Agents and operators have welcomed to opening up of travel corridors to the Canary Islands, Mykonos and the Maldives but questions remain over the government’s constantly shifting travel quarantine policy.

EasyJet and easyJet holidays joined Tui and Jet2 in announcing a resumption of operations to the Canaries, a vital winter sun destination for the UK trade.

Announcing the reintroduction of holidays to the Spanish archipelago from November 2, a spokesperson said: “This will mean many of our customers will be able to take a winter sun break to these popular islands or reschedule a holiday that they’ve been unable to take this summer as a result of the last minute changes to quarantine restrictions.

“As a result we will be putting additional flights on sale in the coming days from our airports across the UK. 

“Customers can also head to the Canary Islands on a full package holiday from £289 per person with easyJet holidays with the first departures from 2 November following this latest change in travel advice.”

However, the spokesperson added: “We continue to encourage the government to take a lead in moving to testing, as well as the approval of new testing technologies, as soon as possible as effective testing is crucial to get people flying again.”

The call from the budget airline group was echoed by the World Travel and Tourism Council and The Travel Network Group.

‘Glimmer of hope’

WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara described the introduction of travel corridors to the three destinations as giving a  boost to hard-pressed sector while hotels, bars and restaurants will all benefit from an influx of tourists.

She added: “It will also bring much needed welcome news and a glimmer of hope to travel agents and tour operators up and down the UK, desperate to secure whatever business they can after a dismal summer.

“This demonstrates that travel can resume when, through co-operation and co-ordination, the correct measures and protocols are in place to ensure hygienic and safe travels.

“However, we are disappointed that more destinations have gone back on the government’s quarantine list as this will once again have a damaging impact not only to travellers, but the entire travel and tourism sector.

“The current approach with last minute quarantines must change. As Covid-19 has adapted, so must we. We need to learn to live with the virus and replace ineffective and costly quarantines with a global standard testing regime upon departure.”

Travel Network Group chief executive Gary Lewis said: “We have more than 1,000 travel agent, tour operator members across the UK and they are crying out for government support.

News on the Job Support Scheme was desperately needed and we also welcome the Canary Islands being placed back onto the travel corridor list.

The Global Travel Taskforce announced with great fanfare two weeks ago will help but they need to be quick and decisive and we need to be rolling out the testing initiatives through airports and then safely shorten quarantine times – this will restore consumer confidence in overseas travel.”

Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association president Joanne Dooey said: “At last, a piece of positive new for the travel industry as some key countries for leisure travel are added to the safe list.

“The Canaries in particular are a hugely important destination for Scots’ holidays.

“With Mykonos also back on the safe list along with the Maldives this gives travellers the chance to travel to catch some winter sun after a long, dark year.

“And it shouldn’t be forgotten than there is a group of Scots who own holiday homes in the Canaries who will now be able to travel to and from their second homes without quarantine.

“It remains to be seen if this move today, which is very welcome, has come in time to save jobs and businesses in travel.”

Industry body Airlines UK said: “The Canaries are a hugely important market for winter travel – representing over 50% of bookings for some tour operators – so this is very welcome news for the whole sector.”

Pent-up demand

John Bevan, chief executive of dnata Travel Group, said: “Yesterday’s travel corridors announcements from the transport secretary were the best news we have had in a long time.

“We started receiving enquiries and taking bookings from customers within minutes – which proves that there is a huge amount of pent-up demand out there.

“Indeed, Travel Republic doubled its previous day’s revenue in hours. We have to hope that this is the start of a more proactive approach to travel, grounded in common sense, and that these gains aren’t reversed in the coming weeks.

“We can see that Brits are desperate to get away, and if this can continue, we have a chance to salvage something from the approaching winter season from which to build in 2021.” 

He added: “We’ll be working hard in the coming days to maximise the opportunity that has opened, across all our brands.

“Travel agents in particular should be taking note of the amazing deals that Gold Medal currently has for the Maldives, where dnata Travel Group is the number one producer of bed nights as a result of the volumes we send there from multiple territories globally.”

Online travel sellers, including holiday price comparison site, and recently-relaunched OTA Thomas Cook, reported spikes in searches for the Canary Islands immediately after the announcement was made.

Stephane Laguette, chief commercial officer at Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, which manages six resorts in the Maldives, said: “Since the announcement at 5pm UK time yesterday, our website traffic has significantly increased and we’ve been inundated with enquiries from Monday onwards.

“As the majority of our customers traditionally come from the UK, this news is extremely well received and we can’t wait to welcome British travellers to the Maldives for well-needed holidays in pristine Indian Ocean locations.”

Michelle Braddock,  co-founder of Lanzarote Retreats, said: “The change in advice has been long overdue. Usually we’re busy throughout the whole year so we’re lucky to have a popular winter-sun season.  This offers some of the businesses here a lifeline and the chance to make up for earlier losses. Since the announcement, we have been flooded with enquiries.  We’re excited to welcome back British visitors to the island and our villas in a safe way.”

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “There is pent-up demand for travel and many people will welcome the opportunity to book a trip to the Canary Islands for some winter sun now it has been added to the travel corridor list, but holidaymakers should be cautious.

“Only book if you can quarantine on your return, as travel corridors are subject to change from week to week.

“If you decide to go, book a package holiday with a trusted tour operator, as airlines and some online travel agents will refuse refunds if the travel corridor or FCO advice changes again in future – forcing travellers to choose between following government advice or losing their money.”