Pressure mounts for Government to scrap hotel quarantine

Arriving into the UK from ‘red-listed’ countries means mandatory hotel quarantine – AFP / GETTY

Arriving into the UK from 'red-listed' countries means mandatory hotel quarantine - AFP / GETTY

Arriving into the UK from ‘red-listed’ countries means mandatory hotel quarantine – AFP / GETTY

The Government must “urgently” set out its roadmap for the return of international travel, a group of MPs have demanded.

In an interim report, the cross-party Transport Select Committee urged the officials to reveal “when and how the current quarantine schemes will be phased out”. It added that the aviation industry, which has been largely grounded for the past year, “thrives on certainty” and “redundancies have mounted” as the return of travel overseas “continues to be delayed”.

“In order to return passenger aircraft to the skies and to connect the UK to the world, a roadmap to restart international travel is urgently needed”, reads the report. “The Department [for Transport] has not yet specified the standards that destination countries must meet on vaccine and testing capabilities in order to reopen for travel with the UK.”

Since early January it has been illegal to go on holiday and, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, the earliest that people in England can travel abroad for “non-essential” reasons is May 17.

Since February 15, arrivals into the country from “red-listed” destinations have been forced to quarantine in a hotel at a cost of up to £1,750 per person. Last week the chief executive of budget airline Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, told MPs labelled hotel quarantine a “PR start” that is “shambolic and ineffective”.

The Government’s Global Travel Taskforce is due to release its plans for the reopening international travel on April 12.

Scroll down for the latest travel updates.

12:17 PM

London to get new Rosewood

Rosewood Hotels and Resorts plan to open a second property in the capital, it has been announced.

The new hotel, scheduled to open its doors in 2024, will be located in Mayfair. The Chancery Rosewood will take over the site previously occupied by the American embassy on Grosvenor Square, in Mayfair.

The building is Grade II listed, and was designed by Eero Saarinen before opening in 1960. French architect Joseph Dirand is refreshing over the interiors, and it is slated to be both the first five-star hotel and first UK hotel to ever receive a BREEAM outstanding rating for sustainable development. The new hotel will have 139 rooms and suites.

“We are proud to have The Chancery Rosewood lead the transformation of the revitalised Grosvenor Square, an incredible public interest initiative that is nearly a decade in the making,” said Sonia Cheng, the chief executive of Rosewood Hotel Group.

12:00 PM

Tens of thousands take holy plunge in Ganges

Tens of thousands of Hindu devotees in India have plunged into the Ganges river today as the country kicked off one of the world’s largest religious festivals.

According to reports, Hindu ascetics known as Naga sadhus, many naked apart from a coating of ash and carrying swords or tridents, led the bathers at the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, in the northern town of Haridwar.

GANGES PLUNGE - PRAKASH SINGH/GETTY

GANGES PLUNGE – PRAKASH SINGH/GETTY

The event, which runs until the end of April, came as India is seeing the biggest spike in coronavirus cases for three months. This year all participants are required to present a negative coronavirus test result before being allowed into the festival grounds, authorities said. But there was little evidence of social distancing in place on Thursday as bathers jostled at the riverbank.

Devout Hindus believe bathing in the waters of the Ganges absolves people of sins, and during the Kumbh Mela brings salvation from the cycle of life and death.

GANGES PLUNGE - ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/REUTERS

GANGES PLUNGE – ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/REUTERS

More than 22,000 people had bathed in the holy river by 8am (2.30amUK time), according to Indian news reports, with the number rising significantly during the day. More than 100 million people attended the festival in 2019, the last time it was held, though the figure is expected to be lower this year.

Ganges plunge - ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/REUTERS

Ganges plunge – ANUSHREE FADNAVIS/REUTERS

11:41 AM

Ryanair launches new routes and extra flights to Greece

Low-cost airline Ryanair has announced three new routes between the UK and Greece for the summer, with extra flights added to a further five routes.

The decision was made due to the UK’s roadmap to out of lockdown, the country’s successful vaccination programme and Greece’s announcement that it plans to welcombe overseas tourists from May 14, the operator said.

The new offerings begin from July 1. Planes from Stansted Airport will now fly directly to Santorini, Zakynthos and Preveza twice a week, as well as see an extra flight each week to Rhodes. Birmingham, East Midlands, Manchester and Southend each get an additional weekly flight to Corfu.

Jason McGuinness, Ryanair’s director of commercial, said:

We are delighted to offer even greater choice, more routes and extra flights to Greece for our UK customers this summer. The UK Government’s highly successful vaccination programme gives customers the confidence that travel will be possible this summer. UK consumers can now choose from over 20 routes (including three announced today) and 5 extra weekly flights at low fares to some of the most popular summer holiday destinations in Greece.

11:31 AM

The best hotel gift experiences and afternoons teas to book for Mother’s Day 2021

You haven’t forgotten, have you? It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday, and my colleague Rachel Cranshaw has rounded up some of the very best afternoon teas and hotel experiences you can treat your mum to. From patisserie to cognac, there’s something for all tastes here.

Read more: The best hotel gift experiences and afternoons teas to book for Mother’s Day 2021

11:19 AM

Clubs, nose swabs and five-star quarantines

Despite the challenges of travelling during the pandemic, Liv Nervo has managed to perform with her twin sister at events around the globe. She spoke to Mark Stratton about her experience.

As a songwriting duo with her twin sister, Mim, she came to London from Australia aged 19, and has written for the likes of Kylie Minogue. After discovering the Ibiza scene, the twins formed a successful electronic dance act, Nervo, and now perform around the world.

“Pre-Covid we were travelling 300 days per year. Now travel has become like a jigsaw, although I’m quite enjoying being forced to be more stationary, especially when quarantining, it’s given me more routine with my 20-month-old daughter, who travels with me. I’m a single mum, so it’s not easy being constantly on the move even if my daughter is used to living out of a suitcase and loves travelling”.

We meet as Liv arrives at Heathrow from Paris after a recording session in Barcelona. I don’t recognise this star of the electronic dance scene because my musical taste is more Beethoven, but I do recognise her anxiety about the UK’s ever-changing border rules.

Read more: DJ Liv Nervo on globetrotting during a pandemic

Liv Nervo has maintained her jet-set lifestyle during the last 12 months - MARK SULLIVAN/GETTY

Liv Nervo has maintained her jet-set lifestyle during the last 12 months – MARK SULLIVAN/GETTY

11:13 AM

Digital travel pass pilot to take place in France

France will begin trialling a digital pass showing air travellers’ Covid-free status in a month-long test with Air France, the country’s transport minister has said.

Jean-Baptiste Djebbar explained that flights on the flag carrier to the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, passengers will have to present a mobile phone app that demonstrates either a vaccination certificate or a recent negative Covid test.

A number of airlines are working together for a global standard that will reassure travellers over the risks of flying, with the sector looking to recover after the pandemic.

10:58 AM

Shapps: ‘Covid passport’ to be introduced

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told the House of Commons that the government’s Global Travel Taskforce will introduce a travel certification to allow people to travel abroad.

He says this could be done by using schemes like the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass or the World Economic Forum’s common pass.

He says he has been having conversations with his US counterparts and “many others around the world” in order to get “travel going again”.

The transport secretary says the Global Travel Taskforce report will be made public on 12 April. Mr Shapps said on Wednesday that it was still too early to book a holiday.

Read more: Summer holidays abroad on cards as Grant Shapps ‘hopeful’ about talks with other countries

10:48 AM

Demand ‘more than doubling’ for Greek hotel

Telegraph Travel reported yesterday that Greece is readying itself to reopen to tourists on May 14. This, combined with the UK’s lockdown exit strategies, has been led to a boost in hotel bookings.

Antonis Avdelas from Sani Resort, which owns a number of hotels in Greece, told The Telegraph:

Following the announcement of the UK prime minister stating that international travel can resume on May 17 we have seen an increase in demand for reservations, with bookings more than doubling in recent weeks.

Further to the Greek Minister of Tourism’s announcement that Greece will welcome British tourists in May, we are optimistic that 2021 will be considerably better than 2020 and even successful towards it’s second half. We have confidence in the Greek government as they showcase the correct strategy not only for Greece but for the EU overall. We believe that global vaccination programmes, bilateral agreements between key countries such as the UK, USA, Russia and Israel and the reduction in infection rates we are currently seeing around the world, will be key to a successful season.

10:37 AM

Fukushima ‘is a place that stands outside the rest of the country… an ungoverned, daring place’

Greg Dickinson travelled to Japan in 2019 with a Telegraph film crew, shooting a collection of videos to be published ahead of the 2020 Olympics. ‘Japan Welcomes the World’, the series was called. As it turned out, coronavirus meant welcome the world Japan would not.

10:35 AM

‘Visiting Fukushima’s nuclear no man’s land was a day I will never forget’

Before the pandemic, the Japanese disaster zone was on the brink of a ‘dark tourism’ boom, reports Greg Dickinson.

My memories of the day I spent in Fukushima’s exclusion zone are not linear, but manifest as a feverish moodboard of anxieties. The concrete white sky, bearing down on the prefecture’s rural landscape. The horseflies, maddeningly gnawing at my bare legs. The rattling clicks of my Geiger counter, suggesting that I was somewhere humans ought not to be.

Prior to March 11, 2011, the mountainous Fukushima region received little international attention. As well known as its neighbouring prefectures of Yamagata or Miyagi, perhaps. But after a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan, that all changed.

This was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the impact was devastating. The resulting 40-metre-high tsunami killed more than 16,000 people and breached the flood defence walls at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant, prompting a Level 7 nuclear disaster for only the second time in Planet Earth’s history.

As a result, the name “Fukushima” joined the likes of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl. A place suspended beneath the unmoving shadow of nuclear tragedy.

'The frequency of the clicks on our Geiger counters rose unnervingly' - GETTY

‘The frequency of the clicks on our Geiger counters rose unnervingly’ – GETTY

10:25 AM

Spain could introduce ‘vaccine passport’ system in May

Hope for holidays in Spain have been given a boost after the country’s tourism minister said that a scheme to introduce ‘vaccine passports’ could be in place by the end of May.

María Reyes Maroto said she hoped the system would be in place in time for FITUR, an international tourism fair being held in Madrid on May 19, but the rollout will depend on infection rates and the number of people in Spain who have been vaccinated.

The Covid passport, or ‘Digital Green Pass’, is one of several measures agreed by EU leaders in a bid to kick-start the European travel industry following almost a year of restrictions due to Covid-19.

Earlier this week Greece’s tourism minister said the country plans to reopen to international tourists who are vaccinated, have antibodies, or can show proof of a negative test, if infection figures remain low.

10:19 AM

Holiday home horrors: It’s not all five-star reviews and chats over the breakfast table…

We are set for a summer of staycations. Interest in self-catering properties has surged, with Airbnb reporting that UK searches tripled following the announcement of an end to lockdown, and it says a growing number of people are considering renting out their homes to capitalise on the demand.

The figures are certainly alluring – last summer, UK hosts on Airbnb earned more than £225 million, roughly £1,000 each, by hosting guests in their properties.

But there are challenges too; it’s not all five-star reviews, chats over the breakfast table, and “thank you” notes.

Two hosts, one from the bustling streets of London and the other from the remote private island of Eilean Shona on Scotland’s west coast, shared their most memorable stories with Lucy Aspden.

A neighbour of my property in Peckham once got so fed up of a group of Airbnb guests making noise that she knocked on the door and when the guest opened the door she simply walked into the house, straight into the bedroom and went to sleep.

Read all the stories here: Two hosts recall their most amusing and irritating guests

10:06 AM

Nintendo park ready to open doors

The first Super Nintendo World will be unveiled at a grand opening on March 18 after the original February debut was delayed due to coronavirus.

Located within Universal Studios Japan, Osaka, the park currently has two rides, one themed after Mario Kart and another themed around Yoshi, Mario’s companion.

super nintendo world - KYODO-JAPAN OUT/REUTERS

super nintendo world – KYODO-JAPAN OUT/REUTERS

09:56 AM

Is Europe facing a third wave?

While we’re gearing up for the expected (all being well) return of holidays over the next few months, the picture looks different in Europe.

A third wave of the coronavirus is sweeping across large areas of Europe and threatens to engulf many countries quicker than they can hope to vaccinate their citizens.

In Italy, infections have risen by 50 per cent in a fortnight, and there are now 300 deaths a day. In Hungary, infections have more than doubled in 14 days. In the Czech Republic, they are now so high local immunologists say the country could achieve herd immunity without the help of vaccines. “Fear has turned into anger and exhaustion,”

Italy’s influential La Repubblica newspaper said on Wednesday. “We’re waiting for the vaccines like pioneers in a Western movie, surrounded by Indians, scanning the horizon and waiting for the Seventh Cavalry.”

Rome deserted as Italy faces third wave - RICCARDO ANTIMIANI/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTOCK

Rome deserted as Italy faces third wave – RICCARDO ANTIMIANI/EPA-EFE/SHUTTERSTOCK

Read more: Europe faces third wave as it lags behind with vaccinations

09:50 AM

Cut-price flights to encourage Australian staycations

Half-price flights to domestic holiday destinations will be available to Australians under plans to boost the country’s tourism industry.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the package of 800,000 cheaper airfares – to be offered between April and July – would encourage locals to visit other parts of the country.

Cairns, Alice Springs, the Gold Coast and the Whitsundays are among the subsidised locations, and the scheme is expected to cost AUD 1.2 billion (£670).

“To keep people in their jobs, we’ve got to put planes in the air, and we’ve got to put tourists on the ground,” Mr Morrison told reports.

09:40 AM

Record bookings seen for cruise line

Oceania Cruises recorded it’s best day of bookings this month, beating anything else the Miami-based line has seen in its 18-year history.

The surge in people booking their holidays came on March 3 with the release of the line’s winter 2022-2033 itineraries, with Asia, Africa and South America as the top-selling regions. A 35-day circumnavigation of Australia over the Christmas and New Year was the single best-selling voyage.

Bob Binder, the president and chief executive of Oceania Cruises, said:

The tremendous wave of bookings we saw on the day we opened our new 2022 and 2023 itineraries for sale underscores the extraordinary demand for long and exotic cruise holidays. Upscale travellers are eager to explore the world once more and are booking farther in advance to ensure their travel dreams are fulfilled.

The news comes after the line sold out its epic six-month world cruise on the first day the public could book.

Read more: Will cruise holidays make a comeback in 2021, and where will we be able to go?

09:31 AM

From Wuhan to a global catastrophe: One year of the coronavirus pandemic

When an unknown virus was discovered in a Wuhan market, few could have predicted it would change the world, writes Verity Bowman.

But the disease we now know as Covid-19 has spread across the globe at terrifying speed, presenting humanity with an unprecedented challenge.

One year after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic, we look back at the events that have shaped the global crisis.

See our interactive timeline here.

09:25 AM

Lowest Heathrow passengers numbers for 55 years

Heathrow’s passenger numbers have fallen to the lowest level since the 1960s, with just 461,000 people travelling through the west London airport in February,

This represents a 92 per cent decline compared with February 2020 and is the lowest monthly total since 1966, the airport said.

The ban on non-essential travel, quarantine rules and the requirement for pre-departure and post-arrival coronavirus testing has been blamed for the drop.

Heathrow said it is working with Boris Johnson’s taskforce to reopen international leisure travel from May 17, but warned that the “biggest single concern is the ability of Border Force to be able to cope with additional passenger numbers”.

09:18 AM

Will the USA reopen its border in July?

Paul Charles, the chief executive of The PC agency travel consultancy, is hopeful.

Find out more: Can I visit the US? Latest travel advice as government mulls hotel quarantine for arrivals

09:13 AM

‘Airports and airlines should upgrade their technology infrastructure’

After the levels of queuing at Heathrow was branded “unacceptable” by its chief operating officer, the head of airport technology firm Vision-Box believes that sites are in need of an upgrade.

Miguel Leitmann said:

Covid-19 protocols have had a huge impact on how businesses everywhere operate, but airports are perhaps the most intensive places as they handle tens of thousands of passengers every day from around the world. While Covid-19 protocols, including testing and social distancing are time consuming, we can efficiently manage large crowds and cut down waiting time by using biometric and contactless technologies.

It is important for airports and airlines to immediately upgrade their technology infrastructure before the summer travel boom, else passenger handling times would increase dramatically and create further inefficiencies. Airports and border forces are already experiencing severe pressure, with passenger handling times crossing over six hours in some cases.

Some of our clients have accelerated their move towards a biometric and contactless environment – including, but not limited to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Emirates, Dubai International Airport, the UK’s Home Office and Air Asia.

08:54 AM

Climbers to return to Everest

Hundreds of climbers are set to return to Mount Everest for the first time next month under strict conditions as the world’s tallest peak reopens after a year closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 300 foreign climbers were likely to attempt to scale the 8,849-metre (29,031-feet) mountain in the peak climbing season beginning in April, tourism department official Mira Acharya said, compared with a record 381 climbers who attempted the famed summit in the same period in 2019.

This is despite the one-week quarantine requirement and certificate showing the climber had tested negative for the virus, Acharya added.

08:51 AM

Why Cyprus is the greatest Mediterranean island of all

Can’t wait to get away? Ancient history, hidden treasure and tranquil mountains: there’s plenty to capture the imagination in this magical Med destination, writes Carole French.

The island's beautiful beaches make it ideal for a family holiday of sun and sea  - ISTOCK

The island’s beautiful beaches make it ideal for a family holiday of sun and sea – ISTOCK

Read more: Why Cyprus is the greatest Mediterranean island of all

08:48 AM

Cambodia reports its first coronavirus death

The first fatality from coronavirus in Cambodia has been reported, with the death of a 50-year-old man.

With only 1,124 coronavirus infections recorded in total, Cambodia has among the fewest cases in Asia, although there has been a sharp rise in recent weeks.

The country, home to 16 million people, has been successful in keeping the outbreak under control, as has its neighbours Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Cambodia started its Covid vaccination programme last month.

08:28 AM

The headlines from yesterday

Good morning. Here’s a reminder of Wednesday’s top stories.

  • Bookings surge as Greece set to reopen to British tourist, including for those who can prove they have Covid antibodies, on May 14

  • Grant Shapps is “hopeful” for foreign holidays but there are no “cast iron guarantees”

  • Your favourite Mediterranean island is… Sicily

  • 83 per cent of Brits happy to carry a vaccine passport

  • American ski resorts extend the season

  • Ryanair launches Covid-19 wallet

  • Queues at Heathrow at ‘unacceptable level’

  • Cruise fans prepare to return to the UK’s waters

Follow us here today for the latest travel news