Travel firms scramble to rearrange holidays amid new COVID measures

Published on : Monday, November 29, 2021

Tour operators are scrambling to rearrange Swiss skiing holidays after the country joined Spain in tightening travel restrictions amid rising concerns about the spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant.

From Saturday night, Switzerland mandated 10 days of quarantine for all new arrivals, in effect wrecking skiing holidays in the Swiss Alps until further notice.
Travel firms are also wrestling with Spain’s ban on non-vaccinated arrivals that will affect British holidaymakers from Wednesday 1 December.

Israel was also expected to announce a ban on foreign visitors for a fortnight, which could come into effect from Monday.

The international measures to limit the spread of the new COVID-19 variant came as tour operators warned a new testing regime for arrivals to the UK expected to come into effect early this week was “a huge blow for travel businesses”.

Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that all arrivals to the UK “must take a day two PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result”.

For a family of four wanting a rapid turnaround test so they can leave quarantine within a day, that could increase the cost of their holiday. The measures will be reviewed in three weeks.

The timing of the new UK restrictions is bad for the travel industry as the coming weeks up until payday in January are considered the key period for selling holidays for next year, and operators fear the uncertainty about the impact of the new virus strain will cause a bookings slump.

The tougher rules set out by Spain, a key market, only add to the difficulties.

EasyJet, which flies all across Europe, said its customers can change their flights without a change fee up to two hours before departure.

EasyJet also continues to offer a market-leading refund policy for those impacted by travel bans across Europe, which means that they can receive a refund, voucher or free transfer to a later date, even if their flights are still operating.

It said its flying programme was operating as normal but the airline will “continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Spain announced on Saturday that people arriving from the UK would need to show proof of vaccination, in effect ending an exemption to EU travel restrictions.
Evidence of a negative test result and/or proof that arrivals have had COVID will no longer be enough.

The official announcement appears to suggest there may be an exemption for children.
It states that the new policy covers people with a vaccination certificate recognised as such by the health ministry, as well as accompanying minors to whom the health ministry extends the effects [of the decision].

Meanwhile there was good news for the many Irish families living in Great Britain who have planned to return to Ireland for their first Christmas since 2019, when the British embassy in Dublin confirmed that PCR tests and quarantine would not be required for people coming into Great Britain from Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

The exemption for travellers from the Common Travel Area will not apply if they have been outside the area in the previous 10 days.

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