Holiday bookings to France have surged after the government announced on Wednesday that its “amber plus” status has been dropped – meaning vaccinated holidaymakers will no longer have to quarantine on their return, according to operators.
A Brittany Ferries spokesperson said phones had been “ringing off the hook” since last night. “There’s been a huge spike in interest and bookings. At last there is some good news and some certainty – it’s a silver lining to the dark clouds that have been hanging over us. We suspect it’s a lot of second homeowners who were waiting to book, as well as last-minute holidaymakers.”
The government also announced that no further changes to the traffic-light system would be made for at least three weeks. As well as France moving to the amber list, seven countries – Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway – were added to the green list. The new rules come into effect from 4am on Sunday, so anyone arriving from France before then will still need to quarantine for 10 days.
A Eurostar spokesperson said: “We welcome the removal of quarantine restrictions for passengers travelling to the UK from France. Overnight we have seen a strong increase in bookings on our London-Paris route and traffic to our website has more than doubled.
“We are looking forward to welcoming more passengers on board in the coming days and weeks. We have already added services to our timetable for the last two weekends of this month and are ready to further increase capacity to carry as many passengers as possible between the UK and France.”
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle saw a 400% increase in sales immediately after the announcement and said it anticipated a substantial demand for last-minute summer holidays.
Ravi Sabharwal, co-founder of villa holiday specialist Oliver’s Travels, said it had seen a 43% rise in bookings on Thursday.
“We’ve seen a strong uptick for France, particularly to the Loire and Provence – but it was from a low base, as people were cautious. We have some availability left – which we expect to fill – but there are only three peak weeks left of the summer now. Many people have written off 2021 and are just booking for 2022 instead.” In comparison, bookings for Croatia, which is on the green list, were up 200% year-on-year, he said.
Other companies warned that summer availability in France was tight. Gîtes de France said that with many French people choosing to holiday at home this year, 80% of its accommodation for August was already sold out.
Sawdays, which saw searches for France double overnight, reported some availability for late-summer self-catering stays, with options including a barn for two in Lerné, in the Loire valley, from €135 a night; and a Provençal house for 10 in Graveson, from €499 a night.
For operators offering group tours the situation was more challenging.
“The inconsistencies of the traffic-light system have been so difficult to navigate,” said Stephen Brook, co-founder of Ciceroni Travel, which specialises in escorted cultural tours. “A tour to France planned for 21 August has been on hold. It can now go ahead, which it is good news, of course, but now we have to scramble to try and fill the remaining places.”
For others the news came too late. “We have to plan quite far in advance and had cancelled everything overseas until the end of August,” said Fiona Charrington, CEO of Martin Randall Travel. “We have lost the summer already.”
In other changes to the traffic-light system, India, Qatar, Bahrain and UAE (which includes Dubai) are coming off the red list. Added to the red list are Mexico, Georgia and the islands of Réunion and Mayotte.