November has begun with with a slew of international restrictions being swept away – as the UK, Australia and other nations dismantle long-standing rules that have acted as travel bans.
“Demand for the Dominican Republic went up by 569 per cent when we were told it was coming off the red list,” said David Burling.
The chief executive, Markets, for Tui – Britain’s biggest holiday company – was speaking on the first day of World Travel Market, the leading travel industry event that last welcomed visitors in 2019.
It was also the day when the “Dom Rep” and neighbouring Haiti were removed from the UK government’s high-risk category. So too were Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela – the remaining five unwilling “founder members” of the hotel quarantine scheme.
Arriving travellers need no longer pay more than £2,000 for 11 nights of “managed isolation”, though the government is keeping some rooms on standby in case new variants of coronavirus emerge.
Pent-up demand for travel experiences is also strong in the Arctic, Mr Burling said.
“People haven’t seen Santa Claus for two years.”
He told The Independent that one-day trips and three- to four-day stays to Arctic Finland are selling strongly.
A day trip from East Midlands airport to Kittila in Finland on 4 December is currently selling at £650 per person.
Parents – and grandparents, who often pay for such adventures – are apparently undeterred by the Covid-era caution in the online brochure, which warns: “There might be some social distancing measures in place at meetings with Santa, but you’ll still get a photo to treasure.”
Mr Burling said that overall the prospects were optimistic: “We are seeing real momentum. Over the winter we’re hoping to get back to 60-80 per cent. By next summer we’re hoping to be back to 2019 levels.”
That process will be made easier because of the collapse in September 2019 of Tui’s biggest rival, Thomas Cook.
On the same day, Ryanair announced continued – but shrinking – losses for the summer of 2021, and predicted expansion to 225 million passengers annually within five years.
Alex Cruz, former BA chief executive, said low-cost airlines are likely to do well as they emerge from the pandemic – along with network carriers including BA, Air France/KLM and Lufthansa.
“BA is in a prime position to succeed,” he told a conference session at World Travel Market.
The backdrop to the event is a 73 per cent collapse in international visitor numbers globally last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Much of the fall is attributed to a tangle of travel restrictions.
The UK has more complex rules than most, and in a virtual address Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, said: “You can’t rule out more mismanagement from the Johnsonian government, which makes a mess of everything it touches.”
Shortly before midnight on Monday, local time, Qantas flight 1 took off from Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, bound for London Heathrow – where it is due to arrive at 6.19am on Tuesday morning.
It marks the first regular scheduled flight to the UK since March 2020. The return flight, QF2, is due to leave Heathrow at 9.50am on Tuesday.
The first Australian citizens and residents able to return home without hotel quarantine touched down from Singapore in the early hours of Monday morning. Arrivals in New South Wales, Victoria and the Canberra area need not self-isolate.
While foreign visitors are not expected to be admitted to Australia until some time in 2022, Israel opened up on Monday to fully vaccinated travellers who take a PCR test in the 72 hours before departure to the nation.
Thailand has also eased restrictions, with holidaymakers from the UK and 45 other countries able to access the country without having to quarantine for the first time since April 2020.