Flight bookings to tourist destinations such as Spain and Greece have fueled a rebound in air travel from EU countries since early May. Intra-EU flight bookings reached nearly 50% of pre-pandemic levels in June, according to data provider ForwardKeys.
But the same pattern has not emerged in the UK, where the government discourages overseas tourism and urges people to take a “stay” instead, despite the rapid roll-out of vaccination in the country.
Flights from the UK to the EU were only 20% of their pre-crisis level, ForwardKeys said.
The UK government this month reduced the number of countries it deemed safe to visit and no major holiday destinations are now on its so-called “green” list. He argued that a “safety-first approach” would help ease national restrictions more quickly.
Unlike the UK, travel restrictions are set to ease across the EU from July 1 with the introduction of digital health cards, which will allow people to travel freely if they have been vaccinated, picked up of Covid-19 or have proof of a negative test.
Flight bookings from customers in France, Germany, Spain and Italy increased 110% in May compared to the previous month and have seen a steady upward trend, with the most popular destinations being Palma, Ibiza and La Crete, according to separate data from the flight search company. Skyscanner.
Bookings from the UK rose 74% last month, but many were destined for Portugal, which has since been removed from the ‘green list’ of countries considered safe for overseas travel. Since the country was taken off the list, the upward trend in UK bookings has stopped, Skyscanner said.
The emergence of a two-tier travel industry has led some airlines to redirect planes from the UK to the EU.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren told the Financial Times his airline added 150,000 more seats over the summer to its intra-European network.
The carrier has also shifted its capacity, including moving flights to Palma, Mallorca, from the UK to Germany.
« [The] the easing and removal of restrictions sparked a positive booking momentum across Europe with the majority of our bookings showing a strong shift to Europe when normally it would be a 50 share -50 with the UK, ”Lundgren said.
“Europe is demonstrating that a safe reopening of travel is possible and we therefore continue to urge the UK government to do so as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Andrew Flintham, managing director of the UK branch of Europe’s largest tour operator, Tui, said the UK “is in danger of becoming a nation of homemakers.”
“The European countries look at us with perplexity. My counterparts in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are now seeing travel made possible, with strong bookings for the summer and pent-up demand for travel that we know also exists in the UK, ”he said. -he adds.
Europe’s largest online travel company, eDreams Odigeo, said May bookings for the June holidays rose 56% month-over-month in the UK after the first announcement by the government of a list of safe countries, but that since then confidence had collapsed.
The UK government, meanwhile, laid out a plan this week to promote domestic tourism. The initiatives include a £ 10million program funded by the National Lottery to offer free tickets to off-season attractions and a rail pass similar to ‘interrail’ tickets that can be purchased for train travel in Europe.
“I encourage everyone to rediscover the UK’s fantastic tourism offering,” said Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Tourism.
No additional support has been announced for the overseas travel industry as long as restrictions remain in place.
AirlinesUK, the industry lobby group, wrote to Rishi Sunak, British Chancellor, last week to demand new support for British airlines as the prospect of another lost summer grows.
Additional reporting by Mehreen Khan in Brussels