The Seychelles has reopened to visitors from anywhere in the world who have received two doses of an authorised vaccine for Covid-19, becoming the first country in the world to do so. In December, Cyprus also announced a plan to waive testing requirements for arrivals who have been vaccinated, making it the first destination to specify that immunised travellers will not need to meet other Covid-related entry rules. However, the country's ministry of health is yet to confirm if this will go ahead, as planned, in March. The announcement from the Seychelles followed the start of its vaccination roll-out: it plans to become the first country to immunise more than 70 per cent of its population under 18. “From there we will be able to declare Seychelles as being COVID safe,” said President of the Republic of Seychelles, H E Wavel Ramkalawan. International visitors are vital to the economies of both countries. The contribution of travel and tourism to the Seychelles' GDP is around 65 per cent; for Cyprus it is 23 per cent. It should be noted that no approved Covid-19 vaccine has yet been shown to prevent transmission of the virus. Other countries have also made steps towards allowing unrestricted, or less restricted, entry to those inoculated against the virus. Iceland allows proof of Covid-19 antibodies for entry in lieu of a negative test result (surely vaccinated tourists will soon be given the same pass). Meanwhile, European Union members are lobbying for a “vaccination passport”, with the EU as a whole considering a bloc-wide certificate. Other nations, such as Israel, have firm plans to launch one. So which countries might be among the next to re-open to immunised tourists? Based on vaccination roll-outs, economic dependence on tourism and support for vaccine passports, these could be in the running. Greece EU countries should adopt a “standardised” vaccination certificate in order to boost travel, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a letter to European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen last week. Mr Mitsotakis said people who have been vaccinated should be free to travel. "It is urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all member states," he said, calling for a "standardised certificate, which will prove that a person has been successfully vaccinated". Greece is far down the worldwide leader board of vaccine roll-outs with just 0.8 doses delivered per 100 people. However, mainland Greece and its islands, which remained one of a limited number of quarantine-free destinations for Britons for much of last summer, rely heavily on tourism: the contribution to its GDP is around 21.5 per cent. UAE The United Arab Emirates is at second place in the worldwide race to immunise populations; 19.9 Covid jabs have been administered per 100 people. Meanwhile, the UAE has licence for the Sinopharm vaccine, which it can produce itself rather than importing it. It has begun to donate doses to other, less developed countries: 50,000 were delivered to the Seychelles. Dubai specifically was keen to welcome back tourists in 2020, opening up in July and allowing entry with a short quarantine and negative Covid test. This has since been changed to a negative Covid test taken no more than 96 hours before departure for UK travellers. The contribution of travel and tourism to the UAE’s economy is 10 per cent. Most recently, a UAE airline has launched a vaccine passport. In partnership with the International Air Transport Association, Emirates is one of the first airlines worldwide to trail the IATA Travel Pass, which comes in the form of a mobile app. The pass will allow passengers to create a digital passport to verify their pre-travel Covid test or vaccination meets the requirements of their destination. It will also be used to share test and vaccination certificates with authorities and airlines. Emirates plans to start the first phase of this trial in Dubai, from April; customers travelling to Dubai will be able to share their Covid-19 test results with the airline prior to arriving at the airport.
Business travel has been dealt another blow as tough new border restrictions come into force. Elsewhere, vital business link Eurostar is on the brink and airlines continue to slash premium cabin seats. But what do these ongoing troubles mean for the future of the industry? Over the weekend, executives and entrepreneurs were quietly struck off the UK quarantine exemptions list, meaning they will now have to isolate for up to 10 days upon arrival, essentially ending the limited business travel that had been occurring. The sharp policy change comes only a month after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps launched a special fast-track route for business executives, saying it could generate millions of pounds of new investment and jobs for the UK. Meanwhile, it has emerged that Eurostar is on track for financial collapse following a 95 per cent drop in passengers since the onset of the pandemic. Industry sources said that forecasts indicate it could run out of money as early as April, although company insiders insisted its reserves could be stretched until the summer. A spokesperson for the company said: “Without additional funding from the Government, there is a real risk to the survival of Eurostar as the current situation is very serious.” The prospect of losing the vital link to the continent in a post-Brexit landscape has led to British business leaders writing to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for “swift action to safeguard its future.”
Quarantine hotels are all-too familiar in Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Since the early days of the pandemic, international arrivals have been holed up in these closely-guarded properties for up to 14 days at a time, compelled to see out their quarantine period in extreme isolation. Travellers are confined to one hotel room or suite, often with no fresh air, limited entertainment, and little choice of sustenance. It’s claustrophobic, yes – but for many on essential journeys, there is simply no choice. By contrast, the UK’s own approach to quarantine has been relatively lax. You can spend your self-isolation in the comfort of your home, or a friend’s, with little chance of even a phone call from the police. But now, the Government is seeking to tighten its border controls – and looking to Australasia’s quarantine hotels for inspiration. So what is it like to spend 14 days in isolation, confined to a single hotel room? 'We were escorted from the airport by the police – flashing lights and everything' Karen Edwards, travel writer Each morning, at 730am, I’d wake up startled to a loud knock on our hotel room door. I’d wearily open an eye and for a split second consider ignoring the calls of ‘room service’ and letting my jetlagged eyelids succumb to their heaviness. But if I did, my two boiled eggs – which had to last me until lunch time – would go cold. Okay, I’m up. Welcome to hotel quarantine at the Hyatt Regency in Perth. The name sounds glamorous, and with the standard cost for a 14-day stay at AUD$3,000 (£1,700) for one person or AUD$4,000 (£2,200) for a couple – paid by the guest unless you provide proof of hardship – you’d hope for some luxury. But any perks were few and far between. My partner and I were just grateful to be allocated a clean room with en suite bathroom – although there was no outside access or fresh air. Thankfully, floor-to-ceiling windows let in plenty of light and we had ample space for a king bed, TV and desk.
The UK may be in the depths of lockdown, but that hasn’t stopped many of us dreaming of brighter horizons. Advance summer bookings for Britain’s hotels and self-catering properties are surging, with some companies reporting a year-on-year rise of more than 100 per cent. On Saturday alone, holiday rental company holidaycottages.co.uk saw an 85 per cent week-on-week rise in advance bookings, with Britons hoping to secure their summer plans months in advance. Half of all reservations were for the south coast and Wales. Meanwhile, Sawday’s, a booking site for British hotels, B&Bs and self-catering, is currently reporting a 200 per cent year-on-year increase in searches for coastal properties: predominantly in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. According to Malcolm Bell, chief executive of tourism authority Visit Cornwall, the trend is a lifeline for struggling hospitality businesses. “We are looking at a boom year, with a combination of postponed bookings from 2020 and early bookings for this summer,” Bell told Telegraph Travel. “For some accommodation businesses, reservations are currently over 100 per cent up year-on-year; that doesn’t mean that they’re full, just that they’re far ahead of where they would usually be in a typical January. “Overall, I’d say advance bookings for most hotels, guesthouses and self-catering are around 30 to 50 per cent higher than usual for this time of year.” But Cornwall isn’t the only part of Britain that’s in high demand. Bookings are climbing quickly all over the country, as Matt Brayley, marketing director at holidaycottages.co.uk explains: “So many of us rediscovered the joys of a staycation last summer and early autumn. This, coupled with reservations carried over from our customers who chose to defer their holiday to this year, means we are already 37 per cent up compared to the same point last year for bookings from Easter onwards. “Of course, everyone should only travel when it’s safe to do so, and we’ll be guided by the Government on this, but we’d recommend people start making plans sooner rather than later in order to avoid missing out on their first choice properties.”
Mid-Atlantic, 4am, 39,000ft. Just a couple more hours to go before landing back in London after another night crossing the pond. I looked across at my colleague, gently sipping on his umpteenth coffee of the night, eyes heavy and bloodshot. Behind us, 250 passengers were fast asleep, trying to compensate for the five hours their body clocks were about to lose waking up on another continent. Ahead of us, Venus, the morning star, flickered and shimmered as it slid above the horizon. The display is so bright that many a pilot has mistaken it for another aircraft. Being mid-winter, the sun would not be showing its face until just before we landed. The hum of the airflow in the flight deck was interrupted by a two-tone chime as the latest weather for Heathrow appeared on our screens. The visibility had already started to drop; light winds, the temperature 2°C with a dew point of 1°C and visibility of 1,500m. With the temperature and dew point (the temperature at which the air can no longer hold water vapour) so close together and light winds to mix the air, we had the perfect storm for the airfield to fog out at any moment. The forecast we studied six hours ago in New York was spot on. Glancing down at the same display, the captain carefully digested the information. “I think we’d better prepare for an Autoland.” Reduced visibility has long been a problem for aviators. During the Second World War, returning Allied bombers often found their way back to their home base, but were unable to touch down as the ground was shrouded in fog. Many would crash attempting to land as their fuel tanks ran dry. To combat this, pipelines were laid around the runway through which petrol was ignited. These fires would not only outline the runway edges but also burn off the fog so that pilots were able to see the ground and touch down safely.
The latest lockdown, combined with the closure of all international travel corridors until at least February 15, has travel lovers once more hunkered down at home. Yet while dashed plans can be disappointing, for tour guides – whose livelihoods depend on people travelling and exploring – England’s ‘stay at home’ order is nothing short of a catastrophe. “I feel quite suicidal at times,” a weary Stephen Liddell told The Telegraph in a call from his freezing home in Bushey that he can only afford to heat for a few hours each day. The 47-year old guide and owner of Ye Olde England Tours has seen his bookings “drop by over 99 per cent” since last March. He said: “Normally, I’d get about six bookings a day for the year ahead. As of now, I’ve got one – that’s for July. I’ve watched everything disappear and it hasn’t been my fault. I’ve done nothing wrong.” Liddell estimates that he has earned £500 since the outbreak of coronavirus – “I’ve worked it out and that’s on a par with the lowest per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa” – and is one of the three million self-employed who have fallen through the cracks of Rishi Sunak’s Covid bail-out schemes. He was ineligible for state support because, pre-pandemic, “I worked pretty much every single day, including Christmas, and happily declared every penny of my cash tips to help pay the NHS and teachers as I was on a good salary.” Liddell’s work ethos and honesty meant that he had average earnings of £53,000 in the last three years – much of which he earmarked for vital renovations on the new home he moved into at the start of 2020 – taking him £3,000 above the threshold for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme [SEISS] grant. A married couple, each earning £49,500, would have been entitled to a SEISS grant of up to three separate instalments of £7,500 each.
To book, or not to book? That is the question. In recent weeks we at Telegraph Travel have been grappling with this very question, exploring how the vaccine rollout could reboot travel, and asking the all-important question of whether our summer holidays can go ahead after lockdown. But we want to know what you, our Telegraph readers, believe on this matter. Is it right to be travelling during a pandemic, at all? Will you be bagging a travel bargain, while holiday firms try to lure in customers? And where do you dream of going? Below, we take a look at what you have told us so far. Do you have an opinion on this matter? Scroll to the bottom of this article to let us know your thoughts, and we may feature your comment in the article. Keith Monk We are booked on two cruise type holidays in May (one a walking cruise and one a bird watching cruise), both sailing around the UK and Ireland. We booked these both before Covid and the first lockdown came into force so have not rushed into booking them recently. We will not cancel them because we have a glimmer of hope they may go ahead, especially with the vaccination programme going so well. Last year (2020) we lost 3 major holidays, so whilst awaiting to see if the May holidays do go ahead, we won't be booking anything new for the foreseeable. Cyprus Expat Why does a holiday mean going abroad? There are so many wonderful places to see in Britain and not just the "usual suspects". For example the coast and countryside east of Middlesbrough (Saltburn is delightful), the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, the Essex / Suffolk border, the Staffordshire Moorlands, Exmoor, the Dark Peak, the Brecon Beacons, mid Dorset, North Nottinghamshire & Sherwood Forest, the list goes on. Beautiful scenery, historic towns and no crowds. Bill Garrett Anybody booking for an overseas leisure trip in 2021 could be best described as incurably optimistic. It is going to be the end of the year before most first world countries are fully vaccinated and well into next year before the world is. Mike Davies I'll take my little boat to any number of secluded beaches here in Cornwall. As I have been doing for years. Edward Seaton I had 5 of the best holidays of my life last year. Paris in July, Switzerland and Venice in August, Rome in September, Greece in late September. Just be a bit persistent and you will be greatly rewarded. And remember – once you get to the airport, there is the glorious sensation of being surrounded by people who are not pathologically afraid.
Last week National Express claimed bookings from those aged 65 and over had increased by 101% thanks to the vaccine. Jit Desai, head of holidays and travel at the venerable coach company, stated that last Monday it took the same number of reservations in a day as it would normally take in a week. It looks increasingly likely, when it comes to UK holidays at least, that the older generation is going to be doing plenty of travelling this summer. So perhaps 2021 could be a year for inter-generational breaks? For me, it all brings back recollections of taking all-inclusive coach trips around the UK in the 1980s with my grandparents (supplemented with more recent memories of group coach trips taken by myself, in the name of travel journalism, where I was the only person on board not old enough to remember the moon landings). I recall rather enjoying travelling with my grandparents, based in no small part on my granny’s insistence on always having a small confectioner’s amount of boiled sweets about her person and my grandad’s laxity when it came to compelling me to ever eat anything green or healthy. So if you do end up swapping Benidorm for a coach holiday to Broadstairs this summer, here’s five things you should prepare yourself for. Questionable set menus A large number of restaurants in the UK possess a chef that has a complete nervous breakdown at the prospect of catering a la carte to more than 14 people at the same time. The solution is the coach party set menu lunch. This will be served by a terrified troop of minimum wage 16-year-old school leavers in an annex of a pub on the side of an A road which has more fruit machines than customers the rest of the time. The menu will be a chilled-to-the-bone rectangle of pate followed by overcooked chicken, and always concludes with Nescafe and a bowl of ice cream with sliced banana. Complaints will be perfectly timed to begin the moment the last member of the party has left the restaurant and is safely back on the coach. In blissful ignorance of his culinary crimes, the chef will conclude he’s done another fantastic job and the school leavers will spend the rest of the afternoon dreaming of getting a gig in Subway.
After a truly disastrous year for the travel industry, the outlook for 2021 appears just as bleak. Not only are Britons back under house arrest, with all holidays banned until at least the spring, but harsh new restrictions await post-lockdown travellers. From this week, all arrivals to the UK must present evidence of a negative Covid test – and quarantine for up to 10 days. Unless the restrictions are relaxed, millions of Britons – such as those unable to work from home – will simply be unable to leave the country. Furthermore, we don’t even know which nations will be welcoming us. As things stand, only a clutch of Caribbean islands, and a few other long-haul countries, are open to British travellers. Nowhere in Europe is a feasible holiday option. Yet Jonny Bealby, founder of adventure travel specialist Wild Frontiers, is feeling cautiously optimistic – and believes there’s a clear path back to normal. “Vaccine passports offer the best way out of this mess,” he says. “As the first country to roll out the vaccine, the UK Government should also be spearheading an international campaign to establish a worldwide vaccine passport.” The idea will have its critics, and some fear the concept will open the door to coercion and discrimination, but Bealby believes it shouldn’t preclude those who haven’t had the jab from travel altogether. “Those who have been vaccinated could travel more freely between countries that accept it, but obviously you’d need a secondary option for those who haven’t – such as testing. It’s not a new thing – for years some destinations have required you to get inoculated against certain diseases, such as yellow fever, before you visit. “I see this as the best solution to get us back to some sort of normality. Once this happens, I actually feel very positive about the future.” Wild Frontiers made its name offering tours to places few other operators dare to venture, from Afghanistan to the Congo, but travel restrictions forced it to rethink its offering in 2020. Alongside its Hindu Kush Adventure and its Persian Explorer, you’ll now find itineraries in less exotic locales, from the hills of Catalonia to Italy’s Apennine Mountains.
Thanks to the huge amounts of snow it regularly receives each winter, Japan’s north island of Hokkaido is high on the wishlist of expert powders skiers and snowboarders. However, its challenging reputation can mean those who are less assured off piste decide to give it a miss.
Primatologists have always thought it safe to assume gorillas could catch SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – and their suspicion was finally confirmed this month. When two western lowland gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park began coughing, the zoo tested the troop’s faecal samples and found evidence of the virus. It’s thought they caught it from an asymptomatic staff member who later tested positive. In a statement, the zoo’s executive director, Lisa Peterson, said: “Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well.” Though it isn’t a surprise that gorillas, sharing 98.4 per cent of our DNA, can catch the virus, the confirmation of infection is concerning. “[Since the news], rules are being much more strictly enforced and we are monitoring the gorillas even more closely,” said Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of Ugandan non-profit Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH). Rwanda and Uganda have the largest gorilla trekking industries in the world. Tourists pay US$1,500 in Rwanda and US$700 in Uganda to spend an hour with a gorilla group. That revenue, and the protection afforded to the parks as a result, is a major reason the mountain gorilla population has grown to just over 1,000 in recent years. For many who live around parks such as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, tourism is the sole source of income. In its absence, people have moved to poaching bushmeat to survive. Last year, a silverback gorilla named Rafiki was killed by a group hunting duiker and bush pigs in Bwindi, after he allegedly attacked them. Since the Ugandan industry restarted in September, Kalema-Zikusoka tells me poaching has reduced. “Currently I believe that the negative effects of banning trekking outweigh the risk of infecting gorillas, but this could change any time and needs to be continuously evaluated,” she says. So how do you balance these inter-reliant necessities: tourism and gorilla health?
As the UK Government strives to combat the spread of new Covid variants, all eyes are on our international borders. Currently, of course, they are closed to anybody without a negative Covid-19 result – and all arrivals into the country must quarantine for up to ten days. However, the quarantine system is not without fault: yes, the £1,000 fine for breaches is a hefty deterrent, but even senior Border Force officials have said the wider system is 'unenforceable'. The solution? That is currently being debated by ministers – but one option on the table is quarantine hotels, or 'directed isolation'. Such facilities are already in use across Asia, New Zealand and Australia, in which arriving travellers must see out their quarantine under supervision. But how might the idea work in the UK, and who would have to foot the bill? Here's what it could look like. What is a quarantine hotel? Travellers are confined to their rooms or apartments for the duration of their quarantine: usually 10-14 days. They may have food delivered to their rooms, cooked either by the hotel or from a local takeaway service, and may also prepare their own meals – subject to in-room facilities. They must not leave their room, nor accept visitors. Any breaches usually carry a hefty fine: in Australia, the penalty is A$20,000 (£11,300).
Typing on a laptop under the shade of a cherry tree in rural France, with chickens pecking in the dry grass, the change of scene after months stuck at home in London was energising. Endless weeks of confinement during lockdown left my wife and I with cabin fever (even though we were lucky enough to have a house and garden) so being able to book a flight to Toulouse to stay with my parents – who have a pool – for five weeks made us feel like the One Per Cent (and we probably were). It was also consolation for the fact that my partner, like many other people, had recently been made redundant. I said: “Try not to worry – let’s both be freelancers and work from anywhere. It’s a much better lifestyle. No commute, no boss and no office politics to contend with.” (I run my own company and am a freelance journalist, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.) And so we put it to the test. We carved up the week, allocating three days each for work and one full family day to spend with our young daughter (we continue to do this now). We worked hard and fast, but made sure to build in time for a quick dip or an early-morning jog through the vineyards, and had the added support of childcare from my parents, which gave us bonus time to meet deadlines. For our daughter, there were fields of sunflowers to explore, tractors to spot, potatoes to dig up and tomatoes to water. It was idyllic. What’s more, it felt safe. Safe from crowds and pollution and The Virus. One of the most stressful days we had was when some hay bales tumbled off the back of a truck and knocked out an internet tower so there was no Wi-Fi for a day or two – but beyond that, our challenges amounted to making sure we got the time difference right when arranging Zoom calls and finding enough shade in the heat of the day.
Meik Wiking laughs before he answers the key question about his latest project. When did it open? “Well, we started setting up the museum in November 2019,” he says. “And then, in early March 2020, we announced that we would open it in May. The following week, there was a national press conference, with the Prime Minister saying that we had to lock the country down.” He laughs again. “So May was postponed. But we were able to open last July. Obviously, we opened to a Copenhagen with far fewer people around.” If there can have been few worse years than 2020 in which to launch “The Happiness Museum” – a year so bereft of joy that you can only laugh at the very thought of having planned to throw such an institution into its maelstrom – then the Danish capital is at least a fitting location. Denmark, like its Nordic colleagues, is a regular feature at the top end of the World Happiness Report – an annual index which ranks the countries of the planet according to their levels of wellbeing. The 2020 report – released just as the pandemic was really starting to bite, on March 20 last year – had Finland first, and Denmark second. Indeed, Denmark is so happy a country that it is home to Wiking’s main preoccupation. Founded in 2013, the Happiness Research Institute (happinessresearchinstitute.com) is a Copenhagen-based think tank – of which he is the CEO – which attempts to look at global wellbeing from a scientific perspective. “I know we sound like a fantastical place,” he grins, laughing for a third time. “People imagine we are an office full of puppies and ice cream. But we have a serious purpose. Our work comes down to three themes. One – we try to measure happiness. Two – we try to understand why some people are happier than others. Three – we hope to shed light on how we can improve quality of life. How should we design policies differently? How should we design cities – and societies – differently?”
A man who was “too scared” to fly home because of Covid-19 has been found living in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Aditya Singh, 36, spent three months hiding out before being arrested at the weekend. The Calfornian was reportedly squatting in the security zone of O’Hare International – wearing an staff ID badge that he had allegedly found, and surviving on food hand-outs from fellow travellers. Singh arrived at the airport on a flight from Los Angeles on October 19, the Chicago Tribune reports. However, he never left. He was arrested on Saturday, after two United Airlines employees noticed that his identification was false – and then alerted the police. He appeared in court on Sunday, charged with misdemeanor theft and criminal trespass. He had hidden in the airport because he was “scared to go home due to Covid,” said Assistant State’s Attorney, Kathleen Hagerty, who explained that Singh had received food from other passengers. It is not known why Singh, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Orange, had travelled to Chicago. The court heard that he is unemployed, and has no criminal background. “The court finds these facts and circumstances quite shocking for the alleged period of time that this occurred,” said Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz. “Being in a secured part of the airport under a fake ID badge allegedly, based upon the need for airports to be absolutely secure so that people feel safe to travel, I do find those alleged actions do make him a danger to the community.” However, the Chicago Department of Aviation said in a statement: “While this incident remains under investigation, we have been able to determine that this gentleman did not pose a security risk to the airport or to the travelling public.”
In case you missed it, until Britain’s latest lockdown is over – whenever that might be – holidays are banned. After lockdown, if the current travel rules remain in place, a holiday will involve between five and 10 days of self-isolation when you get home, and as many as three Covid tests (one before you depart, one during your trip, and another – if you want to reduce your quarantine period – when you return). After months stuck at home, the prospect of a holiday is keeping many people sane, but unless the restrictions are relaxed, millions of Britons – those unable to work from home, for example, or without the resources to pay in the region of £150 per test – will simply be unable to travel. The only cause for optimism is the vaccine. Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel’s consumer expert, says: “If everything goes well with the vaccination programme, then it seems quite possible that the virus will be reasonably under control in this country by Easter – or at least that deaths and hospitalisations will have dramatically reduced. So – fingers crossed – there is a good chance that we will be free to travel by then. The priority list for the Covid vaccines - and how you will be contacted There are two big questions, however. “Firstly, will fears over new Covid variants have been allayed sufficiently to reestablish quarantine-free travel? Not many Britons will be willing or able to leave the country if it means a 10-day period of isolation when they return,” says Nick. “Secondly, how many countries will be open to us? Some of the best chances are likely to be countries which are most dependent on UK tourists: Spain, Greece and Turkey, for example [see below for more suggestions].” Testing is likely to remain for many months to come, but it seems increasingly likely that some sort of vaccination certificate will be established to supplement, or perhaps eventually replace, this requirement. As for summer, Nick is confident that holidays will be possible. He says: “I think we have good grounds for optimism that travel will be possible, and that most key destinations, certainly in Europe, will be open to us.” Where to book for your summer holiday? The below list comes with significant caveats: anything can change and, right now, no holiday you book is guaranteed to go ahead. If the last ten months are anything to go by, there will be nothing smooth about the recommencement of international holidays. If you do book, protect yourself by going with a tour operator with an airtight cancellation or rebooking policy – and keep everything crossed. Long-haul A Caribbean island Over the last six months, the Caribbean has been the most reliable corner of the world when it comes to holiday options for Britons. Prior to the Government scrapping all travel corridors, there were eight Caribbean islands welcoming British travellers, including the likes of Barbados, Cuba, St Lucia and Antigua. All require testing prior to departure or on arrival, or both, which has become the norm across the world, although it is not impossible that the islands will start accepting some kind of vaccination certificate as an alternative to a negative test.
Experts predict a boom in bookings for 2022 as hopes for the remainder of this season dwindle
If anything positive at all has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic, it is surely a realisation that we could all benefit from being a bit healthier.
The UK's tough new testing rules came into effect this morning, with all international arrivals now required to show a negative Covid test or face a potential £500 fine. The legislation is intended to protect against the spread of coronavirus variants, after two new forms of the virus were recently discovered in Brazil. A quarantine is also still in place for all UK arrivals, consisting of 10 days – but shortened to five if a second negative test result is obtained. Currently, no one is able to bypass this quarantine due to the removal last week of all the UK’s travel corridors. More spot-checks have also been ordered to check that people are quarantining, and all exemptions to the policy – including the controversial separate rules for business travel – have also been removed. While the travel industry has spent the past year calling for an effective testing regime, many business leaders are still despairing over the continued use of a quarantine. Speaking on Radio 4 this morning, CEO of the Airport Operators Association Karen Dee warned that the new measures will make little difference to the industry currently – because quarantine is the “biggest deterrent” against booking trips, rather than testing.
In June, seven of the world’s most powerful leaders will be heading to the butter-coloured sands and seaside villages of West Cornwall for the annual G7 summit. The event will see political leaders from the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States (plus delegations from other countries) descend on St Ives and Carbis Bay which are known for their year-round beaches, subtropical flora and fauna, and crystalline waters. The official meeting (June 11-13) will take place at the Carbis Bay Estate and Hotel which occupies 125 acres of the pretty coastal enclave with excellent restaurants, a superb spa, watersports, a pool and myriad accommodation options including 38 stylish rooms in the main house, plus woodland cottages and beach houses, lodges and suites.
We’ve never hesitated to drag our kids around the world on complicated holidays. My husband’s parents live in a small town in Alberta, Canada and we try to get out there every couple of years. One Christmas we took our daughter Georgia, then two years old, to meet her godparents in Vermont. That involved flying in to New York and staying the night, a time I’ll never forget because I was so deliriously tired that I took G out for a walk in the pram in Central Park at 2am to try to get her to sleep. The next day we drove six hours to Vermont. We wouldn’t do it if the kids didn’t love it. They talk nostalgically about hanging out in Dunkin’ Donuts in Hanna, Alberta, as if it were the best place on earth. One summer, we somewhat hastily booked an Airbnb in a coastal resort town on Gran Canaria that turned out to be an ugly, characterless place. The kids didn’t notice. We found a quiet, pretty beach down the coast and regularly ended our days with visits to an ice-cream parlour, followed by card games, and they were over the moon. There was nothing all that extraordinary about the trip, but they look back on it as their visit to paradise. Part of the appeal of air travel for Georgia and Hal (our son) may be that they can watch television uninterrupted for hours. If I’m honest, that’s partly why I love air travel. There’s nothing better than being cosily in your seat with three or four films queued up. The downside of these expeditions is that there is nothing worse than when a three-hour trip turns into a nine-hour one because something has gone wrong at the airport or with the transport links, and your family ends up getting frazzled before you’ve even started. Then Covid-19 changed the face of travel. One of my abiding memories of the first national lockdown was standing out in my garden in London, looking up at the sky and seeing... well, nothing but birds. In London, you get used to a lot of air traffic, to the web of contrails it leaves, and for the first time in my life, the sky was calm and empty.
In 2021, your children will be the ones calling the shots. As parent, yours will be a purely symbolic authority. You will already be familiar with this dynamic, of course, but here’s what’s new: this rule will apply not only within your own home, but in hotels too. The family travel market was going through a growth spurt before Covid-19 threw it a curve ball. Lockdowns, however, have super-charged your children’s power over the hotel industry. According to one recent survey, two thirds of parents are hoping to go on holiday once restrictions are in the rear-view mirror and, says Expedia’s report on how the youngest family members are influencing travel, “although final decisions are made by the adults, Gen Alpha [that’s your children] influences family trip choices”. This year, therefore, hotels will be competing for your kids’ attention and, terrifying as you might find their newfound omnipotence, this may prove no bad thing. Back in 2013, a survey commissioned by the Luxury Family Hotel chain found that more than a quarter of a million British parents had cut a family holiday short either because they felt unwelcome or because it was ill-equipped for their needs. Just under a decade later, says Simon Maguire, the managing director of Luxury Family Hotels: “We have definitely seen the hotel sector make improvements when it comes to being family friendly, which is good news. But saying you are family friendly and actually being family friendly can be worlds apart.” Family rooms are still often awkwardly configured; kids’ meals less “field to fork”, more “deep-freeze to deep-fried”; communal and recreational spaces dotted with boring breakables that leave children fidgety and adults on perpetual high alert. “That causes angst for both parent and child,” says Maguire, “which is not what you want when spending your hard-earned money.” Well, quite. So how do you identify the hotels that are not simply paying lip service to family friendliness? The ones who welcome not only the sight but also the sound of children?
Welcome to the second instalment of our journey around the world in 80 objects – things, great and small, famous and obscure, which shed a particularly revealing light on a place or culture. Two weeks ago, we kicked off with our first 10, and here are three more. 13. The Serpentine Bench, Barcelona It suits the enigmatically eccentric character of Barcelona’s most celebrated architect that his two most famous designs in the city are about as far apart in scale and grandeur as it is possible to get. They are a fantastical cathedral and a park bench. The Sagrada Familia, with its strange organic cluster of conical towers, remains unfinished 139 years after work began on the concrete structure. Even in this uncompleted state, it has become the biggest visitor attraction in the city. Rather more subtle is the impact of the Serpentine Bench in Park Guell. But in its way, it is just as radical, just as inventive and has had just as great an influence on the everyday life of Barcelona’s citizens, as the cathedral we most associate with him. Park Guell is set out on a hillside in the northern suburbs of the city, where it was originally conceived as part of a housing development at the beginning of the last century. In fact, the concept behind the project was based on new ideas about social housing and model towns, which were being pioneered in England at the time, including garden cities – which led to the building of Letchworth and Welwyn. The park itself was dreamed up by the industrialist Eusebi Güell, who commissioned Gaudi to help with the design. Ultimately, the project failed and only two houses were actually constructed, one of which was bought by Gaudi and became his home for several years. But the park was completed by 1914 and is now a public space. It has been a huge success, a green lung in the city suburbs offering wonderful views out over the Mediterranean. At its heart, at the top of the main stairways and framing one end of a large open terrace – where you would expect to see serried ranks of conventional seats – is the Serpentine Bench. But Gaudi and his collaborator Josep Maria Jujol shunned convention and made sure it struck the keynote for the whole park. Supposedly in the form of a sea serpent, the bench is really a long, continuous series of tight regular curves that double back on each other like the frills of a ruff, around three sides of the terrace. It’s a typical example of the influence of organic forms on Gaudi’s designs, but also of their human scale. The curves form little intimate enclaves where people can sit and talk, or quietly fall asleep in the Catalan sun. It also reflects his characteristic exuberance, for the entire bench is decorated with mosaics made from thousands of broken pieces of white and brilliantly coloured tiles. Park Guell (parkguell.barcelona)
For all the perils of the past 10 months, music has been a great constant – the firm friend who has stayed with us, providing solace with inspiring songs and favourite tracks; a consolatory sound-track to tough times that is never inaudible, however hard the wind is howling outside the door. It will be that way when normality returns, for it is almost impossible to travel and not encounter the sounds and rhythms that help define a destination. Indeed, the planet is dotted with cities that dance to, delight in and listen to their own particular musical style – whether in a beachfront bar, a gleaming club or a noble opera house. Here, we take a look at 25 of them, both as a reminder of the fabulous artists and creative geniuses who have come before – and as an encouragement to take holidays and make journeys in future times. Because if troubled days need a soundtrack, a happier aftermath will certainly demand it. THE USA New York Where to start with the Big Apple’s contribution to music? The soul and gospel that has spilt from Harlem for over a century? The ghostly tones of Charlie Parker’s saxophone, which poured from the same district? The Greenwich Village folk scene into which Bob Dylan slipped in 1961? The punk scene that crystallised around CBGB in the East Village during the late 1970s, just as disco was glitter-balling at Studio 54? Any of it. All of it.
I’m a fan of pretty much any kind of holiday – and, being from Sydney, Australia, I’m no stranger to flying long-haul with youngsters; my daughter was four months old the first time she made the journey home for Christmas. So perhaps it’s the amount of flying we have done that makes me love the simplicity of a camping holiday: no passports required, just cram as much as you can into the car and hit the road. And I’m not alone. Even before Covid and its attendant restrictions put the kibosh on most overseas travel, holidays at home were experiencing something of a renaissance, with statistics showing that 32.5 million Britons took a camping or caravanning holiday in 2019, up from 11.8 million in 2017. By the summer of 2020, outdoor staycations were being booked at the rate of one every three seconds.