Summer holidays: Portugal bookings 'surge' after being placed on UK green list

8 May 2021, 08:19 | Updated: 9 May 2021, 07:49

Bookings for Portugal have surged after it was placed on the UK's green travel list
Bookings for Portugal have surged after it was placed on the UK's green travel list. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Portugal's placement on the UK's green travel list has caused a "surge" in summer holiday bookings, one travel firm has said.

Holidaymakers were given a boost on Friday after the Department for Transport revealed the popular tourist destination will be included on a list of 12 places people could visit from 17 May without needing to self-isolate on return to England.

David Child, head of PR and brand at Thomas Cook, said reservations for the European nation were "through the roof" straight after the announcement as eager travellers had been "poised, ready and waiting to go".

"We took in the first hour from 5pm to 6pm as many Portugal bookings as we took in the whole month of April," he said.

However, he acknowledged that "absolute numbers" of bookings were still "small", with the firm going from "low numbers of bookings to modest numbers of bookings".

"Yes, it's a surge absolutely, but the market is still down on where it would normally be this time in the year," he said.

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Mr Child also noted that flight prices could increase due to increased demand, but added that people who buy package holidays could see their money go further in terms of accommodation.

He said hoteliers are "not raising their prices yet" as they still had many rooms to fill.

"At the moment they are desperate for custom," he added.

The Thomas Cook representative highlighted that problems facing the travel industry remain an "international issue" as destinations were still not receiving bookings from people in other countries, such as the US and Russia.

But his firm said on Friday that reservations were already up 250 per cent on last week, with more demand expected into the evening.

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Thomas Cook said web traffic on Friday was 85 per cent higher than it had been for 30 April.

Meanwhile, searches for Portugal and Gibraltar - another destination on the government-approved green list - increased by 264 per cent and 277 per cent respectively.

Ahead of Friday's announcement, demand for flights to Portugal had already driven up prices as holidaymakers anticipated its green categorisation.

On Friday night, one of the most expensive travel options for 17 May appeared to be a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Faro in the Algarve, costing £436 or £530 depending on the time of day.

However, budget airline Ryanair was offering flights from London Stansted to Portugal's capital Lisbon for £65 on the same day.

Travel firm Jet2 said it was committed to restarting holidays from 24 June.

Welcoming the planned partial reopening of international travel, CEO Steve Heapy said: "Despite 'wanting to start looking outward again' there is still a long way to go to meet the huge customer demand for our flights and ATOL protected package holidays, so we look forward to further positive news about where we can fly to in the coming weeks.

"We also look forward to important updates from the UK Government about a simple and affordable testing regime for customers."

He added: "Our customers can travel on their well-deserved holidays to destinations on the green list from 24 June and we expect a huge spike in searches and bookings to these destinations."

Mr Heapy said customers booked to travel from this date onwards to destinations currently not on the green list were asked to "hold off from contacting us as we take the time to make considered decisions in the best interests of customers and independent travel agency partners from all parts of the UK".