The US State Department has heightened its travel warning against the UK, now categorising it as ‘Level Four: Do Not Travel’. This is the strongest advisory rating, indicating a “very high level of COVID-19”.
Some 116 countries have also been reclassified as ‘Do Not Travel’, including Canada, France, Germany and Israel. China and Japan remain at ‘Level 3: Reconsider Travel’.
It had been hoped that transatlantic leisure travel could be possible this summer, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps commenting on Tuesday that he was keen to establish a US-UK travel corridor. “We are having those conversations,” he told an Airlines UK webinar.
The State Department said the reclassification did not suggest a reassessment of current health situations, but rather “reflects an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system to rely more on [the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] existing epidemiological assessments.”
On Monday, the State Department revealed that 80 per cent of the world’s nations would be added to the list, increasing the total of inclusions from 34 to 150 – and counting. It has not confirmed when it will complete the updates.
Scroll down for more on this, and today’s other breaking news.
How to build a hotel
Construction has begun on Beach House by Silversands, a resort on the south coast of Grenada, with the island’s Prime Minister (pictured left) pitching in to ‘break ground’ on the site.
The small luxury boutique hotel will comprise of 31 canopied suites, with views of the Portici Beach cliffs and seafront. When completed, Beach House will be a member of Leading Hotels of the World, joining the other Silversands properties.
Dr Keith Mitchell, the Prime Minister of Grenada, was joined by Naguib Sawiris – CEO of Ora Caribbean, the developer behind the new hotel. It is scheduled to open in December 2022.
Second Covid wave surges through the Philippines
The Philippines’ health system is buckling under its worst Covid-19 surge of the pandemic, leaving patients gasping for air as they wait outside overcrowded hospitals and forcing doctors to make harrowing choices about who lives or dies.
The Philippines already emerged last year as one of the worst-hit nations in Southeast Asia. It has seen 953,000 cases and more than 16,000 deaths, but the second wave of infections is stretching medical workers to breaking point.
A two-week lockdown of the densely populated capital region has done little to ease the strain on the medical system or curb the rise in cases, which have doubled since March to averaging more than 10,400 a day. The spiral in cases has been fuelled by the British, South African and Brazilian variants that have pushed infections up across Southeast Asia, and a homegrown Philippine variant that has the same lineage as the one from Brazil.
How to plan a sustainable ski holiday (that’ll actually make a difference)
It’s possible to take a low-impact ski trip with the help of self-sufficient resorts, clever kit and smart travel choices, writes Abigail Butcher:
There’s nowhere to hide from climate change in the mountains. For decades now, snow levels have been rising, glaciers receding and winter seasons shrinking in length – and those are just some of the issues.
It’s got to the point where we can no longer shirk the issue – a trip to the slopes impacts the environment at every turn. In fact, the carbon footprint of a ski holiday is dominated (60 per cent) by transport and accommodation (35 per cent) followed by ski lifts (2 per cent).
But thankfully, it’s never been easier to make more sustainable choices with our ski holidays, from our travel plans to the places we stay, food we eat and kit we wear.
EasyJet launches new route between Newquay and Gatwick
EasyJet has announced it will commence flights between Cornwall and London this summer, with return fares from £53.98 return per person.
The new domestic route between Newquay and Gatwick will run from June 8 to October 30, with flights operating three times per week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Mapped: The countries accepting vaccine passports this summer
The Government has given the strongest indication yet that so-called ‘vaccine passports’ will help to unlock travel this summer, possibly as early as May 17.
The Department for Transport says it is looking to develop an official certification scheme, giving British holidaymakers the chance to show a document to overseas border officials and then sidestep quarantine or further testing.
See which countries have already said they’ll be open to inoculated travellers this summer:
Up to 30 countries could be on ‘green’ list for early summer holidays
Up to 30 countries including Spain’s Canary Islands, Portugal’s Azores and Malta could make the UK’s green list for summer holidays from May 17, report Charles Hymas and Dominic Penna.
The 30 destinations which are dominated by islands have high vaccination rates and low prevalence of Covid putting them in a strong position for inclusion on the “green list,” according to Government and industry sources.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, signalled earlier this week that the Government’s new traffic light ratings of countries will treat a nation’s islands independently of any higher Covid rate or lower vaccination rate on the mainland.
This would place the Canary Islands (with 91.7 of the adult population vaccinated), Malta (44.1 per cent), Azores (36.1 per cent), Madeira (33.7 per cent) and even the Balearic islands ( 25.4 per cent) on the green list by May 17. Greece is also running a campaign to vaccinate all the population of at least 85 of its islands which would put Zakynthos and Santinori in the frame for early Summer holidays.
Views from around the UK
As we reported earlier today, research suggests three in 10 Britons have booked a domestic holiday this year.
Today’s weather is helping to show off the beauty in different corners of the UK.
Jet2 adds more ski flights for winter ski season
Low-cost airline Jet2 has added more flights to ski destinations for winter 21 –22 following high demand for services to the French, Swiss and Austrian Alps.
The additional ski flights on sale from today, by base, are as follows:
Birmingham: additional February half-term flights to Grenoble, Geneva and Salzburg, plus an earlier start to the ski season to Geneva and Innsbruck with the addition of an extra service to these two popular ski destinations in December.
Manchester: six further flights to Grenoble for February half-term, extra Sunday service to Innsbruck from March 27 to April 10 and extended seasons to Chambery (extra service in December) and Geneva (extra service in December).
London Stansted: extra services to Grenoble and Geneva in February half-term, as well as three extra half-term services to Salzburg, plus extra services to Geneva in December.
Bristol: earlier start to the ski season to new winter 21/22 ski destination, Chambery, with services now starting on December 14).
Sweden not ready to lift Covid curbs, says PM
Sweden will hold off on its plan to ease some rules due to the ongoing high levels of new infections, the government said on Thursday.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a news conference:
When the strain on healthcare eases and the spread of infection drops, only then will the government be ready to start lifting restrictions. But we are not there yet.
Covid reaches Everest as base camp climbers infected
Nepal has reported its first cases of Covid-19 among climbers trying to conquer Everest, only weeks after the world’s highest mountain reopened with strict public health precautions, writes Ben Farmer.
Several climbers have tested positive for coronavirus infection in the capital, Kathmandu, after being flown from the mountain’s base camp, the New York Times reported.
The infections could be a blow for hopes of a revival to Nepal’s lucrative mountain tourism industry, after it was devastated by lockdowns in 2020.
Earth Day 2021: The A-Z of truly greener getaways
Sustainable travel is full of buzzwords, acronyms and accreditations. But what do they actually mean?
Earth Day 2021: The ‘green list’ that really matters
Today is Earth Day, the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970, and a global celebration of all-things sustainable.
But which countries are leading by example – and which are trailing behind? According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), these are the world’s most eco-friendly nations:
Denmark: EPI rating: 82.5
United Kingdom: 81.3
After a year of travel bans, a responsible return to holidays is vital for the health of the planet – and that of our future generations. So, how can you champion sustainability when you travel? Which countries are working to improve air quality and protected green spaces?
What the Covid vaccine passports plans mean for your summer holiday – and how to get one
The Government this week told the travel industry it was working towards a system that would “give people the ability to prove their vaccine status” to satisfy the entry requirements of a growing list of countries including Greece, Croatia and Spain.
But what form would such a ‘vaccine passport’ take – and how can you get one?
Seabourn to resume Caribbean sailings this summer
Cruise operator Seabourn has announced its plans to restart Caribbean sailings from July 18, with a series of round-trip itineraries from Barbados.
Seabourn Odyssey will call at ports including Antigua, St Lucia, St Kitts and the British Virgin Islands, with both seven-day and 14-day programmes available.
Only fully-vaccinated passengers will be permitted to travel, and will need to show proof that they have completed the inoculation course at least 14 days before sailing.
Amsterdam’s canal boats endangered by ‘party vessels’
Amsterdam’s historic canal boats are being driven off the waterways by huge vessels filled with drunken, weed-smoking tourists, their owners have claimed.
The council of the Dutch capital recently moved to limit the total number of boats allowed in the canal ring, a Unesco world heritage site, to 550.
Although 155 slots have been reserved for so-called historic boats, they still have to compete in a lottery for these places, which means that businesses that have built up a clientele serving private dinners, weddings and funerals, have to compete with newcomers and big boat owners for the right to remain on the water.
Heritage organisations, boat owners and councillors have complained formally and more than 21,000 people have signed a petition protesting that the transport rules designed to limit over-tourism will drastically cut the wooden pleasure fleet.
Icelandair offers ‘bargain’ Northern Lights holiday
Icelandair has announced a low-cost holiday deal to Iceland, which includes flights from the UK, a spa treat at the Blue Lagoon, a Northern Lights tour and a three-night stay at the 4-star Midgardur by Center Hotel, starting from £345pp.
The breaks start from October 2021, flying from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester or Glasgow. Customers must book by May 5 2021 for travel up to March 2022 to take advantage of the offer.
‘I was charged by a rhino while my brother hid up a tree’
Hugh Morris reflects on a safari in South Africa that left him face-to-face with a grisly end:
The rhino was large, pocked with battle scars and dried mud. Its horn was roughly cut, crude and threatening. Its eyes were set deep in its furrowed brow as it wondered where its companions (prey?) had disappeared to.
I, my eyes set deep in my furrowed brow, wondered where my companions had disappeared to. Where the hell was my brother? Was he about to abandon his position of safety to distract the beast with, presumably, a flare of some sort, to allow myself the opportunity to escape?
Sandals to launch three new hotels in Jamaica
Sandals Resorts International will add three new hotels to its Jamaica portfolio, it announced on Thursday.
Two all-inclusive resorts that Sandals acquired last year – the former Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort & Spa in Ocho Rios and Jewel Runaway Bay Beach Resort & Waterpark plus a prime parcel of beachfront land adjacent to the Ocho Rios resort – will be turned into three different properties. The Dunn’s River property was originally part of Sandal’s portfolio in the 1990s: it will undergo a top-to-bottom renovation with the adjacent ocean-front land transformed into an additional brand-new resort.
Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Resorts International (SRI), said:
Sandals Dunn’s River holds special meaning to our family because its history is the story of Jamaica’s evolution as a travel powerhouse. My father grew up on the beach in Ocho Rios and this hotel, the first of its kind when it was built in the 1950s, captured the era’s glamour and sparked his imagination. When it became available, we jumped at the chance to bring the hotel back into the Sandals fold.
The Runaway Bay resort, located midway between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, will also be redeveloped to become Beaches Runaway Bay Resort. The hotel will feature about 400 one, two, three and four-bedroom suites. Guests of Beaches Runaway Bay also have access to Runaway Bay Golf Club and its par-72, 18-hole championship golf course.
Singapore and Hong Kong hope to announce travel bubble soon
Singapore and Hong Kong said on Thursday that they hoped a long-delayed air travel bubble between the two cities would start soon, but no date had been fixed.
A travel link between the two Asian financial hubs was delayed last year after a spike in coronavirus cases in Hong Kong.
Bloomberg News reported that Singapore and Hong Kong had called off an announcement planned for Thursday on the bubble.
Hong Kong’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau told Reuters that Singapore and Hong Kong were having advanced discussions regarding the air travel bubble and that the government would make an announcement “as soon as practicable”.
Spain ‘desperate to welcome’ UK visitors
Spain’s tourism minister has said the country is “desperate to welcome” UK visitors this summer.
Fernando Valdes told Sky News: “I think we will be ready here in Spain. We also think that the vaccination scheme in the UK is going pretty well, so hopefully we’ll be seeing this summer the restart of holidays.”
He added that certificates enabling holidaymakers to prove they have either been vaccinated or recently tested are “going to help us”.
Three in 10 have booked a UK break this year, survey finds
Some 28 per cent of Britons have booked a holiday in the UK this year, a survey has found.
More than half (53%) of people are planning to book a UK getaway, according to the research. On average, people have spent £353 per person on staycation bookings.
Wales and the Lake District were the top destinations, followed by Cornwall and the Scottish Highlands.
Over a third of people (39%) said eating and drinking out is the activity they are most looking forward to, with many people also aiming to spend on shared experiences with family (54%) and friends (43%). Some 2,000 people were surveyed in March for American Express.
See our guide to travel restrictions across the UK before you book.
The Everest climber who risked his life to find out what really happened to Mallory and Irvine
Mountaineer Mark Synnott left behind his wife and children and set out on an 18-month mission to solve Everest’s greatest mystery.
Will you still have to quarantine if you’ve been vaccinated?
It’s a rare morning for Travel, in that we have two (two!) heartening stories about our prospects for summer holidays.
Firstly, that the UK Government plans to have ‘vaccine passports’ in place to facilitate travel by this summer (see below post, 8:58am). Secondly, that The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is recommending that the inoculated can avoid tests and quarantine (see 9.15am).
But how will this affect the impending ‘traffic light’ system, which will inform travellers’ quarantine and testing requirements? The current guidance makes no reference to the individual’s vaccination status. Will the rules be loosened for those who’ve received two jabs?
There has been no guidance on this, but we should find out more when the list is published in early May. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far:
Can self-catering at a five-star hotel really deliver the same level of luxury?
Until hotels are permitted to open on May 17, self-catering breaks are your only real prospect of a luxury getaway, and a number of five-star hotels are now offering the service.
But is it really worth the hefty price tag? After all, you’ll still have to fend for yourself – cooking dinner, doing the washing… Doesn’t exactly sound like a luxury holiday, does it?
‘Cost of testing could be greater than cost of the flights’
The Transport Select Committee has spoken out against the “cautious” report by the Government Global Travel Taskforce, warning it puts the prospect of summer holidays “in jeopardy”.
As well as urging the UK Government to reveal the ‘green list’ of travel destinations by May 1 (see post below, 8:47am), it has declared the taskforce’s current plans to be “insufficient” to prepare for the restart of travel on May 17.
The current approach to testing is “disproportionate to the risk” of Covid, it added, with Britons expected to pay hundreds of pounds for tests to travel to countries where the virus is less prevalent than it is in the UK.
Huw Merriman, chair of the committee, warned that the cost of testing could be more expensive than the cost of travel itself:
The aviation and travel sectors were crying out for a functional report, setting out clear rules and offering certainty. This is not it.
For UK citizens seeking to travel to the parts of the globe where the vaccine has been delivered as rapidly as the UK, the cost to families from testing could be greater than the cost of the flights.
Inoculated can avoid tests and quarantine, say European officials
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) has said the latest medical evidence shows the risk of an unvaccinated person contracting coronavirus from an inoculated individual is “very low”.
The ECDPC said the risks were so low that requirements for testing or self-isolating travellers could be “waived or modified”.
It concluded – based on the latest available evidence – that there was no risk of severe Covid being contracted through transmission.
The ECDPC said: “Requirements for testing and quarantine of travellers (if implemented)… can be waived or modified for fully vaccinated individuals.”
The only condition would be if there was the presence of Covid variants, which scientists are investigating for their potential to undermine the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Covid passports proving vaccine status will be available for summer holidays
Covid passports will be made available to prove people have been vaccinated as early as next month, in time for summer holidays, the travel industry has been told.
The Department for Transport wants an official certification scheme that gives British travellers a document they can show at borders overseas in place by May 17.
In a separate development, a European medical agency recommended that fully vaccinated travellers should be able to sidestep tests and quarantine.
It potentially smooths the path for holidays to more than 20 countries that have indicated they could ask travellers for proof of vaccination, such as Israel, Croatia, Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus.
‘Reveal green list countries by May 1 or the holiday season will be ruined’
The Government must reveal its safe “green list” of holiday destinations by the end of next week or risk jeopardising the relaunch of summer breaks, say MPs.
The Commons transport committee has set a deadline of Saturday May 1 for Britons to be told the list of countries where they can safely book holidays from May 17, the scheduled date for the resumption of foreign travel.
The MPs warned that government plans revealed earlier this month for a traffic light system rating the risk of countries were “vague,” “costly” and lacked the detail that holidaymakers and the travel industry needed to prepare for foreign summer breaks.
Before we begin, here’s a quick recap of yesterday’s news:
Shapps confirms ‘green watchlist’
Greek, Spanish and Portuguese islands could open early to British tourists for summer holidays
France trials digital Covid travel certificate
Airlines are running out of cash, warns Emirates boss
Asian countries step closer to reopening for tourism
Now, on with today’s headlines.