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14 May 2021

Is International Travel Ready for Take-off?

The international travel industry has endured a torrid 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Flights have been grounded due to lack of demand, while in 2021, leisure travel overseas has been outlawed altogether.

With international travel set to resume from Monday 17th May, consumers can at least have something to look forward to. However, the industry has warned that prices are set to rocket due to increasing demand and the lower number of aeroplanes in service.

Speaking to the BBC, Glenn Fogel, Chief Executive Officer of Booking.com, said that a rise in prices was already being witnessed. "There's so much pent-up demand," he said. "Everybody wants to go travelling, but we all want to do it safely." With confirmation that English residents will be able to travel to countries on the Government’s ‘green list’, it could have been anticipated that demand for holidays in these countries would increase.

Portugal, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland and Gibraltar are just some of the countries on the green list, meaning that European and wider international holidays can resume.

Before returning to England from green list countries, travellers must take a COVID-19 test, pay for a second COVID-19 test to be taken within two days of their arrival, and complete a passenger locator form to ensure traceability in the event that a passenger tests positive. On arrival in England, no quarantine period is necessary unless you or another passenger tests positive, even if you have been vaccinated.

John Grant, an Aviation Analyst with travel data provider OAG, told the BBC that as international travel has been restricted since widescale lockdowns began in March 2020, the growing demand will undoubtedly have an impact on price as restrictions are relaxed.

“That will, in the short term, create a rush of pent-up demand and revenge spending,” he said. “In turn, the airline algorithms will detect an uptick in demand and move prices up accordingly.”

Despite flight prices rising, there is a lack of clarity around how governments will recognise vaccine and test statuses from other countries. A scheme allowing vaccinated passengers to travel has proved contentious, with the UK equality watchdog, The Equality and Human Rights Commission, suggesting it could create a “two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights” that could be unlawful.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) agrees with this position, but figures in the travel industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, is understandably more pragmatic.

"It's true that if you're not vaccinated, you may not be able to enter a country under this type of a system," Fogel told the BBC. "But I'm okay with that because the alternative is what - nobody gets to go in? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

Despite the easing of restrictions around international travel, uncertainty remains. This week, online travel agent On The Beach pulled all its summer holidays from sale due to the ongoing lack of clarity. In contrast, easyJet and tui are set to begin offering holidays to countries on the Government’s amber list in a show of optimism despite Downing Street’s advice against travel to these nations. Most countries, including the majority of European nations, are on the amber list, but travel to these nations will not be strictly illegal from 17th May.
With restrictions about to ease, it is clear that some international travel will return. But while the industry is eagerly awaiting its returning passengers, it may be some time before it is business as usual.

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Is International Travel Ready for Take-off?
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