British holidaymakers could be barred from taking sunshine breaks across Europe this summer, while staycations are also in doubt due to coronavirus.
The failure to slow the spread of Covid-19 as rapidly as other EU countries means travellers with UK passports might not be welcome in destinations such as France, Spain, Greece and Italy.
MPs heard today that the slump in air travel means Heathrows third runway might not be needed for another 10 to 15 years.
With flights down 95%, airport boss John Holland-Kaye told the Transport Select Committee progress on the project would depend on “how things turn out over the next few years”.
Gatwick Airports future also looks in doubt as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways announced plans to reduce activity there.
Ministers are encouraging stay-cations, but it is not clear if journeys to areas such as the Lake District, Cornwall or Devon will be permitted by July and August.
Cumbrias director of public health Colin Cox has said there was a risk of a second wave of infections as lockdown in the Lakes was “fraying at the edges”.
Hotels, caravan parks and B&Bs are all still shut, and in a recent Downing Street press conference, a business owner in Cornwall asked Boris Johnson how tourism would be managed.
He said: “We have to get your business going again, to get tourism going again.
“But we cant allow such a big influx of tourists as to create a second spike, a second wave of the disease.”
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told MPs that “at the moment and for some time to come” people should not travel to visit popular seaside resorts.
Some UK hotels might stay shut for a year if they cannot open for summer. Patricia Yates, of Visit Britain, warned that for many hotels it would not be worth opening if they were restricted to less than 30% capacity due to social distancing measures.
She said: “The normal pattern is businesses make their money in July and August then make do for the rest of the year. Lots of businesses are saying if they miss the summer then they will stay closed.”
It has emerged that other countries have struck up informal agreements so their citizens can travel over the school holidays. Germany and Italy have both announced their citizens should be able to have summer breaks abroad.
An alliance has been created between Australia, Austria, Israel, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece and New Zealand to make travel between them easier.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said: “Our nations reacted early and forcefully, and now were in a better place.”
In Spain, the Balearic Islands tourism minister Iago Negueruela singled out Britain for its response to the virus, suggesting it had handicapped chances of holidays in Ibiza, Majorca or Menorca. He said: “There are countries like the United Kingdom that have taken too long to adopt containment measures.
“That puts us in a different situation with respect to them.”
Balearics President Francina Armengol has asked the EU to set up a “homogeneous framework across the continent to guarantee the safe recovery of air activity”.
German tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiss said citizens should be able to travel to neighbouring countries “that can be reached by car”, such as Holland, Austria, France, Poland and Belgium.
He said: “I would not yet write off other regions in Europe, such as the Balearic Islands or the Greek islands.
“I hope that, given the good numbers, we will be able to relax the restrictions in four to eight weeks.”
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others citizens from May 15. Lithuanias PM Saulius Skvernlis said: “All three Baltic states have properly contained the spread of the coronavirus, and we trust each others health systems.”
Travel between Britain and France by ferry or Eurotunnel is functioning, but people must prove they have a family or professional reason for crossing the Channel or they live permanently in France to continue the journey on the other side.
This is expected to continue for some time yet after President Emmanuel Macron warned his citizens that it was “too soon to say whether we can take holidays”.
He added: “We will limit major international travel, even during the summer. We will stay among Europeans and, depending on how the epidemic evolves, we might have to reduce that a little more.”
Most EU states have a 14-day quarantine for those arriving in their borders, including their own citizens. The US is not allowing any British or European citizens to enter the country while it struggles to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The British Foreign Office advice is still against all but essential travel.
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