Image above: Bali
Foreign holidays are banned and returning travellers have to quarantine, but that looks as if it’s about to change. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has hinted that people could start thinking about booking foreign trips again.
Meanwhile the Director General of Her Majesty’s Passport Office, Abi Tierney has said, if you’re thinking about travelling: “It is vital those who may need to apply for a new passport do so now”.
There was a huge drop in the number of passport applications last year and they’re expecting that once the Government gives the green light for travel, they will be deluged with applications.
Image above: Bora Bora
Grant Shapps offers “light at the end of the tunnel”
Under the Government’s road map to easing out of lockdown, the earliest date for foreign travel in 17 May. The Government is developing a traffic light system ranking countries by the coronavirus risk they pose, which they will introduce when international travel resumes.
On Saturday 10 April the Transport Secretary told the BBC:
“This is the first time I’m able to come on and say I’m not advising against booking foreign holidays.
“You’ll want to check what the situation is in two or three weeks’ time when that list – the green, amber, red, is produced – you’ll want to know that you’ve got good holiday insurance and flexible flights and the rest of it.
“But for the first time I think there is light at the end of the tunnel and we’ll be able to restart international travel, including cruises by the way, in a safe and secure way, knowing about the vaccinations, everything we know about the disease this year, and of course that abundance of caution – having the tests in place.”
Image above: Serengeti
If you want a passport, apply now
Her Majesty’s Passport Office is bracing itself for a flood of applications the minute people start thinking about foreign travel again. During the pandemic they have seen a significant drop in the number of people applying for passports. In a normal year the Passport Office processes around seven million passport applications, but in 2020 there were only just over four million applications.
While all applications will be processed as quickly as possible, they say, people should now allow up to ten weeks when applying for their British passport, because of the level of demand they are expecting.
Director General of Her Majesty’s Passport Office, Abi Tierney, said:
“If you have delayed renewing your passport or are applying for the first time, please apply now so you can receive it in good time”.
Her Majesty’s Passport Office will be sending text messages to people whose passports are nearing expiration to let them know to allow more time when they renew.
Snappy Snaps in Chiswick is now fully open again and offering a passport photography service, for all foreign passports as well as UK passports. They’re open from 9.00am to 6.00pm Monday to Saturday and 11.00am to 4.00pm on Sunday.
GP surgeries are also saying that you can expect a wait of several weeks to get normal travel vaccinations.
Flight Centre not reopening in Chiswick
While most of the shops reopened on 12 April, one that will not reopen in the Flight Centre, a casualty of the pandemic. Chiswick based travel firm Curated Wanderlust are also no longer operating. Two small examples of the devastation Covid has wrought in the travel industry.
According to Forbes global media company, which focuses on business, the pandemic has cost the global tourism industry $935 billion. The USA has suffered the biggest single drop in tourism revenue but five of the top ten worst hit countries are in Europe. Spain has had the lowest number of visitors for 50 years and France – which is apparently the world’s most visited country – has seen Covid-related losses reach $42,036 million. The UK comes seventh in Forbes table, $27,889 million.
Erika O’Connor, owner of Curated Wanderlust, who has worked in the travel industry for decades, says she hopes people will stay local, ie. in the UK, both for their own wellbeing and that of the economy.
“People are going to be frustrated becuase there will be hiccups” she told The Chiswick Calendar.
“Until you’re vaccinated and the country you’re going to has a handle on vaccinations, they will have to expect a lot of inconveniences.
“Every country will have its own rules and regulations and they will be different”.
Shane Mallon, manager of Capricorn travel in Turnham Green Terrace, now Chiswick’s sole remaining retail travel agent, is not expecting business to pick up until 2022. The majority of their business is usually business travel, which he said just stopped overnight on 23 February last year, a month before the first lockdown.
“Business is down by 95% across the industry. The number of people travelling through Heathrow is down by over 90%. Our turnover is down from £2 million to £100,000.
“There is a lot of hype about people wanting to go on holiday, but very few people are booking and they are people who are regular clients who are going back to the same destinations tehy’ve been to before”.
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