Travel industry fears wave of cancellations after Government’s Spain decision

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The travel industry is braced for a wave of cancellations by worried holidaymakers this morning after the Government reimposed quarantine restrictions on Spain at just five hours notice. 

Ministers announced at the weekend that everyone returning from Spain to the UK will now have to self-isolate at home for two weeks because of a spike in coronavirus cases. 

The Government has stood by its decision to strike Spain off the UK’s list of safe destinations but the timing of the shift has sparked widespread fury amid fears it will be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for some tourism firms. 

The Spain decision is believed to have spooked many people who had booked trips in France, Italy and Greece with operators already reporting ‘lots of cancellations’.

Travel firms said reimposing quarantine on Spanish travellers had ‘put fear into people’ as they warned the ‘rug has been pulled from under our feet’. 

Other experts said the Government had effectively pushed the ‘nuclear button’, putting at risk the entire foreign summer holiday season. 

There are growing fears that a rise in coronavirus cases in some European countries like France and Germany will see quarantine reimposed on those countries as well.

The Foreign Office is now advising against ‘all non-essential travel to mainland Spain’ but the Canary and Balearic islands are currently exempt from the ban. 

However, the ‘blanket’ quarantine rules apply to the whole of Spain, including those islands, prompting suggestions that the current guidance is confused. 

Spain was put on the UK’s quarantine list at just five hours notice – but cases are starting to rise in other European countries. France and Germany are the most at risk of another quarantine order, both popular holiday destinations for Britons

Holidaymakers returning from Spain to the UK will now have to self-isolate for 14 days when they get back. A beach in Mallorca is pictured on July 26

Holidaymakers returning from Spain to the UK will now have to self-isolate for 14 days when they get back. A beach in Mallorca is pictured on July 26 

Ministers under pressure to exempt Spanish islands from quarantine rules

The UK Government was today under fire for telling British tourists they can travel to the Spanish islands but must still go into quarantine when they return home.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK travellers against all non-essential travel, including holidays, to mainland Spain.

But this does not apply to the Canary Islands – Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa – and the Balearic Islands – Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera.

However, people returning from anywhere in Spain – including the Canaries and Balearics – are now required to go into 14 day quarantine on return.

The Spanish government and Britain’s travel industry trade body, the Association of British Travel Agents, argue it is not necessary for the Canaries and Balearics to be included in the quarantine, pointing out that infection rates on these islands are low.

Abta has told the Government to ‘consider’ changing the rules, while Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya is trying to convince Britain to exclude the Balearics and Canaries, saying: ‘Spain is safe, it is safe for Spaniards, it is safe for tourists.’

 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said yesterday that the Government ‘can’t make apologies’ for the decision it made on Saturday which was announced less than five hours before coming into force. 

It means that all arrivals from Spain and its islands will now have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the UK.

The quick reimposition of the restrictions meant that some holidaymakers only found out they faced quarantine when they got on board their flight from Spain back home.

It was not just the public who were caught out by the sudden announcement.

The quick turnaround meant Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is currently in Spain for his summer break, will have to join thousands of others in being forced to isolate for two weeks on his return to Britain.

Paul Scully, minister for London, will also have to quarantine after declaring on social media that he was on holiday in Playa Dorada, Lanzarote.   

The decision to reimpose quarantine has rocked the travel industry after months of international flight restrictions decimated the sector. 

Paul Charles, founder of the PC Agency, the travel consultants, said the latest bad news could result in ‘many more job losses’ as holidaymakers cancel their plans. 

He said: ‘People are cancelling not just Spain but other short-haul bookings. We’ve heard of lots of cancellations for holidays to France, Italy and Greece. Dominic Raab said they wouldn’t hesitate to introduce quarantine measures on other countries and that’s simply put fear into people.

‘The implications of not getting bookings throughout late summer means that there will be many more job losses in the travel industry and more businesses will go under. Many were on a cliff edge, this will push them over.’ 

He added: ‘The loss of confidence is a real hammer blow and the nail in the coffin for so many businesses.’ 

Ryanair announces a £168m loss and says ‘a second wave of coronavirus across Europe is our biggest fear’

Ryanair today revealed losses of £168million during the coronavirus pandemic but insisted it will continue flying to Spain after UK tourists were told not to travel there.

The low-cost airline, like its competitors, was forced to ground its fleet as Covid-19 wreaked havoc on timetables, with travel bans and lockdowns introduced worldwide.

Ryanair said it suffered the ‘most challenging’ quarter in its 35-year history after carrying 500,000 passengers from April to June compared with 41.9million in the same period last year. 

Its share price fell eight per cent in early trading this morning.

Meanwhile, revenue collapsed from £2.1billion to £113million, with the Dublin-based carrier saying said a second wave of the disease was now its ‘biggest fear’. 

But chief financial officer Neil Sorahan told BBC Radio 4 today that it would not cut flights to Spain, saying: ‘As things stand, the market remains open, the schedules remain in place and we continue to operate in and out of Spain as normal.’  

Gemma Antrobus, from the Association of Independent Tour Operators, said: ‘It feels like the rug has been pulled from under our feet. The fact such a drastic change can happen to Spain, the UK’s most popular destination, will really worry people that it could happen to any destination.’ 

Health Minister Helen Whately today defended the fact that the travel advice says people can still go to Spanish islands but that they would have to quarantine on their return. 

She said: ‘What the Foreign Office is doing is looking at the risk to an individual traveller where indeed because the rates are lower in the islands at the moment the risk to an individual traveller going there is lower. 

‘But for the public health advice that is about protecting the United Kingdom.’

She also made clear that the Government could reimpose quarantine on other countries if there is a surge in coronavirus cases. 

She told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘What we are saying to people who are planning trips abroad is that you need to keep an eye on the Foreign Office guidance, that you need to be aware of your tour operator’s policies and travel insurance and be mindful we are in a global pandemic. 

‘It is the right thing for us to do as a country to keep an eye on the rates in these countries. 

‘If we see something going on, like we are seeing in Spain, we would have to take action.’  

Mr Raab, speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, refused to rule out the possibility of more countries being taken off the UK’s safe travel list. 

‘As we’ve found with Spain, we can’t give a guarantee,’ he said, before adding that there was ‘an element of uncertainty this summer if people go abroad’.

The Telegraph reported that officials in both France and Germany have warned of possible new lockdowns as parts of Europe prepared for potential second waves of Covid-19 infections.

French health authorities said at the weekend that the country’s R-rate was up to 1.3 and that daily new infections on Friday had risen to 1,130 – indicators resembling those seen in May, when France was coming out of its strict two-month lockdown.

The decision to reimpose restrictions on Spain left holidaymakers frustrated, with some saying they would not have travelled if they knew they would have to spend a fortnight self-isolating afterwards.

Close to 1.8 million holidays were likely to have been thrown into chaos by the move, according to travel company The PC Agency, which analysed the number of seats booked on flights leaving the UK for Spain between July 26 and August 31. 

Tour operator Tui said that, due to the change in the Government’s travel advice, it was cancelling all holidays to mainland Spain up to and including August 9.

Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised the Government’s handling of the affair, labelling it ‘frankly shambolic’, and called for financial support for those now forced to shut themselves away after their arrival home.

He said: ‘I can understand why the Government have made this decision and it’s a reminder that we can’t be complacent about this virus. 

‘One of the big blunders from Boris Johnson back in March was not quarantining those coming from France and Spain and Italy because that’s how the virus was seeded. 

‘So, I understand why they’ve made the decision but the way in which this decision has been made in the last 24 hours is frankly shambolic.’ 

Spanish ministers are now in talks with the UK about exempting the Canary and Balearic islands, which include Ibiza and Majorca, from the requirement to self-isolate for two weeks due to lower infection rates in those regions than on the Spanish mainland. 

The Foreign Office guidance advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain does not include the islands but ministers have opted to apply blanket quarantine arrangements across the Spanish territories.

Foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya argued Spain had coronavirus outbreaks ‘perfectly controlled’ after the European country recorded more than 900 fresh daily Covid-19 cases for two days running before Saturday’s travel corridor suspension.

Ms Gonzalez Laya told reporters: ‘Spain is a safe country for tourists and Spaniards.

‘Like in any other European country we are seeing outbreaks – the outbreaks in Spain are perfectly controlled.’ 

The Government’s decision on quarantine means thousands of British tourists currently in Spain will now have to self-isolate when they get back to the UK. 

Liz Samandi, 52, a business owner from Market Harborough, Leicestershire, is due to return from a holiday in Majorca on Thursday.

She said: ‘I just feel a bit angry actually that they’ve done this and not considered the people that are already here.

‘It’s the blanket approach which I think is wrong, it should have been a more targeted area I think.’

Jill Witte, 53, arriving at Gatwick Airport on Sunday with her two daughters and husband, said: ‘We were shocked, it didn’t look like that was coming, otherwise we wouldn’t have gone.’ 

Why is the Foreign Office still telling tourists it’s safe to travel to low-infection Spanish islands even though they will have to quarantine when they come home? Fury at contradictory government advice

The UK Government was today under fire for telling British tourists they can travel to the Spanish islands but must still go into quarantine when they return home.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised UK travellers against all non-essential travel including holidays to mainland Spain.

But this does not apply to the Canary Islands – Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa – and the Balearic Islands – Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera.

However, people returning from anywhere in Spain – including the Canaries and Balearics – are now required to go into 14 day quarantine on return.

The Spanish government and Britain’s travel industry trade body, the Association of British Travel Agents, argue it is not necessary for the Canaries and Balearics to be included in the quarantine, pointing out that infection rates on these islands are low.

Abta has told the Government to ‘consider’ changing the rules, while Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya is trying to convince Britain to exclude the Balearics and Canaries, saying: ‘Spain is safe, it is safe for Spaniards, it is safe for tourists.’

But one British tourist tested positive for Covid-19 in Lanzarote last week, and the UK Government fears that if the islands were exempt this could allow a loophole in the system. 

The Spanish government and Britain's travel industry trade body, the Association of British Travel Agents, argue it is not necessary for the Canaries and Balearics to be included in the quarantine, pointing out that infection rates on these islands are low.

The Spanish government and Britain’s travel industry trade body, the Association of British Travel Agents, argue it is not necessary for the Canaries and Balearics to be included in the quarantine, pointing out that infection rates on these islands are low.

Holidaymakers including British tourists on the beach in Santa Eulalia in Ibiza yesterday

Holidaymakers including British tourists on the beach in Santa Eulalia in Ibiza yesterday

In theory, someone on holiday in Spain could fly home via Majorca and avoid quarantine.

Ryanair, BA, easyJet, and Jet2 will continue to run their flights to Spanish airports. Travellers may be offered a voucher to the value of the ticket or a chance to re-book if they wish to cancel. 

How many coronavirus cases have been recorded on the Canary and Balearic Islands? 

  • Mallorca 2,102
  • Ibiza 215
  • Menorca 98
  • Formentera 16
  • Tenerife 1,555
  • Fuerteventura 142
  • Gran Canaria 643
  • La Palma 107
  • Lanzarote 91
  • La Gomera 8
  • El Hierro 3

British holidaymaker Tom Beckett, with his daughter Elaina, recorded a video from Lanzarote yesterday showing how quiet it is and the safety measures put in place.

He told Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the video: ‘I don’t think you’ve looked at the map, because (Lanzarote) is 1,000km from Spain. It is like an infection in the Isle of Wight and isolating people in Iceland. It doesn’t make any sense. 

‘It’s four hours away from home, not an issue. Anyway I thought it would be handy to show the Government, because they have obviously been locked in Number 10 for quite some time, that this is a pretty safe place.’

Tourism leaders in Ibiza say hotels will be forced to close as a result of the UK government’s quarantine decision.

The British market is number one for the island which had already been hit by the lack of bookings during the coronavirus crisis and the closure of all its big clubs due to health regulations imposed by the Balearic government.

Ibiza’s tourist director, Juan Miguel Costa, said the need for Britons to quarantine on their return if they decided to holiday in Spain would make it ‘unfeasible’ for them to choose the island.

He told island newspaper Diario de Ibiza: ‘With the dependence that we have on the British in different parts of the island, it is a blow to our entire waterline, it is a blow to the sector in full force.’

‘The island is already registering cancellations of British tourists, which will cause many hotels dedicated to British tourism to end up closing. They cannot survive.’

Ibiza's tourist director said the need for Britons to quarantine on their return if they decided to holiday in Spain would make it 'unfeasible' for them to choose the island (pictured yesterday)

Ibiza’s tourist director said the need for Britons to quarantine on their return if they decided to holiday in Spain would make it ‘unfeasible’ for them to choose the island (pictured yesterday)

Ibiza is now pinning its hopes on the governments of Spain and the UK reaching an agreement to create a ‘safe corridor’ between the Balearics, as well as the Canaries, so that British tourists are exempt from the quarantine requirement.

Weekly Covid-19 figures for the Balearics and Canaries show cases have remained reasonably low

Weekly Covid-19 case figures for the last four weeks show there have been reasonably low numbers in both the Balearics and Canaries, although more of an upward trend in the latter:

New cases in previous seven days (week up to Friday, July 24):

  • Balearic Islands: 40
  • Canary Islands: 95
  • Spain total: 10,990

Week to Friday, July 17:

  • Balearics: 39
  • Canaries: 30
  • Spain total: 5,695

Week to Friday, July 10:

  • Balearics: 17
  • Canaries: 13
  • Spain total: 2,944

Week to Friday, July 3:

  • Balearics: 37
  • Canaries: 11
  • Spain total: 2,028

All-time cases (as of Friday, July 24)

  • Balearics: 2,343
  • Canaries: 2,578
  • Spain total: 272,421

Mr Costa said he felt the Balearic Islands ‘are being penalised’ by the second wave of Covid-19 infections mainly on the Spanish mainland.

‘In the end, state policy is made and everything is put in the same bag, but the incidence in the Balearic Islands is low,’ he said. 

A spokesman for Abta said: ‘Abta has said consistently that protecting public health must be the priority at this time, and it is vital to base decisions about travel on the best health and scientific advice.

‘We suggest the Government considers lifting the quarantine rules for flights to and from certain regions with lower infection rates, or to places such as the Balearic Islands or the Canaries – which are geographically distinct from mainland Spain – to avoid further damage to the UK inbound and outbound tourism industries.’

One tourist who is currently in Ibiza told MailOnline today that the UK’s blanket approach ‘fails UK holidaymakers who were advised and encouraged to travel’.

The tourist, who asked not to be named, said: ‘UK authorities need to buck up their track and trace to be able to distinguish between mainland Spain travellers and the island travellers.

‘Now we come back to sheer inconvenience because my government can’t be asked to take a little bit of a harder look and allow us to prove our whereabouts.

‘The Balearic Islands have a better rate in all [indicators] we monitor so if looked at logically they are telling us to come back to areas of the UK who are in a worse position that the islands, just does not make sense.

‘They should listen and work with the island authorities to be able to mitigate people trying to use them as a gateway from mainland Spain to try and bypass the quarantine, a simple stamp in those travellers’ passports can distinguish them from people who have been in the islands the entire time.

‘The sheer fact that the islands are still okay to travel to shows the holes in their blanket approach.

‘Just another example of poor planning being masked as ‘swift action’, not all action because ‘swift’ is correct. Instead of swift it should be labelled as ‘hastily’.’

Air passengers heading to Manchester queue up at check-in at Lanzarote Airport yesterday

Air passengers heading to Manchester queue up at check-in at Lanzarote Airport yesterday

As this morning, more than 50,000 people had signed a petition addressed to Mr Johnson demanding that the islands be exempted.

‘Holidaymakers returning from the islands have expressed that they felt safer during their stay on the islands than at home in the UK,’ said petition organiser Lee Sparrow.

‘They have also expressed how everybody is adhering to the rules of social distancing and mask wearing.’

One holidaymaker in Mallorca who signed the petition, Helen Locking, said the island was ‘very safe’ and urged the government to ‘at least honour the people here to get home’.

‘I came here because there was no quarantine and now my four-year-old is going to be stuck at home for two weeks unnecessarily,’ she said.

Annette Dawson, who has been in Mallorca for ten days, said it was ‘not fair’ that the islands are treated the same as mainland Spain.

‘We have been in Majorca for ten days and have no experience or contact with anyone with symptoms, hygiene has been stepped up and the wearing of masks policed,’ she said.

The UK Government has introduced travel and quarantine controls for Spain following a spike in cases around Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid.

Some 1,904 new cases were reported last Friday, which was the highest since late April.

Meanwhile Catalonia regional leader Quim Torra said today that the area may take stricter measures to limit coronavirus contagion if the situation does not improve in the next ten days.

A British tourist waits to check in before departing for the UK at Tenerife Airport yesterday

A British tourist waits to check in before departing for the UK at Tenerife Airport yesterday

Mr Torra warned that in many parts of Catalonia the data was similar to the situation before Spain declared a national lockdown in March. He added his administration’s goal was to avoid taking as strict measures as the ones that were taken back then.

Catalan authorities on July 17 advised some four million people to remain home and leave only for essential trips, banned gatherings of more than ten people and limited the occupancy of bars and restaurants as the number of cases in the region is rising faster than in the rest of the country.

There are fears more European holidays could be thrown into disarray during ‘uncertainty’ this summer after holidaymakers in Spain were left fuming at being told they must quarantine when they return home.

The Government has stood by its decision to strike Spain off the UK’s list of safe destinations after it saw a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government ‘can’t make apologies’ for the decision made on Saturday – announced less than five hours before coming into force – that arrivals from Spain and its islands would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Ibiza (pictured yesterday) is now pinning its hopes on the governments of Spain and the UK reaching an agreement to create a 'safe corridor' between the Balearics

Ibiza (pictured yesterday) is now pinning its hopes on the governments of Spain and the UK reaching an agreement to create a ‘safe corridor’ between the Balearics

Mr Raab, speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme yesterday, also refused to rule out rescinding further so-called travel corridors.

The Telegraph reported that officials in both France and Germany have warned of possible new lockdowns as parts of Europe braced for a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

French health authorities said at the weekend that the country’s R-rate was up to 1.3 and that daily new infections on Friday had risen to 1,130 – indicators resembling those seen in May, when France was coming out of its strict two-month lockdown.

The decision to reimpose restrictions on Spain left holidaymakers frustrated, with some saying they would not have travelled if they knew they would have to spend a fortnight self-isolating afterwards.

Close to 1.8 million holidays were likely to have been thrown into chaos by the move, according to travel company The PC Agency, which analysed the number of seats booked on flights leaving the UK for Spain between July 26 and August 31.

Tourism leaders in Ibiza (pictured yesterday) say hotels will be forced to close as a result of the quarantine decision

Tourism leaders in Ibiza (pictured yesterday) say hotels will be forced to close as a result of the quarantine decision

According to The Times, trips to France, Italy and Greece were being cancelled in ‘large numbers’ following the ruling by ministers on Spain, a development likely to heap further pressure on an already under-strain travel sector.

Tour operator Tui said that, due to the change in the Government’s travel advice, it was cancelling all holidays to mainland Spain up to and including August 9.

Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised the Government’s handling of the affair, labelling it ‘frankly shambolic’, and called for financial support for those now forced to shut themselves away after their arrival home.

Ryanair said today it would continue its flights in and out of Spain, with chief financial officer Neil Sorahan telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘As things stand, the market remains open, the schedules remain in place and we continue to operate in and out of Spain as normal.’ 

However he added that the airline’s entire operation was ‘under consideration’ as it rebuilds the route network after lockdown restrictions were lifted.

** Are you now in quarantine in Britain after returning from Spain? Please email: mark.duell@mailonline.co.uk or tips@dailymail.com **   

Summer 2020 is turning into a chilling one

COMMENTARY BY MARK PALMER, TRAVEL EDITOR FOR THE DAILY MAIL

That’s it for holidays abroad this summer.

The sorry truth is that the Government’s decision to advise against all non-essential travel to mainland Spain – and re-impose a two-week quarantine – will have a dramatic knock-on effect, as millions of families rethink their travel plans. And all this just when it seemed like overseas travel was finally struggling back onto its feet.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made clear yesterday that other countries could be next.

Refusing to apologise, he said he and his Cabinet colleagues ‘must be able to take swift, decisive action’. Yet such swift action was sadly lacking back in April, when people were still pouring into Britain from all over the world, bringing the virus with them, without going into quarantine.

Since then, there’s been hardly any ‘action’ at all on testing arrivals at airports.

Instead, we now have a blanket rule for Spain – the most popular destination for British tourists – which could affect up to two million people in the coming months. The decision was taken late on Saturday after ministers discussed rates of infection in Spain. But the data was available on Friday, meaning the announcement could have been made more than 24 hours earlier, before thousands had set off for the airport, and giving those in Spain time to change their plans.

True ‘decisive action’ surely would have made a clear distinction between mainland Spain, which has seen a surge in infections, and the Canary Islands, Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza, where there have been fewer cases.

Yes, the Foreign Office has said that we can visit the Canaries and Balearics. But we will still have to quarantine for 14 days on our return. It’s increasingly difficult to track and trace the Government’s thinking on travel, whether it’s the ‘air bridges’ debacle, which cruises to avoid, the continued red-listing of Portugal and now a blanket ban on travel to mainland Spain with hardly any warning.

Thousands will now have to start the grim process of seeking refunds from holiday companies and airlines, or accept vouchers, while travel firms who had hoped to claw back some money in August will find themselves plunged back into crisis. The summer of 2020 is turning out to be a chilling one.



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