The “Plague Island” headlines splashed across the front pages said it all.With its out of control infection rates and deaths heading past the 125,000 mark, the UK started 2021 as Europe’s Covid pariah.
Now though, after a vaccination program that has seen more than a third of all adults receive at least one dose, countries across Europe, and tour operators who have struggled over the past 12 months, are falling over themselves to welcome weary Brits for a dose of summer sun.
Cyprus says it’ll take vaccinated Brits from May 1. Greece is planning to throw open its borders from May 14, with the Greek media declaring an “all out war” to get UK tourists into the country.
Harry Theoharis, Tourism Minister for Greece, told the virtual ITB Tourism conference this week that the country would welcome anyone who’d been vaccinated, could prove they had antibodies or present a negative PCR test.Declaring, “All you want is Greece,” his impassioned plea has kicked off a race for tourists’ unspent lockdown cash, which authorities across the Mediterranean hope will boost ailing communities that have lost millions over the past year.
Spain, which pulled in over 18 million British travelers in 2019, and Portugal have also said they’re keen to get Brits flying in as soon as it’s safe to do so.There’s clearly a market too. ABTA, a UK travel trade association, says that 63% of Brits are hoping to book a foreign vacation in 2021.
There’s just one niggling issue. It remains illegal to leave the UK for a vacation. This week the country’s transport minister, Grant Shapps, warned that it’s still too soon to book a foreign trip.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has penciled in May 17 as the soonest possible date that international travel will be allowed.
That remains subject to a review from the government’s global travel taskforce, due on April 12, when details on what countries are deemed safe for travel and what vaccine certification, if any, might be required.