Eight more destinations were added to the UK’s quarantine-free list in the Government’s update on Thursday, but just one of these is open to British tourists, which has prompted withering reactions from the travel industry.
Rwanda and Namibia were the first two African countries to be granted a travel corridor, marking a fresh victory for the Telegraph’s Unlock Long-haul campaign. However, of the two, just Rwanda is truly open to UK travellers – the only flights between the UK and Namibia are via countries on the quarantine list.
The other six destinations that were given the green light – Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Israel, the North Mariana Islands, the US Virgin Islands and Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba – all remain closed to tourists.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told Telegraph Travel: “The sooner we can have a consistent approach to overseas travel the better. It does seem as though government advisers stick a pin on a world map sometimes to decide which country should be given a travel corridor and it’s no wonder consumers question why Namibia is opened up instead of Jamaica for example?
“There’s no obvious logic to the weekly review as Northern Mariana Islands, that well-known UK tourist hotspot, has proved. Let’s have a consistent traffic light system, as the EU has done; shorter quarantine and move on to normality as early as possible in 2021.”
Meanwhile, Paul Goldstein, co-owner of the Kicheche safari camps in Kenya, said that the government, and particularly Mr Shapps, “have shown a total disregard for the travel industry with their cynically motivated granting of a few miserly travel corridors.”
Referring to the new additions to the travel green list, he added: “Unfortunately, as with so much this hapless government does, there has been zero research.”
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St Lucia to charge tourist tax
The Caribbean island, which on the UK’s quarantine-free list and requires arrivals to present evidence of a negative PCR test, will introduce a tourism levy from December 1.
Visitors will be charged (US)$3 or $6 per person per night, depending on the cost of their accommodation costs.
The charge will be halved for tourists aged between 12 and 17 and waived for under 12s.
Saint Lucia’s government passed the levy after two years of consultation; the money made will go towards the tourism industry.
Registered accommodation providers are required to apply and collect the levy and pass it on to the administering authority.
Tourism minister Dominic Fedee said: “The aim is to ensure that the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA)is self-sustainable. The former budget allocation of approximately EC$35 million can now be directed to other demanding areas within key sectors of education, national security, and health care”.
Stockholm attraction to close for first time in 129 years due to new restrictions
The Skansen open-air museum, which also holds an annual Christmas market, said it would close from 27 November in response to Covid restrictions.
It will be the first time it has shut for 129 years.
“It has been a difficult decision, but based on the current guidelines at the same time a necessary one,” Skansen’s chief executive said in a statement, adding that he hoped to be able to reopen in the spring.
Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced this week that public gatherings would be limited to eight people from next Tuesday after a surge in infections.
On safari in Tanzania, the country that tackled Covid with lemon, ginger and prayer
Early in the pandemic, President John Magufuli made the controversial decision to ignore lockdowns, leading the country to be dubbed the Sweden of Africa, writes Sarah Marshall.
Herd immunity, however, wasn’t the core motivation; under an authoritarian government, where citizens are compelled to toe the line, it was more a case of following the herd.
Sarah recounts her recent trip to to a Safari camp:
At Asilia’s Sayari camp in the north of the Serengeti National Park, all members of staff wore face coverings. A hand sanitizer station was positioned at the entrance, meals were served individually to allow social distancing, and most guests were fortunate enough to have their own private vehicles. (Passenger numbers have been reduced to a maximum of four, and a lucky few get to game drive solo at no extra cost.)
Even the layout of the revamped camp fits the ‘new safari normal’: spread like an eagle’s outstretched wings, tents extend two sides of a communal area featuring the world’s first craft brewery in the bush. Yes, that’s right, even if pubs are locked down at home – you can still get a pint on tap here.
Many of the seasonal mobile camps that would usually set up along the Mara river have chosen not to open this year, meaning the only crowds I encountered during my stay were dense clusters of wildebeest.
Hong Kong, world’s most visited city, faces tourism bust
Hundreds of parked tour buses are gathering dust at a northern Hong Kong container port, having been off the road for 10 months since authorities banned non-resident arrivals into the city due to the new coronavirus, Reuters reports.
The area has turned into a “bus cemetery,” said Freddy Yip, president of Hong Kong’s Travel Agent Owners Association. He said the former British colony – which was the world’s leading tourist city destination last year – faces a similar fate at the end of November, when the government ends a wide-ranging wage subsidy programme that has helped about 2 million employees in all types of industries.
The programme was introduced in June and renewed in September, but the Hong Kong government has ruled out an extension beyond the end of November citing the high cost, leaving many tourism-dependent businesses on the brink of collapse, unable to find other revenue sources and unable to pay wages.
About 56 million people visited Hong Kong last year. The city was ranked number one for arrivals globally in 2019 by research company Euromonitor International. Visitor arrivals have been down 96 per cent to 99 per cent year-on-year every month since February, according to government figures.
Travel industry’s recovery will be led by younger generation, says report
UK consumer spending is expected to have fallen by £183.6 billion, or 14.9 per cent, due to the Covid-19 induced lockdowns, according to market research firm Mintel’s latest report. Details in Mintel’s British lifestyle’s report, include:
- Over three-quarters of 2020’s spending decline relates to the transport, food service and holiday industries
- Consumer spending on these categories will have fallen by £140.1 billion in total during 2020
- These categories should experience the strongest bouncebacks in 2021
- Holidays will get a £19.2 billion boost in 2021, it predicts
- Younger adults will play a significant role in supporting the recovery of the airline industry
Jack Duckett from Mintel, said:
It’s the younger generation who’ll lead the recovery of travel by plane as 16 to 34-year-olds have been the most confident in booking flights since Covid-19 hit: 25 per cent in this age group would feel somewhat or extremely comfortable taking a flight, compared to only 14 per cent of over-55s.
Airlines and public transport are among the sectors worst affected by Covid-19 and will be among the last to fully recover.
‘Broad parameters’ to UK-wide Christmas travel agreed this week, says Mark Drakeford
‘Broad parameters’ to UK-wide travel over Christmas were agreed during a meeting with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and leaders of the the devolved administrations this week, with another meeting planned for next week.
Mark Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “We agreed some broad parameters on Wednesday and remitted officials of all four administrations to work now on the detail, so I remain hopeful that it will be possible to reach a four-nation approach to Christmas.
“I certainly think that is the right thing to do – if it is achievable – and certainly Wales will be at the table next week looking to find an agreement.”
Mr Drakeford said an agreement on permitting travel across the UK during the Christmas season was “top of the list of things to agree”, even if a wider agreement was not possible.
Why Rwanda desperately needs tourists, and how to get there
In a country where residents obediently participate in a monthly national litter clean-up, it’s hardly surprising the pandemic has been kept under control in Rwanda, writes Sarah Marshall.
What’s more astonishing is the amount of time it’s taken the UK government to grant the efficient, carefully managed East African nation an air corridor. That finally came to fruition last night with the announcement that from 4am on November 21, British travellers will no longer have to quarantine on their return.
When I visited Rwanda a few weeks ago, I was impressed by the safety checks and protocols in place: a dual testing system, with one negative PCR test required 120 hours before arriving and another taken when passengers land, has allowed borders to safely reopen to international tourism. Mr Shapps, take note.
Swiftly transported to my hotel, the five-star Kigali Serena, I had my second test done on site. Costing US$60, it was a third of the price charged for tests in the UK and far less painful – a simple swab in the cheeks rather than having a stick thrust up your nose.
After self-isolating until my results arrived (about eight hours; although it’s recommended to set aside 24), I set off to Volcanoes National Park, passing women in batik wraps balancing baskets on their heads and men wobbling uphill on bicycles with bulging sacks of potatoes or, daringly, wardrobes strapped to their backs. City or countryside, they all had one thing in common: everyone was wearing masks – obeying a law in place since April.
Covid-19 testing site will open at Gatwick this month
A Covid-19 test centre will open at Gatwick on November 30, providing an alternative means of securing rapid PCR tests ahead of the Christmas period –however, while the test site hopes for “next day” confirmation, but there is no guarantee of when results will be delivered.
Passengers, Gatwick staff and the general public will be eligible to use the rapid lab-analysed PCR swap testing service at the site, which will be located in the airport’s South Terminal long stay car park. There will be a subsidised rate of £60 for passengers and staff, while others will pay £99. A group discount will also be offered, with up to 30 per cent off for groups of four or more, for those who are having the full priced test.
The site could also fulfill the requirements of the government’s proposed “test and release” post-arrival scheme that could enable travellers to reduce quarantine time required after arriving in the UK from high-risk destinations.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Reducing the spread of Covid-19 is a priority for us alongside giving confidence to so many people who have missed travelling during this difficult year.”
South Australia to Lift Lockdown Early
South Australia will lift its lockdown early and immediately allow outdoor exercise, amid early signs its cluster of Covid-19 infections is being contained.
The original six-day lockdown that began Thursday will end at midnight Saturday, Premier Steven Marshall told reporters. The ban on exercise and even dog-walking had made the state’s measures among the strictest in the world.
Safari industry needs travel corridors for regional hubs, such as South Africa and Kenya
Rwanda and Namibia have been given travel corridors with the UK, effective from 4am Saturday. However, most of African remains on the quarantine list, which means there is little benefit to the hard-hit safari industry.
Laura Burdett-Munns, managing director of luxury travel company Africa Exclusive & Journeysmiths, said:
It is great to see African countries added to the travel corridor list. We hope that this announcement is the beginning of more positive news from the UK Government for the African travel industry.
While we are excited to see Namibia and Rwanda added to the travel corridor list, there are no direct flights from the UK into either country, so the positive impact on the safari industry will be minimal until regional hubs like Kenya and South Africa are added.
Americans urged to stay home for Thanksgiving
US authorities have urged Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday as virus cases soared in the worst-hit nation.
America was hit by a spike of over 200,000 new infections and 2,239 fatalities – the worst death toll since May –over the past 24 hours, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The recent surge in US cases has sufficiently alarmed authorities that they asked Americans to stay home for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, which normally sees millions travel to gather with their families for meals – ideal conditions for virus spread.
“It’s not a requirement. It’s a strong recommendation,” Henry Walke, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doctor, told reporters.
Thanksgiving is the busiest US holiday in terms of travel, as it falls on a Thursday and many Americans take the Friday off work and make a long weekend of it.
Ryanair extends flight change fee waiver
The low-cost airlines will extend its waiver for flight change fees for another two months, in a bid to provide flexibility and restore the customer confidence.
Travellers who book in December 2020 and January 2021 can change their flights up to seven days before departure for any date up to September 30.
Dara Brady, Ryanair’s director of marketing and digital said: “Plans change, so in order to provide as much flexibility and confidence as possible for our customers, we have extended the waiving of our flight change fee for all December and January bookings.
“Customers can book trips for Christmas, Easter and the summer with confidence knowing that if they need to postpone their travel plans, they can move with zero change fee.”
California imposes 10pm curfew
California’s governor on Thursday ordered a curfew placed on all indoor social gatherings and non-essential activities outside the home across most of the state in a major escalation of measures to curb an alarming surge in coronavirus infections.
The limited stay-at-home restrictions will go into effect from 10pm until 5am each day, starting on Saturday night and ending on December 21, covering 41 counties representing over 94 per cent of the state’s population
“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” Governor Gavin Newsom said.
He said the restriction is essentially the same as California’s first-in-the-nation statewide stay-at-home order that was imposed in March, except it applies only during the designated curfew hours rather than around the clock.
Scotland braces for new restrictions, including travel ban for high-risk areas
The toughest coronavirus restrictions in Scotland will be imposed on 11 council areas as of 6pm tonight.
Earlier this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the “unpalatable but necessary” step of moving parts of west and central Scotland from Level 3 to Level 4 for three weeks due to “stubbornly and worryingly high” infection rates.
It means non-essential shops, hospitality, gyms and beauty salons will be among the businesses forced to close in these areas until December 11.
The areas moving to Level 4 are Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.
A ban on people in Level 3 and Level 4 areas travelling outside of their council boundaries for non-essential purposes will come into law with reminders issued that public transport must not be used unless essential.
Uruguay’s travel corridor ‘step in right direction’ for tourism recovery
UK travellers may not be able to visit Uruguay at the moment, but the addition of another Latin American country to the travel corridors list is a positive move for the region’s tourism industry, according to the Latin American Travel Association (LATA).
Danny Callaghan, chief executive of LATA, said:
Uruguay’s addition to the UK travel corridors list is another big step in the right direction for Latin America’s tourism recovery with Chile having made the list in the British government’s announcement last week.
I hasten to add that, while Uruguay has been added to the UK travel corridor’s list, at present there are restrictions in place for non-Uruguayan nationals or non-legal residents entering the country. As always, we advise travellers to consult their tour operator and the FCDO travel advice before travelling to any Latin American destination.
While travel to Uruguay may not be a reality straight away, this news highlights the nation’s excellent management of the coronavirus pandemic and reinforces the perception of Latin America as a safe and secure visitor destination. Uruguay was also included in the European Union’s list of safe countries back in June which demonstrates that the country has continually managed the pandemic in an effective manner.
There are at present no direct flights to Uruguay from the UK however it is important to note that Uruguay is a piece of a much larger puzzle. LATA is delighted to see this trend towards Latin American destinations being deemed safe by the British authorities and hopes for the trend to continue. We highlighted last week that many other destinations in Latin America have similar and, indeed in some cases, lower infection rates than Uruguay and Chile so we remain confident that we will see more countries joining the list.
News such as this instils great confidence in us and our members that a recovery is on the horizon and that we will once again be able to welcome British tourists in 2021 after what has been a torrid year for the global travel industry.
Can I visit the other new travel corridor destinations?
No. Only Uruguayan nationals and legal residents are allowed to enter Uruguay at present.
No. Entry to Sri Lanka is currently prohibited for all non-nationals.
No. Foreign nationals are not permitted to enter unless they are citizens or residents of Israel.
US Virgin Islands
No. The Caribbean islands can only be reached via the US, which is not open to British tourists (even transiting air passengers).
Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba
No. The borders of Bonaire and Saba are currently not open to British nationals for non-essential travel.
North Mariana Islands
No. There are currently no flight options.
How about Namibia?
British travellers would be allowed in, but there are no direct flights. A non-stop service used to operate between Doha and Windhoek, but appears to have been suspended, so there are currently no options that avoid a quarantine.
Airports are open as well as sea ports and some land borders. Any person entering Namibia must present proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival. If the negative result is less than 72 hours old, there is no quarantine requirement.
If the negative result is older than 72 hours but less than seven days, then you will need to quarantine for seven days – quarantine may be at home or in an approved tourist facility.
Can I visit Rwanda?
We’ve established that this is the only new travel corridor country that Britons can visit. But what are the rules for arrivals?
Kigali International Airport is open, although land borders remain closed except to returning Rwandan citizens and legal residents. All arrivals must present a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 120 hours of departure.
You will then be required to quarantine at a designated hotel for 24 hours whilst awaiting results of a second Covid-19 test, conducted on arrival. There are no direct flights from the UK, however, so for a quarantine-free break you’ll need to travel via another travel corridor destination. Dubai, added to the green list last week, is your best bet.
What happened yesterday?
The main headlines from Thursday:
- Eight new travel corridors have been announced
- No countries have been removed from the green list
- The Global Travel Taskforce has delayed its announcement on testing for travellers until next week
Virgin has launched tickets that ‘guarantee’ a quarantine-free Caribbean holiday
The 737 MAX is returning to the sky – but most Telegraph readers would avoid flying on one
Now onto today’s news.
Source: The Telegraph Travels