Holiday firms are reporting a surge in bookings for foreign travel following the decision to drop testing and self-isolation requirements for people arriving in England.
From February 11, fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a coronavirus test, and the requirement for those not in that category to self-isolate will be dropped.
Airline Jet2.com and tour operator Jet2holidays reported a “notable increase in demand for holidays and flights” after the new policy was revealed on Monday afternoon, according to chief executive Steve Heapy.
Traditional hotspots such as Spanish islands, mainland Spain, Italy and Portugal are all proving popular with customers.
Mr Heapy said: “Before yesterday’s announcement demand was already strong, however bookings have jumped by another 30% when compared with the previous week, demonstrating just how much of a game-changer the removal of all testing is for fully vaccinated holidaymakers.
“With international travel starting to look like it did before the pandemic, customers are jumping at the chance to book their flights and holidays.”
Andrew Flintham, managing director at tour operator Tui, said the announcement was “a huge leap forwards in getting travel back to normal”.
He went on: “The relaxation of testing rules has already resulted in an increase in bookings, with customer confidence growing every day in recent weeks.
“We now look to the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to adopt the same approach.
“Many families look to go on holiday over the February half-term, so we are delighted these changes will come into effect in time. Going abroad will finally start to feel more normal again and without the added expense of testing.”
Mr Flintham said he expects holidays bookings for this summer to be “back to pre-pandemic levels”.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed the change in rules will bring international travel “back to the good old days”.
The Cabinet minister told LBC: “You will be able to come to this country, and if you’ve been fully vaccinated, in other words two vaccinations, you will not need to take any tests at all, either before you leave to come here or when you get back here.
“Of course, no quarantine.
“In other words, kind of back to the good old days.”
Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye welcomed the easing of restrictions for people arriving in the UK, but warned many destinations still require travellers to take tests.
He told Sky News: “We need to get the tests lifted at the other end of the journey, because for most countries you might need to go to you will still need testing before you’re allowed into those countries.
“So that’s something we’ll work on.”
Among the destinations which require arrivals from the UK to take a coronavirus test, even if they are fully vaccinated, are Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, mainland Portugal, Switzerland and the US.
The UK’s most popular foreign holiday destination, Spain, does not require testing, but only fully vaccinated visitors are permitted to enter.
Meanwhile figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the number of deaths involving coronavirus registered each week in England and Wales has climbed to its highest level for 10 months.
A total of 1,382 deaths registered in the week ending January 14 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the ONS.
That is up 50% on the previous seven days and is the highest number since 1,501 deaths were registered in the week to March 12 2021.