid the crowds.” A&O; has properties in cities including Berlin, among others in Germany, as well as Prague, Vienna, Amsterdam and Salzburg. • The countries you can feasibly visit right now
Welsh holidaymakers are facing a dismal few months. Nearly two thirds of the Welsh population are living under local lockdown. Meanwhile, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has advised that people should think “very carefully” before making non-essential journeys in Wales.
Autumn is upon us, which can mean only one thing: leaf peeping. With our quarantine-free holiday abroad options dwindling by the day, now is an ideal time to take in the colours of the UK. There are 1.40 million hectares of forest between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, leaving plenty of space for roaming wanderers. Whether ancient, lesser-known woodlands or well-trodden destinations like the New Forest, these are your best options. 1. New Forest, Hampshire, England Featuring 150 square miles of ancient woodlands, the New Forest has always been a popular choice for Britons looking for a nature fix. Easy walks are plentiful, but one of the best for autumn leaf peeping is Bolderwood, which lies along the Ornamental Drive. Three well-signposted circular walking trails lead from Bolderwood car park, all of which offer prime views of the red coloured leaves and the forest deer. Expect native Beech and Great English Oaks, as well as some of the New Forest’s tallest Redwoods.
‘Why do the wrong people travel/When the right people stay back home?” So wrote Noël Coward in Sail Away and the same question crossed my mind during my 30 or so years of tour leading, particularly in Madagascar.
It’s half past nine on a balmy mid-September morning and the Butlin’s end of Minehead is ghostly quiet. Bar some gutsy swimmers bracing the biting Bristol Channel, I’ve almost got the coastline to myself. Serene isn’t exactly how I remember this buoyant beachfront.
The Government is pressing ahead with plans to increase Air Passenger Duty (APD) despite pleas from the beleaguered travel industry to temporarily scrap the tax.