Britons eager for sunny getaways as the Covid-19 pandemic eases may ditch long-haul destinations in favour of holidays in Europe to cut their carbon footprint, a ferry industry boss has said.
While the Omicron variant continues to rage across the world, putting healthcare agencies under significant strain, there are hopes that some restrictions may soon ease.
But an increase in UK holidaymakers heading for Europe could cause a headache in Dover, with 20-mile queues if coronavirus border checks are not eased by Easter, said Chris Parker, director of capacity and passenger performance for ferry operator DFDS.
Speaking to the PA news agency about the year ahead, Mr Parker said consumer confidence in travel is low because of “opaque” rules changing with “dizzying frequency”, but he hopeds 2022 will see a resurgence in demand.
As well as the challenges of the pandemic, he added that the travel industry is still getting to grips with Brexit and how to pursue a greener, more sustainable future.
Asked about restrictions on UK nationals visiting France imposed days before Christmas, Mr Parker hailed the “very good news” last week that the UK Government had rolled back its main restrictions.
“(We are) hearing we may hear something quite soon from the French government to say that they’re doing the same,” he added.
Since Friday, fully vaccinated travellers and under-18s arriving in the UK no longer need to have taken a pre-departure lateral flow test.
Restrictions on travel have evolved and changed as the pandemic has thrown up new variants and challenges, often with little notice.
Sadly, this has led to “quite a lot of abuse” for DFDS staff at the border, Mr Parker said.
Checks on things such as passenger locator forms and vaccination passports mean it takes longer for travellers at the border, which could continue to be an issue.
“Any sort of significant return in terms of passenger numbers, that’s going to escalate the problem.
“It’s really, really important that we don’t find ourselves around Easter, for example, doing these sort of checks because it simply won’t work.
“The impact would be queues back on to the motorways of Kent, stretching back 10, 20 miles – there’s no question about that – and in fairly short order.”
If demand for travel eventually returns to pre-pandemic levels, Mr Parker also predicts there will be behavioural changes among holidaymakers.
“I do think that maybe there will be a shift a little bit away from long haul back towards more local holidaying, and I guess that also underlying there’s that element of sustainable travel, green travel.”
He argued that travel by ferry is better for the environment than by plane and that the Dover-Calais route transports important food and medical supplies to the UK.
“Those vessels are going backwards and forwards anyway, so if you are travelling as a passenger your footprint is offset by the fact you’re using something which is happening anyway,” Mr Parker added.
DFDS recently invested in a fleet of electric trucks and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050.