A new strain of the coronavirus reported in the UK has been blamed for the introduction of Tier 4 restrictions in London and the Southeast, and the overall tightening of UK travel restrictions over the Christmas period.
According to authorities, the ‘super-spreader’ variant is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus. Although there is no evidence that this new virus is any more deadly, nor that it will affect vaccination distribution efforts (the vaccines should still work against the new virus), the increasing risk of transmission is enough to potentially overwhelm hospitals.
European countries block UK flights
As such, many countries have now banned international flights from the UK. Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium are all halting flights from the UK; the Eurostar train between the UK and France has been suspended; and, further afield, Canada has also temporarily suspended flights from the UK.
We can hazard a guess as to the impact that these restrictions will have on travel and tourism agents’ operations. We may well see an increase in the number of firms that the Competition and Market Authority instructs to refund customers in place of vouchers.
For UK travellers, trying to drum up confidence in, and enthusiasm for, overseas trips will likely be a near-impossible feat now. Indeed, a recent survey from the European Travel Commission (ETC) found that British respondents displayed the least desire to travel over the next six months of all markets surveyed (UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Austria).
Unsurprisingly, the ETC survey found that health and safety continue to be the main considerations when it comes to making travel plans, particularly for those aged 55 and over. Countries and agencies that adopt stringent health and safety protocols (such as Bali recently has) will no doubt find themselves more popular among international visitors, especially if travellers are able to get appropriate and generous medical cover for their trips there. But, for now, the latest UK development will likely effect a considerable dent in travel incentives.