Portugal’s placement on the Government-approved green travel list has prompted a “surge” in bookings from eager holidaymakers, one travel firm has said.
The Department of Transport revealed at 5pm on Friday that the European nation was one of just 12 destinations that travellers will be able to visit from May 17 without having to self-isolate on return to England.
David Child, head of PR and brand at Thomas Cook, said bookings for Portugal were “through the roof” immediately after the announcement as people had been “poised, ready and waiting to go”.
“We took in the first hour from 5pm to 6pm as many Portugal bookings as we took in the whole month of April,” he told the PA news agency.
But Mr Child cautioned that “absolute numbers” of bookings were “small”, saying the firm was going from “low numbers of bookings to modest numbers of bookings”.
This evening I announced we can make the first tentative steps towards unlocking international travel and start looking outwards again – something we've all worked so hard, as a nation, to achieve.
We will slowly, but surely, open up the travel industry and rebuild our economy. pic.twitter.com/WL4xetP0rz
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) May 7, 2021
“Yes, it’s a surge absolutely, but the market is still down on where it would normally be this time in the year,” he said.
He said that while prices of flights may increase, those on package holidays may find their money goes further in terms of accommodation.
Mr Child said hoteliers were “not raising their prices yet” as they still had many rooms to fill.
“At the moment they are desperate for custom,” he said.
He highlighted the problems facing the travel industry were an “international issue”, with destinations not receiving visitors from other countries like the United States and Russia.
Thomas Cook said on Friday bookings were already up 250% on last week, with more demand expecting into the evening.
Comparing the whole of Friday to the whole of April 30, Thomas Cook said web traffic was 85% higher.
Searches for Portugal saw a 264% increase, while there was a 277% rise in searches for Gibraltar – another destination on the Government’s green list.
Ahead of the Government’s announcement, demand for flights to Portugal had already driven up prices as holidaymakers anticipated its green categorisation.
On Friday night, one of the most expensive travel options for May 17 appeared to a British Airways flight from Heathrow Airport to Faro in the Algarve, costing £436 or £530 depending on the time of day.
Meanwhile budget airline Ryanair was offering flights from London Stansted to Portugal’s capital Lisbon for £65 on the same day.
Travel firm Jet2 said it was committed to restarting holidays from June 24.
Welcoming the planned partial reopening of international travel, CEO Steve Heapy said: “Despite ‘wanting to start looking outward again’ there is still a long way to go to meet the huge customer demand for our flights and ATOL protected package holidays, so we look forward to further positive news about where we can fly to in the coming weeks.
“We also look forward to important updates from the UK Government about a simple and affordable testing regime for customers.”
He added: “Our customers can travel on their well-deserved holidays to destinations on the green list from June 24, and we expect a huge spike in searches and bookings to these destinations.”
Mr Heapy said customers booked to travel from this date onwards to destinations currently not on the green list were asked to “hold off from contacting us as we take the time to make considered decisions in the best interests of customers and independent travel agency partners from all parts of the UK”.