- Staycations in the UK emerge as favourite among the UK travelers this holiday season amid confusion over quarantine rules after returning home from overseas holidays
- After removing Spain from the list of safe countries to travel, the government is keeping a close watch on other countries including Germany and France
- The government said that people going on holidays would be deprived of claiming the sick pay during the 14-day self-isolation period
Staycations within the UK have recorded a huge rise in inquiries and bookings in past few days as Britishers are looking to spend their holidays within the country to avoid undergoing 14-day quarantine after returning from their foreign holidays. There is an increased fear that after removing Spain from the list of around 70 countries as safe for travelling in the last week of July 2020 due to a recent spike in the number of Covid-19 infections there, the government may further reduce the list by excluding some more countries.
Caravans and campsites emerge as favourite tourist hotspots among Britishers
The government’s decision of imposing quarantine rules after returning to home in the UK and confusion over other countries going the same way is leading to a surge in bookings for travel destinations within the country. According to an estimate, approximately 14 million British travelers will prefer to spend their 2020 summer holidays within the country before the schools reopen in September this year.
Amid these sentiments, seaside resorts, holiday parks, caravan sites, touring, and camping facilities have scored high on popularity among the Britons. Several leading holiday players in these segments like Butlin's (chain of large seaside resorts), Haven Holidays (chain of holiday parks operating caravan, touring, and camping facilities across 40 sites in the country’s coastal locations), Devon (county in southwest England with sandy beaches, fossil cliffs, medieval towns, and moorland national parks), and Pitchup.com (London-based online campsite and holiday park booking website) have noticed a considerable rise in their activities during the past few days.
The government announced the opening of caravans and campsites in England on 4 July 2020.
Government’s views and decision
Some reports suggest that countries like France, Germany, and Croatia could be the next in line to be removed from the list of safe countries. It is important to note that the UK officials are keeping a close eye on the rise in rates of the coronavirus infections in several popular tourist hotspots across Europe. Among these, Germany and France are the two countries that are being monitored very closely. Mentioning that the government cannot take the risk of the coronavirus spreading across the UK, Helen Whately, UK’s health minister recently stated that necessary actions would have to be taken if there is any increase in the rates of infections.
In addition, highlighting the government’s assessments regarding border measures and travel advice, the spokesperson of the UK Prime Minister observed that such decisions could be changed at a quick notice if required, to help stop the spread of the highly infectious Covid-19 illness across the country. Travelers must be cautioned that during a pandemic, no travel can be considered as totally free of risk from catching an infection and there is a possibility of interruption in travel plans. The spokesperson added that especially those going out of the country, should note that the government will constantly keep reviewing its travel advice and exemption list as necessary.
Many industry insiders consider that such observations would severely affect the industry as a whole as it comes at a time when there is little time left with people to plan or reorganise their holidays with schools reopening soon after a long break since the lockdown was imposed on 23 March 2020. It is also as recently as on 24 July 2020 that the government eased travel restrictions for people to book their overseas trips. Instead of imposing a blanket quarantine rule, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds pleaded the government to implement smarter measures at the borders to check the risk of infections.
It is to be noted that on 25 July 2020, the UK government announced that Britishers traveling to Spain will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine period when they return home. In the wake of recent spike in the Coronavirus infections in the neighbouring country Spain, the foreign office in the UK had advised the citizens against planning any non-essential travel to mainland Spain including the Balearic and Canary Islands from 27 July 2020. There have been requests to keep certain locations including Majorca, Ibiza, and Tenerife out of the quarantine rules as rate of rise in Covid-19 infection are substantially lesser across these tourist destinations.
Comments and observations from the travel and tourism industry
As Britons are avoiding overseas trips and vacations amid the confusion over the quarantine order, there is an increased cancellation of foreign holidays already booked for this summer season. Over the weekend, several tour operators in the UK have reported increased cancellations for bookings done earlier to Spain, given the short four hours notice by the government. While Gemma Antrobus of the Association of Independent Tour Operators in the UK portrayed the situation as if the rug has been pulled from under the feet, many travel agencies described the whole condition as worse with travelers choosing not only to cancel their bookings for Spain but also several other short-haul trips and stressed on cancellations for holidays to France, Italy, and Greece, among others. Asking for a more detailed policy, the TUI Group, considered to be the largest company in the UK dealing in travel and tourism related services, requested the government to bring region and country specific rules. The company is reported to have cancelled all its bookings made to Spain till 9 August 2020.
Airline companies, being a significant stakeholder in the entire travel and tourism sector have also come out in open to talk about the government’s quarantine decision. Michael Kevin O'Leary, the chief executive officer of Ryanair Holdings plc, an Irish budget airline, commented that the orders regarding quarantine for traveler’s returning from Spain is a badly managed over-reaction. Similarly, another budget airline, Jet2.com Limited or Jet2, a British low-cost leisure airline that offers scheduled and charter flights from the UK has announced that it has cancelled flights to four destinations in the Spanish mainland.
In addition to the industry, there is a widespread rage among the travelers as the UK government said that people going on holidays would be deprived of claiming the sick pay during the 14-day self-isolation period. However, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), a national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in England and Wales that represents majority of trade unions is of the view that in case of following the official orders to undergo quarantine, there should be no reason to suffer on financial grounds. Given, the rise in cancellation for foreign holidays, some tourism industry experts fear that it might result in another imposition of quarantine for several industry players already under stress due to the coronavirus induced lockdown.
It is to be noted that the employers are not obliged to pay its staff during the period of self-isolation. In addition, there is an extensive outcry on the job loss front as well with fears that many self-employed work force would be compelled to give up their jobs, while a significant number could even lose their jobs due to tough decisions taken by their companies.
To sum up, it is widely known that as Britishers prefer to go to beaches for their summer holidays, and Spain is a favourite destination for majority of them. However, according to some estimates there would be approximately 6,00,000 travelers who would be undergoing the 14-day quarantine period when they return home from Spain. In the past few days, Spain has reported around 6000 new cases of Covid-19 infections. Amid all the confusion, Britishers are not holding on to their spirits to make the best use of their summer holiday that would soon come to an end. They are looking ahead to enjoy their holidays within the country at caravan sites and camping facilities, besides seaside resorts and holiday parks.