Winter getaway options start to expand

by Steve Hartridge

Hopes for a surge of winter sun and early New Year bookings rose this week after several countries were added to the UK’s travel corridor list and others announced they are ready to welcome back British visitors. 

Until England's second Covid lockdown ends on December 2 travel other than for business remains banned but after this date visitors will now be able to visit The UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and the Turks and Caicos without the need to quarantine for 14 days once they return. 

Other countries recently added to the travel corridor list are Chile, Iceland, Cambodia and Laos - although Greece (bar five islands) has been removed. 

Sri Lanka and Israel have also been added to the government’s quarantine-free travel corridor list, although neither are currently open to tourist arrivals

LATA CEO Danny Callaghan said the move to add Chile, which plans to reopen to non-residents from November 23, was the first step to more Latin American countries being added and "gives us and our LATA members confidence in the recovery of the Latin American tourism sector and demonstrates that countries in Latin America are managing the pandemic effectively".   

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group said: "We welcome the UK's decision to add the UAE to its list of countries where arriving travellers are exempt from quarantine. It is recognition of the UAE's effective response in containing the pandemic."  

Emirates immediately announced it would expand services from the UK, operating its A380 aircraft four times a day to Heathrow from November 27 and six times a week to Manchester from December 2, with additional flights to Birmingham and Glasgow.  

Meanwhile, South Africa has also reopened to international travellers - including those from the UK and Ireland - a move which saw an immediate hike in airfares by airlines flying to the country such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Qatar Airways. However the Republic, which traditionally relies on an influx of British holidaymakers between mid-December and March, is not on the UK corridor list. 

Kgomotso Ramothea, Acting Hub Head at South African Tourism for the UK and Ireland, said reopening its borders to international visitors was a " huge step in the right direction towards South Africa’s tourism recovery". 

"The UK & Ireland are two of our key source markets and we are ready to welcome tourists back. As South Africa approaches its summer season, it’s the perfect destination for some winter sun, particularly for Brits looking to book a trip with their families for the festive season."  

Julia Lo Blue-Said, CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, said the addition of several countries to the quarantine-free travel corridor list is a "a welcome relief for travel agents who now have some options to sell". 

"Winter is a great time to visit Iceland, and the UAE is a fantastic option for winter sun...and it is positive to see that the world is beginning to open up, with destinations like South Africa lifting all restrictions on international travel." 

Holiday Extras has released a list of countries that are 'quarantine-free' in both directions, that is those that will admit British tourists without a quarantine-on-arrival requirement but are also included in the U.K. travel corridor. These are: Antigua and Barbuda, Canary Islands, Cuba, Dubai, Gibraltar, Greece (specific islands), Madeira, Maldives, Seychelles,  St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin and St Barthelemy, Turks and Caicos. 

Agents should keep updated on the Covid test requirements of individual countries. For example, British travellers to visit Dubai must still present a negative Covid-19 PCR test, which can either be done within 96 hours before departure or on arrival at Dubai airport.  

And those taking advantage of South Africa's borders reopening will have to present a paper copy of a negative COVID-19 certificate from a test taken in the 72 hours before departure.  

Spain has also announced that from November 23 British tourists will require a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival, but conversely, Costa Rica stopped asking for negative PCR test from November 1, although tourists must have an insurance policy that covers medical care and unlimited hospital treatment if they should contact Covid in the country.  

Advantage's Julia Lo Bue-Said said that with fast-changing rules and entry requirements and an ever-shifting travel corridor list more travellers would look to the expertise of their local travel agent. 

"Agents will be now more valuable than ever because they will help cut through any confusion and provide advice on the latest entry requirements, such as evidence of a negative Covid test, which some of these destinations require," she said.

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