Good afternoon. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 7th January 2022
The year was 2022. Boris Johnson was still in No10 and Omicron was the new Covid variant. But international borders were opening up and PCR tests had been scrapped. 2021 may only have been last week but things were changing fast.
On a wet afternoon in January, the Prime Minister and his advisers held a press conference with families at home all tuning in to hear if there’d be another lockdown. Before Chris Witty could say next slide please, the ticker at the bottom of the screen already gave us the news: double-vaccinated travellers coming into England would no longer have to take a pre-departure PCR test. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland soon followed.
In small offices across the country the phones started ringing and travel agents were taking holiday bookings. As the rain fell, the tea poured. Everyone lived happily ever after.
Happy New Year!
High hopes: Mr Johnson told us that pre-departure testing no longer served a purpose because Omicron was so widespread. He said: “So I can announce that in England from 4am on Friday (7th January), we will be scrapping the pre-departure test, which discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense.” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps gave further details to Sky News.
Well well well: They didn’t mention the fear of travelling on planes with others who potentially have Covid, as removing the PCR test requirement could turn flights into possible super spreading events. Plus other countries have not eased their restrictions so travellers are required to pay for expensive PCR tests to go on holiday (depending on the country), they just no longer need one to come back in. And UK inbound travellers will still need to take a test, but a lateral flow test, taken within two days of arrival into the UK – and not the free NHS ones, but those brought from a private provider. This was the Foreign Office announcement and here inews kept us up-to-date with the rules.
Twitter lit up: The general reaction from travel bosses was that so far 2022 was off to a good start but much more needed to be done. The WTTC praised the UK for replacing the PCR test with antigen tests, UK Airlines said the news would be a massive boost to those wanting to start travelling – and they were right, bookings soared almost overnight. Sky News told us demand was up 400% for easyJet flights -practically back to pre-pandemic levels. Heathrow Airport said they welcomed the change in rules but wanted the UK government to work with countries to further simplify travel requirements.
- ‘Ugly lovely’! Taking a rain check on Swansea this autumn
- Volcanic sunsets in the Mediterranean: Dreaming of the Aeolian islands during lockdown
- On top of the lakes: How picture perfect Bulgaria snapped me a top photo prize!
Not over yet: The bigger picture, of course, is that Covid is still around. The MailOnline reminded us of this with reports from passengers onboard a Caribbean cruise who were stuck in their cabins due to a corona outbreak. Let’s hope they’re enjoying the room service.
Meanwhile: There was a sense of optimism in the air and the Independent’s Simon Calder spotted those first passengers to arrive in England without needing to take a pre-departure PCR test.
Travel resolutions: Tour operator Explore spoke to Travel Weekly, predicting “a big year for adventure”. Ben Ittensohn said their sale had already started with strong interest in walking, and cycling holidays. We also reported on trends this last month, after the WTM released their survey that showed Spain remained the UK’s number one destination while the new emerging hotspot for 2022 was Saudi Arabia.
Far flung adventures: The Sunday Times travel supplement predicted 2022 would be the year of the travel comeback and offered up to 100 trip ideas including a Music Tour in the US and wine tasting in South Africa.
Swap the plane for a train: This year promises to be very important when it comes to trains with plenty of new developments underway. Jon Worth tells us a world of night trains is opening up – especially in France, Norway, Sweden and in Austria with the the NightJet routes set to launch later this year.
Did someone say shopping? Selfridges in London was named Europe’s most visited destination by Uber drivers. Ted Thornhill tells us that in the UK, the London Eye came second and Buckingham Palace placed third.