There has been a surge in flight bookings to Spain by British tourists in the last week, since the announcement by the UK government that there is no longer a requirement to quarantine on return from an amber categorised country for those who are fully NHS-vaccinated. But there is increasing concern that Spain may join France on the new ‘amber plus’ list.
The new rule came into force yesterday, on England’s so called ‘Freedom Day’, with all remaining Covid restrictions being lifted.
Spain has been listed as amber in recent weeks by the UK government, although there was a short period of time when the Balearic Islands were listed as ‘green’, before moving onto the amber list again last week.
The change in rule to ditch the quarantine requirement for double vaccinated Britons returning from amber listed countries has resulted in a 400% increase in bookings for flights to Spain from the UK. The number of flights to Spain from the UK has tripled in the last week, when the change in rule was announced.
Currently, the most active airport destination for UK flights is Palma de Mallorca, followed by Ibiza, Alicante and Málaga. Airlines are poised to keep increasing the flights in the weeks ahead, with plans to increase capacity in August and September.
Many tourist destinations have been hanging on for the start of a season of international tourism, and it appears that this is beginning to happen, although many in the sector recognise that the situation is highly volatile and, given the rising Covid incidence rates in Spain and the UK, there could be imminent changes that may scupper a return to normality for the sector.
In recent days, there is increasingly an expectation that Spain may be reclassified to ‘amber plus’. This category was created last week by the UK government, when it placed France onto this new list, meaning that all Britons returning from there must quarantine for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
It is essentially one step away from the ‘red list’, when quarantine is required for 10 days in a government-controlled hotel.
The ‘amber plus’ list emerged after identifying a variant of concern in the form of the Beta variant in France.
This variant is already showing prevalence in Spain and, giving the rising case numbers, is expected to increase in the days ahead. Recent data is showing that Spain now has a higher level of Beta infections than France.
This places Spain firmly on the brink of another potential change in category, just when it appeared that Britons were beginning to return to Spain for tourism in greater numbers.
The next few days will be carefully monitored by the UK government and British tourists who are thinking of booking flights to Spain over the summer.
It seems that the UK government is not afraid of making swift changes to categories, with a government spokesperson saying that the decision about France was made because of having a ‘persistent presence’ of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.
With so much uncertainty, combined with potential last minute changes in quarantine requirements and the added costs of PCR testing, a return to pre-pandemic levels of UK tourists in Spain is increasingly unlikely this year.