Travel firms have hailed the “best day” for holiday sales in months following the Government’s green list announcement.
On Friday, the Department for Transport revealed that travellers will be able to visit 12 destinations – including Portugal – from May 17 without having to self-isolate on return to England.
Tui, the UK’s largest holiday company, spoke of seeing a rise in customer demand in the wake of the announcement, particularly for trips to Portugal.
A spokeswoman said: “We’ve had the best day of sales for summer 2021 holidays since the initial road map announcement in February.
“Sixty per cent of all holidays sold yesterday were to Portugal.”
The firm said new flights and extra holidays have been added for people who want to “get away as quickly as possible”.
Thomas Cook said holidays to Portugal have been its “number one seller” since the announcement.
A spokesman said: “Yesterday more people bought holidays to Portugal than had bought the whole of the rest of the year but demand remains below ‘normal’ levels and so hotels will have plenty of availability giving people plenty of choice.
“Customers are choosing to stay for longer than a week, and half of yesterday’s Portugal bookings were in five-star hotels, showing that people are splashing out.”
Tour operator Jet2holidays said that bookings to Faro (Algarve) and Madeira have increased by more than 600% in 24 hours.
Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: “We have seen enormous pent-up demand from holidaymakers for some time now, and this rush of bookings to Portugal just shows how ready people are to get away from the gloom to escape to the sunshine.”
Hays Travel, the UK’s largest independent travel agent, said the earlier speculation around the announcement prompted its “busiest” week since the pandemic began.
Dame Irene Hays, chair of Hays Travel, said: “This week, Hays Travel branches all over the UK have been at their busiest since the pandemic began, helping our customers to book a holiday for when and where it’s safe to do so.
“More customers are now booking for this year to make sure they don’t miss out on choice or price.”
She added: “And they are choosing to spend a little more, treating themselves to better destinations or accommodation, or finally booking that bucket list dream holiday.”
But other smaller firms labelled the green list announcement a “damp squib”, saying there are not enough destinations to spark a real surge in bookings.
Mark Pollard, managing director of Tony Sheldon Travel in Maidenhead, told the PA news agency: “One of the problems with this list is it’s very limiting, the only major tourist destination is Portugal, this is all too little and too early to say.
“It’s a damp squib announcement, there isn’t enough there to prompt the kind of interest the industry is desperate for.
“I think it’s more of a tick box announcement to just give us some destinations and keep us all happy.”
Mr Pollard added: “I really don’t think this will make a huge difference until more of the top European holiday destinations are added on to the list – but again, it’s too early to tell at the moment.”