We were initially excited when the UK Government announced that arrivals from a handful of countries wouldn’t need to quarantine. Within days of the official green list being published, it was clear that “green” didn’t necessarily mean go. With holidaymakers once again rushing to fly back from a major holiday destination, allow us to explain why we’re not booking green list holidays right now.
You still need to pay for tests
Although we’ll be able to dodge the 2 week quarantine on our return, we’ll still need to provide negative test results for the outbound and inbound journeys. Depending on the destination and the availability of affordable testing labs, these typically add £150-200 onto a return trip. On top of that, we’d also have to go to the hassle of producing samples and getting results within 72 hours of our outbound and return flights.
Supply is low, demand is off the chart
At the time of writing, there are 27 countries on the UK’s green list. On a normal year, over 30 million British residents travel overseas on holiday. Assuming only half decide to travel, that’s still a lot of people going to very few places.
We’re not a fan of packed resorts; we find them hectic, overpriced and impossible to get restaurant bookings
On the night we heard Ibiza would be moving to the green list, economy seats shot up to £700 return. We wouldn’t pay more than £150 for a return to Ibiza in an economy seat. Basic supply and demand economics have driven prices to silly levels.
Portugal was a warning for us all
With vaccination rates lower than the UK, there’s a real risk of a more transmissible variant being introduced.
No sooner was Portugal added to the UK’s green list, we saw case numbers rising in The Algarve. A week after the Champions League final, we heard case numbers had risen by 21%. The UK Government responded by moving Portugal to the amber list and required arrivals to self-isolate for 10 days. The irony is that most of those new cases in Portugal are believed to have been imported from the UK.
Those already on holiday were left deciding whether they paid inflated prices to return home early. If they decided not to, they faced the new quarantine restrictions. We saw the same panic sweep across the beach in Marmaris, Turkey last year. No sooner had we arrived and the travel advice was changed. We were fortunate as we could work from home. We learnt of lots of people who couldn’t and some faced disciplinary action if they didn’t show-up.
The same could still happen in any destination attracting high concentrations of holidaymakers.
It could happen the other way around
It isn’t just the UK implementing new and frequently changing restrictions. Sovereign nations can revise their entry, testing and quarantine restrictions just as frequently. The Delta variant has caused fresh concerns that Europe could experience yet another spike in COVID cases. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel went on a mission to ask all EU leaders to tighten restrictions on arrivals from the UK.
Vaccination will become the norm
On the whole, we don’t feel we can travel with much confidence right now. Many green list countries are balanced precariously between the risk of importing COVID cases and the need to bring in tourism income. Both Malta and Portugal have now announced that only fully-vaccinated travellers will be welcome. This feels like a sensible, risk/reward trade-off and could well deliver a successful tourism season. Spain has said it will welcome unvaccinated visitors to the Balearic Islands (Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca), but they will need to provide a negative PCR test. We view this move with extreme skepticism. With low vaccination rates and plane loads of British tourists on the way, trouble could be looming. Despite insisting on negative test results, Portugal was still able to import the Delta variant. Could firing-up the Balearic tourist season come at the same price?
We’ll soon be able to travel safely
We’re both still waiting for our second vaccination doses. We won’t be considered to be fully-vaccinated until 14 days after our receiving our second doses. Travelling until then poses a risk not only to us, but more to the unvaccinated and vulnerable locals at our chosen destination. Once rules and recommendations for fully-vaccinated travellers are introduced, we think that will be the time for us to take a fresh look. The volatility of the green and amber list should settle. We shouldn’t expect to see restrictions changing with anywhere near the frequency we are presently seeing. Until then, we won’t be booking holidays to destinations on the green list.
We remain optimistic about travelling abroad this year, but we don’t think we’re quite there yet.