British bookings being axed

British Tourists

The UK’s decision to keep Greece, Spain and other popular destinations on its list of countries where quarantine is required for all returning visitors has sent jitters across the European tourism industry. The relegation of Portugal to the “amber” list, down from the “green” list, meanwhile, has only added to the industry’s woes.

The immediate result of the decision has been a barrage in British booking cancelations for June, even though they were not so many for Greece anyway, while flights to Portugal became five times more expensive overnight, as Britons try to rush home before the country goes into amber territory next week.

The Jet2 airline has canceled all its international flights and holiday packages up to July 1, while TUI UK has canceled its holiday packages from Britain to Greece and Spain until mid-June due to the general uncertainty.

Nevertheless, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary expressed optimism that despite the June snag for the UK market, international travel will be easier as of July as rising vaccination numbers will ease restrictions.

Rival low-fare carrier easyJet is less optimistic, having to cancel most of over 500 flights scheduled for Portugal.

The Greek government was not taken by surprise, with Akis Skertsos, the minister to the prime minister, saying that the period from the reopening of tourism in mid-May until the end of June is being regarded as a trial period anyway.

Athens has also evolved the process of reporting its coronavirus cases so as to meet the British requirements, and those of other countries, and eventually achieve its inclusion in the “green” list.

A fresh announcement is expected from London on Monday, though hopes are low regarding a change to Greece’s status. The next full assessment of destinations is scheduled for June 28.

Britain, along with Germany, is the most important market for Greek tourism: In 2019 Greece attracted 3.5 million British tourists and another 1 million in 2020. This translated into travel receipts of 2.5 billion euros in 2019 and €749 million last year, according to data from the Bank of Greece.

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