London has fallen 


London has fallen from the top to the bottom of the leading 10 most-booked European destinations, according to the WTTC.

The research was released as the UK government continued to brief that it was planning to launch a series of air bridges, but had yet to confirm a date as to when. 

Research undertaken with ForwardKeys reported that in June last year London was the most heavily booked city in Europe for any date of arrival, followed by Paris and Rome. Travel restrictions, including a quarantine on all travellers entering the UK, pushed the city to the bottom of the top 10.

Lisbon has risen from ninth place to the top of the list of most booked European cities during the first half of June after Portugal was one of the first countries to establish enhanced hygiene and safety protocols to welcome tourists.

New flight bookings for all international future departures from the EU fell by 80.2% in the first half of June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, recovering from a 92.3% decline in May. 

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president & CEO, said: “Travel restrictions and quarantines have continued to quash air travel and strangle demand for travel to and from London, causing it to fall to the bottom of the league for top 10 most-booked European cities, according to latest flight bookings. 

“However, analysis by ForwardKeys clearly shows demand for flights to and from Europe has begun to recover, thanks in part to a relaxation of travel restrictions which has fuelled the recovery in the Travel & Tourism sector.

“We eagerly await the UK government’s announcement it will finally allow travellers to make plans for the summer and visit destinations across the whole of Europe and allow the UK Travel & Tourism sector to kick-off its much needed recovery. 

“The implementation of global protocols as well as testing and contact tracing for intercontinental arrivals, as unveiled by WTTC’s Safe and Seamless Traveller Journey initiative, will restore consumer confidence and encourage travelling to resume.

“We believe these measures will allow travellers to meet the huge pent up demand to travel once more and enjoy a much-need summer break while enabling the Travel & Tourism sector to re-open for business, restoring the livelihoods of millions of people dependent upon tourism.

“The success of the popular holiday destination of Portugal in attracting visitors follows the government's implementation of a number of enhanced health and safety measures. These are, in line with our global protocols, designed to restart this important sector and ensure safe travel. We are delighted to recognise these efforts through the WTTC Safe Travels stamp.”

It was thought that an announcement from the UK government would come on Thursday. On Monday Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, said that the government would begin to ease the health measures at the UK border, allowing passengers to be exempted from self-isolation requirements in certain circumstances on arrival in the UK. 

The Joint Biosecurity Centre, in consultation with Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer, has developed a categorisation of countries and territories from which, he said, it would be able to assess which territories presented a lower risk from a public health perspective for passengers to enter the UK, without a requirement for 14 days’ self-isolation.

Shapps was due to announce further details including a full list of the countries and territories from which arriving passengers would be exempted from self-isolation requirements. He said: “Although people will not need to self-isolate after entering the UK from these countries, they must not be complacent about following the public health advice on hand hygiene and social distancing.”

Michael O’Leery, Ryanair’s CEO, told Sky News: “These badly thought out and badly implemented policies, which have no effect on Covid-19 are doing untold damage to British tourism, to British jobs and to the wider British economy.

”We need to get this stupid quarantine lifted. We need to allow people to move again.”

Ryanair is part of a legal move against the UK government alongside IAG and easyJet, to try and have the quarantine overturned.

Insight: There are some environments where it is very much the main move to be coy, and others where it is very definitely not. Jane Austen novels are heavy with wordplay, the occasional - very occasional - lowered eyelash and some very poignant picnics. Fine if  you want to pass an afternoon on a long train journey, but if you’re trying to plan to run your business or book a holiday, something from the Andy McNab school may be more appropriate.

The UK government has shown itself to be both ditherers and teases. Ms Austen would have them come to a grisly end, but one hopes this practice of failing to make timely decisions and then spending weeks briefing that things might change, don’t know where, don’t know when, will come to a close soon.

In the meantime, Ryanair was reporting that travellers were taking matters into their own hands and booking holidays anyway, rolling the dice that the quarantine would be lifted or that they would ignore it. These are travellers leaving the UK. Not, as we see from the WTTC, those coming in. Not great news for the UK hotel sector.