The UK government revealed on Thursday its first changes to travel “traffic light system” which it introduced last month, but there was disappointment for the travel and tourism industries and would-be holidaymakers.
There were widespread hopes for fresh destinations to be added to England’s “green list” of countries where quarantine-free travel is permitted.
However, no new countries have been added and the most popular tourist destination on the original list, Portugal, has been moved to the “amber list.”
This means that from 4 a.m. on Tuesday, it is against government guidance to travel from England to Portugal (though not illegal) and anyone who does so will have to undergo a pre-departure Covid test and then self-isolate at home for ten days on their return.
More than 1,800 flights are scheduled to depart from the UK to Portugal in June, reports travel data company Cirium, which accounts for around 345,000 seats. Of the six Portugal destinations served, Faro and Lisbon are the most popular.
Shares in European airlines dropped following the news on Thursday afternoon, reported the Financial Times, with British Airways owner International Airlines Group and easyJet both down 5% and Ryanair sliding by 3%.
The countries remaining on the UK green list are Australia; Brunei; New Zealand; Iceland; Singapore; Faroe Islands; Gibraltar; Falkland Islands; Israel; South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; and St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Many on the list – such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore – aren’t currently welcoming UK tourists, while the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is the only European destination still to be colored green.
Seven countries – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago – are new additions to England’s “red list,” which means a mandatory 10-day quarantine in a hotel.
The UK’s regional governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales set their own travel restrictions as needed, but are likely to remain aligned on the current lists until the next review occurs in three weeks’ time.
Virginia Messina, senior vice president of the World Travel and Tourism Council, expressed the organization’s disappointment in a statement.
“There are so many countries with similar vaccination levels and low infection rates as the UK to which travel should be restored immediately, such as the US and Malta,” she said. Dropping Portugal from the green list “will crush the confidence to travel, depress forward bookings and deter holidaymakers.”
The Caribbean island of Grenada, which has had a total of 161 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began and no new cases locally since February, has been rebuilding its tourism sector and there were hopes it would be added to the June green list.
Clarice Modeste Curwen, Grenada’s tourism minister, said in a statement: “It’s a huge blow for both holidaymakers and the travel and tourism sector.”