Sir Cliff Richard once famously sang "we're all going on a summer holiday, no more working for a week or two, fun and laughter on our summer holiday, no more worries for me or you, for a week or two."
However, during the COVID-19 pandemic travel, both nationally and internationally, has virtually ground to a halt and all holidays have been cancelled. In this bulletin we seek to review the position and the outlook for the travel industry over the next few months.
The current position certainly remains that holidays are still prohibited despite the easing of some coronavirus lockdown restrictions. It has been widely publicised that staying over night at a location other than the place where you live for a holiday or other purposes is not allowed and a law laid before parliament on Monday makes it illegal to stay overnight outside your home “without reasonable excuse”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated last week that he advised British nationals against all non-essential international travel. It therefore appears that the government is adopting a cautious approach to future travel plans.
However, somewhat unsurprisingly, the travel industry itself appears to be adopting a more positive approach to the evolving situation. Major carriers such as Ryanair, British Airways and TUI are looking to reintroduce international flights as soon as late June and July. Tour operators are also introducing options allowing customers to book holidays now and amend the details at no costs or cancel with a full refund.
Other countries are also seemingly keen to restart the travel industry with Italy indicating that it will reopen its borders to Europe with no quarantine and the Portuguese government indicating that UK travellers would be very welcome.
However, the UK does not appear to share this approach and the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, wrote in the Telegraph on 3 June 2020 that they would seek to introduce a 14 day quarantine period for tourists arriving in the UK. There is significant opposition to this approach from the industry leaders who fear for the future of the industry if such strict measures are imposed.
Alternatives are being discussed and "air bridges" could be introduced to lessen the impact. This would be a novel arrangement where travellers from countries with low coronavirus levels could be exempt from quarantine. Greece has been an advocate of this approach.
So the question remains is it time to listen to Sir Cliff Richard and to sing along joyfully?
At present it seems, at best, unlikely that there will be widespread international travel this summer. Hotels and holiday resorts in England may start to reopen at the end of June or beginning of July although this is subject to significant caveats including continued flattening of the curve and no second wave of coronavirus cases due to the easing of the lockdown restrictions.
As to foreign summer holidays, at present, given the government guidance that British nationals are not to embark on any non-essential foreign travel for an as yet undefined period, it may be premature to book a summer holiday particularly as any existing insurance policy will not cover any travel where the FCO non-essential travel ban is in place.
However, it is an evolving picture and the EU has insisted that there will be a summer season this year and so for the time being, it is very much a case of watch this space as to whether "we are all going on a summer holiday" – sorry Sir Cliff.