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Holiday bookings surge 'by 200 per cent' as rip-off Covid travel tests are scrapped
17 September 2021, 16:44 | Updated: 18 September 2021, 08:19
Holiday bookings have begun to surge after the Government announced expensive Covid tests for travel are being scrapped and the traffic light system simplified in a major overhaul of the rules.
Demand for October half-term trips is said to be three times higher than in August as firms slashed prices. The shake-up of the rules will mean families will save hundreds of pounds per trip.
The traffic light system is set to be replaced from October 4 by a single, reduced "red list" of destinations.
People who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations, and from the end of October they will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.
Thomas Cook boss Alan French said October half-term bookings were up 200% compared to August and he expected this figure to increase as a result of the changed system.
"Based on our bookings already today, I would expect this weekend to be the biggest of the year so far as people take advantage of the great deals on offer, the new easier rules on testing and the simplified system for international travel," he said.
In addition, EIGHT countries and territories will come off the red list 🔴 from Weds 22 Sept at 4am, incl. TURKEY, PAKISTAN and MALDIVES.— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) September 17, 2021
In addition, eight countries and territories will come off the red list from Wednesday September 22 at 4am - Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya.
Mr Shapps said he hopes to "strike the right balance" to manage the public health risk as a "number one priority".
The changes will come into force ahead of the October half-term break.
The changes are likely to release pent-up demand for international holidays, with global travel site Skyscanner reporting a 133 per cent spike in traffic in the 30 minutes following the announcement.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "Today we have simplified the travel rules to make them easier to understand and follow, opening up tourism and reducing the costs to go abroad.
"As global vaccination efforts continue to accelerate and more people gain protection from this dreadful disease, it is right that our rules and regulations keep pace."
The Welsh Government said it will mirror the changes made to countries on England's red list, but it would "carefully consider" the simplified travel measures.
"International travel continues to represent a risk of importing coronavirus infections to Wales, especially new and emerging variants of concern," said health minister Eluned Morgan in a written statement.
She said the advice from the Welsh Government "continues to be that people should only travel abroad for essential reasons".
"As Wales shares an open border with England, and most travellers arriving in Wales enter through ports outside Wales, it is not effective to have separate border health policy arrangements for Wales," she added.
"Today, I have agreed to remove Kenya, Oman, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Egypt from the red list.
"The changes will come into effect from 4am on Wednesday September 22."
The simplified rules in England have been welcomed by many, with Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airlines Representatives in the UK saying it would remove "the anxiety of pre-departure tests" and "restore traveller confidence... on what is still a long road to recovery".
However, other industry leaders have said the changes are still not enough.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport, said the changes were a "significant and welcome step towards recovery" but he hoped "the remaining constraints, including the passenger locator form, can be removed soon".
Karen Dee, Airport Operators Association chief executive, agreed, saying: "Ultimately, we need to return to a situation similar to prior to the pandemic, in which people can travel without further tests or forms to fill out.
"The UK and devolved governments should aim for this as soon as is safely possible."