Britons were today warned not to book a foreign holiday unless they can afford to lose the money with dreams of a summer getaway now hanging in the balance.
Concerns over travel restrictions abroad intensified as UK tourism chiefs warned Britons to make their reservations for ‘staycations’ next year as soon as possible. Families are booking up dates for UK holidays in 2021 despite the cost of some stays going up by 50 per cent as operators try to recoup some of their lockdown losses.
Slots at campsites, B&Bs and cottages across Britain are also running out because holidays postponed during the lockdown are now being rebooked for next year.
Up to 14million Britons are expected to go on a UK holiday before children go back to school in September, giving the country’s economy a £3.7billion boost – with Havens saying bookings at its 36 parks are up 96 per cent year-on-year, demand for caravan sites up 140 per cent in Devon and bookings also surging at Butlins locations.
But speaking about going abroad, Guy Anker from MoneySavingExpert told The Times: ‘People who booked a holiday or took out insurance after mid-March are not going to be covered by a local lockdown or the decision to change travel advice.
‘My advice would be, do not spend any money at the moment that you can’t afford to lose, or where flexibility is not written into your airline ticket or hotel booking.’
UK holiday agent Hoseasons said it has employed extra telesales staff to cope with extra demand with bookings made for the next year up by a third on normal levels.
Its cottage break bookings are up 223 per cent over the last month compared to the same period in 2019, while call volumes are at more than ten times the normal level.
The empty Jet2 check-in desk at Edinburgh Airport this morning after UK tourists were told not to travel to Spain
Jet2 staff stand at the check-in desk at Edinburgh Airport today after the new UK guidance on not travelling to Spain
Charles Millward, owner of Staycation Holidays, which manages 120 UK properties, told The Times: ‘People should be worried about finding availability next year.’
What can I do if I’ve booked a holiday to Spain?
Can I get a refund on my flights?
Airlines are refusing to cancel flights to Spain – despite the Government advising against all but essential travel.
The move puts hundreds of thousands of British families in limbo and at risk of losing thousands of pounds. It also puts the airline industry at odds with the UK Government by ignoring a public safety edict. The Government issued the travel warning after the emergence of a second wave of coronavirus in parts of Spain.
Customers would normally expect travel firms to cancel the flights and offer refunds. But all the major carriers, which have suffered massive losses following the collapse of air travel, have snubbed the Government and continue to offer the flights. This means families will potentially lose their holidays and their money.
People could ignore the Government and take their flights. But they would have to quarantine for 14 days when they get back and their travel insurance may be void. Alternatively, they could cancel their trip without any guarantee of a refund.
Can I switch my flight date or change destination?
British Airways and easyJet have suggested they will offer vouchers for future flights, rather than a refund, for those who cancel.
Ryanair has refused to offer anything. It even suggested people who changed their flights could incur charges of up to £95 per person.
What if I have booked a package holiday?
If you booked a package holiday which cannot go ahead as planned, you are entitled to a refund and it should be returned within 14 days.
However, a number of airlines have not cancelled flights and some tour operators are also doing the same – this means you might not get a refund without a fight.
Companies will be expected to cancel package holidays to Spain and its islands and offer refunds. An estimated 1.8m bookings will be affected.
Tui has suspended all holidays to Spain up to and including August 9. It said customers travelling ‘will be able to cancel or amend holidays and will be able to receive a full refund or the option to rebook their holiday with a booking incentive and our customer service team will proactively email these customers’.
Jet2 and Tui have cancelled trips up to certain dates in August. Kuoni, even though it is not cancelling trips, is offering refunds or rebookings at a later date.
Will I be able to cancel a direct hotel booking?
If you have booked directly with a hotel it is unlikely that they will let you cancel without abiding by their cancellation charges.
You could try appealing to their goodwill and there is certainly no harm in asking. They may for instance let you move to a later date.
If you have booked through a third-party website like Booking.com, Expedia or Lastminute, you may find that the cancellation terms are more generous, depending on what sort of reservation you made.
If it is not offering either option, contact your travel insurer to see if you can claim on your policy instead.
Will my insurance cover it?
Only Nationwide’s FlexPlus travel insurance, which comes with its £13-a-month current account, covers trips cancelled because Foreign Office advice changed after a booking was made – while it also covers a trip being cut short because of a local lockdown.
Other policies from the likes of Trailfinders, Nationwide, Axa, All Clear, Coverwise and Insure For will cover coronavirus-related cancellations, but not because of a change in government travel restrictions.
The Civil Aviation Authority said there was nothing it could do to ensure those with a flight-only booking got a refund. It suggested they claim money back from a travel insurance policy, but most insurers have clauses that reject any claims linked to coronavirus.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said it is ‘likely’ that travel insurance will remain in place for holidaymakers already in Spain until they return home. However, those attempting to travel to countries against FCO advice would invalidate their travel insurance.
The ABI said people who booked a trip or took out travel insurance after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic may not be covered for travel disruption or cancellation. In either circumstance, travellers should check with their insurer.
What if my trip isn’t cancelled but I want to cancel it?
If your trip isn’t cancelled, contact your travel provider in the first instance to see if they are offering refunds, or again, a change of date.
If they are not, you may have to swallow the cost of cancelling your holiday and then fighting to get a refund through your insurance, credit card provider through Section 75 or a chargeback, offered by some banks.
While most tour providers still haven’t shown their hand, it is thought likely most will cancel holidays given the Government advice.
What should I do if I am already in Spain?
People currently on holiday in Spain have been encouraged to follow the local rules, return home as normal and check the FCO’s travel advice pages on gov.uk for further information.
The FCO is not advising those already travelling in Spain to leave. Abta – the UK’s travel trade association – has advised customers in the country to continue their holidays and return as normal.
What if I am going on holiday elsewhere?
The FCO continues to advise against non-essential international travel except to the countries and territories on its exemption list.
But local government minister Simon Clarke said the reality is that holidaymakers travelling abroad during the coronavirus outbreak will have to accept there is a ‘degree of uncertainty’.
He said people going on holiday should understand that they may be asked to self-isolate on their return and the Government must reserve the right to keep the British public safe.
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said anyone making travel arrangements needs to recognise the restrictions that may be placed upon them by the Government on their return to the UK.
What will happen when I get back from Spain?
If you’re returning to the UK from Spain you will need to provide your journey and contact details and self-isolate for 14 days. This may drop to 10 days soon.
You may be fined up to £100 if you refuse to provide your contact details or more if you break this rule more than once.
You may also be fined up to £1,000 if you refuse to self-isolate, or you could face further action.
Will my employer pay me if I have to quarantine?
This will depend on your employer and their rules. If, for example, you can still work from home, there should – in theory – be no problem with you quarantining.
However, you are not automatically entitled to statutory sick pay from your employer if you have to quarantine after coming back off holiday, according to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
Some employers will offer sick pay – either statutory or a higher level, depending on their policy.
It could be that if your employer is unable to offer you sick pay, you could take annual leave to avoid missing out on any payment, although this may not be possible if you do not have enough left to take.
However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, including by being put on to sick pay.
He added that one property has just three weekends free next year from March until September, and the staycation has ‘suddenly become massive for us this summer’.
Writer and broadcaster Sally Jones, who lives in Warwick, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘I do think it’s totally bonkers to encourage people to go abroad at the moment when we don’t know which countries are going to be shut down, where we’re going to have quarantine coming back from, say, Croatia or France.
‘There’s wonderful, wonderful places in England. I think most people don’t really know their own country that well.’
She added: ‘Why not go and explore places like, say, Scotland or the beaches of Northumberland? There are these incredible places in England – most of us have never been there.’
British campsites have also seen a boom in bookings as people give up on foreign trips.
The website Pitchup.com, which sends 800,000 people a year to 2,000 UK campsites, said bookings on Sunday were double last year’s high for a single day.
It took some 6,100 bookings, representing around 18,000 people, which was up by 20 per cent on the previous Sunday. Founder of the booking platform, Dan Yates, said there is a clear switch to staycations.
He said: ‘For many who were just starting to consider booking a trip abroad this is probably the nail in the coffin, with the change in regulations fundamentally damaging consumer confidence to travel overseas.
‘The tightened financial climate means British holidaymakers are unlikely to take the risk of not being able to work when they return which has likely been the catalyst for this weekend’s surge in UK bookings.’
The website also offers bookings to campsites across Europe.
Mr Yates said: ‘The tourism and hospitality sector has been decimated by Covid and our Spanish site owners are in uproar.
‘They believe a more localised approach which focuses on quarantine in the specific regions which have been affected by the Covid peaks would have been a more appropriate and effective response by the UK government.
‘This is, however, good news for domestic campsites and caravan parks as thousands will substitute a UK holiday for their usual one abroad.’
Mr Yates said: ‘The ever changing guidance is likely to cause mass confusion and concern amongst Brits, with many likely to elect to play it safe and staying closer to home this year.’
Airbnb has said that on bookings made on the weekend of June 27/28, more than 70 per cent were staycations.
A spokesman said: ‘Staycations are great for Brits who want to explore beyond their own four walls again, but also for the hospitality industry and Airbnb hosts who depend on the income from listing on our platform.
‘We’ve seen a significant spike in demand as travel becomes a reality again, with our trending destinations showing people are keen to explore the many interesting towns and rural areas the nation has to offer, providing a welcome boost to local businesses.’
Issuing advice to those concerned about holidays in Spain, Brian Brown of Defaqto said: ‘If you are in Spain now your insurance will cover you as normal. This will include curtailment and medical claims. However, it will not include curtailment if you just want to come home early.
‘You won’t however have any compensation from your travel insurer for any enforced quarantine on your return to the UK.
‘If you are on your way to Spain right now by car you might also have problems.
‘If you enter Spain after the FCO advised you not to, then you will have no cover at all, including medical insurance.
‘So, if you are driving through France to Spain, you should turn around and come home, or find somewhere else to have your holiday.’
He added that those who have a booking to Spain but can’t now travel because the FCO has advised against it, should first go to the travel provider.
Mr Brown continued: ‘Airlines and package operators will likely cancel the flight/holiday. You should ask them for a refund, or to transfer your holiday to another destination or time.
‘If you can’t get refunds, for instance if you booked your accommodation directly with the hotel, your travel insurance might pay out, but only if the policy covers you for change of government advice and you booked the holiday and bought the insurance before the FCO changed its advice.
‘You will need to check your insurance policy wording.
‘If you are planning to travel somewhere else, where the FCO currently says you can go, but now don’t want to take the risk then no travel insurance policy will cover you for cancellation. Disinclination to travel is not an insured peril.’
Meanwhile Sally Jaques of GoCompare Travel Insurance, said: ‘If a holiday company is still taking customers to mainland Spain, which at the moment would be against FCO advice, those holidaymakers are between a rock and hard place.
‘They can’t cancel their holiday and claim their holiday cost back on their insurance and by travelling to a destination classified as an area where the advice is to avoid all non-essential travel, they will be invalidating their travel insurance policy.
‘If they fall ill abroad, have an accident, or have their luggage lost or stolen, their insurer is unlikely to pay out a claim.
‘The best option for holidaymakers in this situation who don’t want to take the risk is to request to rebook their trip for a later date, when hopefully the pandemic will have abated or at least the situation will be clearer. However, holiday companies are under no obligation to do this.
‘The sudden turnaround of advice regarding travelling to mainland Spain and the quarantine requirements imposed for all of Spain, including its islands, highlights how unpredictable foreign travel is at the moment.
‘Customers booking holidays anywhere this summer run the risk of having their trips cancelled or being left in an almost impossible situation of not wishing to travel, being pushed into ignoring FCO advice by their tour operator and invalidating their insurance whilst away.
‘Frankly anyone choosing to go abroad this year is taking a gamble.’
In a huge blow to the tourism industry both at home and abroad, ministers have extended travel restrictions to the Spanish islands and warned that other holiday destinations could follow.
The Foreign Office is now warning against ‘all but essential’ travel to the Balearics and Canaries, having already done so for the mainland.
This is on top of 14-day quarantine on return.
Travel firm Jet2 responded to the diktat by cancelling flights to all Spanish destinations and told passengers not to go to the airport.
Downing Street warned: ‘Unfortunately no travel is risk-free during this pandemic.’
Sources said there were ‘no immediate plans’ to change travel and quarantine advice to other countries.
But Croatia and Belgium are thought to be of concern, and ministers are also monitoring France and Germany. Last night Grant Shapps cut short his own holiday in Spain to deal with the crisis.
The Transport Secretary, whose wife and children will continue their holiday without him, will have to quarantine at home for two weeks.
He told the Mail he ‘didn’t feel right’ continuing his holiday when others were having their plans wrecked. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove cancelled a trip to the Balearics on Saturday.
Ministers were last night facing a backlash from travel experts and the airline industry over the ‘chaotic’ handling of the air bridges policy, which has been in place for only three weeks.
The Spanish government, international airline bosses, holidaymakers and travel firms said Britain had got it wrong on safety, science and economic impact.
Tourists look around Boscastle village in Cornwall on a rainy day yesterday as people go on staycations across the UK
Former Tory Cabinet minister Michael Portillo said it ‘looked like a deliberate attempt to wreck the recovery’.
Spanish PM says quarantine is ‘unjust’ and claims tourists will be SAFER in his country than in the UK after FCO changed contradictory advice and urges Brits not to travel to islands
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
Spain’s Prime Minister has blasted quarantine restrictions as ‘unjust’ and said tourists will be safer in his country than the UK as ministers prepare to slash quarantine from 14 to 10 days to salvage getaways for millions of families.
Pedro Sanchez last night criticised the government’s sudden decision to force Britons returning from Spain to stay at home for two weeks and called on the government to reconsider its decision.
Tourists braced to enter quarantine are worried the fortnight self-isolating could cost them paid work and there are fears the newly-imposed rules could kill off the summer holiday season.
Speaking moments after the Foreign Office hardened its stance and advised against non-essential travel to the whole of Spain, including the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, Mr Sanchez told Spanish TV station Telecinco on Monday night: ‘I think the UK’s decision is an incorrect one.
‘Spain is made up of a number of regions that have a cumulative rate of contagion that is lower than the European average as well as the UK average.
‘The Spanish tourist industry has acted very responsibly over the past few months and has transferred a message of security with regards to the health emergency we are experiencing.
‘It’s true that on a global level the coronavirus pandemic continues to show a very worrying development and at European level as well, but in Spain the spread of the virus is not occurring in a uniform way.
‘Sixty-two per cent of the new cases are occurring in two regions but in the majority of the country, the cumulative incidence of the virus is lower than the European average and the UK average.’
But a government source said: ‘This was always a safety first policy. If we think there is a risk we will end up importing cases from overseas then we will act decisively to prevent it.’
The Government shocked the nation and travel industry at the weekend with new advice against all but essential travel to mainland Spain.
At the same time, it said anyone returning from there should go into a 14-day home quarantine. Breaking quarantine risks a £1,000 fine.
The decision was taken amid fears of a second wave of Covid in Spain after case numbers rose by 75 per cent in just 48 hours last week.
The rate of infection in Spain is 35.1 cases per 100,000 people, while the UK is at 14, according to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The Balearic and Canary islands were included in the quarantine restrictions but excluded from Foreign Office warning against ‘all but essential travel.’
The omission had led to hopes yesterday that the islands, where coronavirus cases are said to be lower, might be lifted out of the restrictions altogether, following intense lobbying from Spain.
Those hopes were dashed last night by the latest Foreign Office advice.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘We have considered the overall situation for British nationals travelling to and from the Balearic and Canary Islands, including the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK, and concluded that we should advise British nationals against all non-essential travel to the whole of Spain.’
It was claimed last night that the Chief Medical Officer had warned that ten Britons who had tested positive for coronavirus since July 1 had reported visiting Spain in the 14 days before their test.
It comes after one of the country’s most popular holidays seemed to be struggling with the onslaught of guests.
Swathes of people have descended on St Ives, Cornwall – famed for its narrow streets – seemingly struggling to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Car parks in the area are reaching capacity, and people are packing on to the town’s popular beach and into cafes and restaurants surrounding it.
Officials in St Ives have introduced a ‘keep to the left’ policy in an attempt to ensure everyone can keep to the one-metre plus distance currently advised.
Guests in the town have also been advised to wear a face mask and to avoid cramming into smaller shops. And in an effort to further reduce congestion in St Ives, access for most vehicles has been restricted between 10am and 6pm.
Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, admitted some locals were still ‘nervous’ about the sudden rush of tourists. In spite of that, he added that on the whole ‘everyone is sticking to social distancing rules’ despite some of the historic towns being ‘close to capacity’.
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