Red list bookings surge as holidaymakers await major overhaul of travel rules

A beach on the island of Medhufushi in the Maldives (Colin Watts / Unsplash)

Holiday bookings to red list destinations have surged ahead of a “bonfire” of the hated traffic light travel system, experts have said.

Mexico, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are among exotic getaways to see a spike in bookings amid hopes they could be downgraded in the latest government announcement.

Currently those returning from red list countries must quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel at a cost of £1,750.

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to remove a host of countries from the red list meaning double-jabbed Britons can return to the their favourite holiday hotspots.

He is also expected to announce that expensive PCR tests for the fully vaccinated will be axed, with travellers taking a cheaper lateral flow alternative instead.

Travel experts say they are gearing up for a busy weekend if ministers do scrap testing rules.

Expedia said Mexico is the most popular red country when comparing this month with last September, with a 70 per cent rise in interest, while the Maldives is up 30 per cent and Sri Lanka 20 per cent.

PR guru Niamh Jenkinson told the Evening Standard: “No doubt these surges are a result of the news that the need for expensive PCR tests for the double vaccinated will be scrapped, saving our travellers money and putting their minds at ease when booking their next holiday.”

Trailfinders, a luxury travel brand, has also experienced a boost in interest.

Spokesperson Mark Ball said: “Our phone lines have definitely increased this week with interest for red list countries such as the Maldives in particular.

“We are also hoping that Turkey and Malta come off the red list as they will be big sellers for us.”

Sri Lanka (Hendrik Cornelissen / Unsplash)

Under a major shake up anticipated on Friday afternoon, the green and amber lists are expected to be merged to create one group of low-risk countries while the number of red list destinations will shrink.

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “After 18 months of turmoil for consumers and the travel sector, we will at last see a bonfire of the measures which have caused so much distress.

“Now is the time to substantially change the system – with a shorter red list as well as basic antigen testing once back home for those fully-jabbed.”

The expert said 24 countries that should be taken off the red list including Kenya, Egypt, Argentina and South Africa.

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He added that he would be “very surprised” if Turkey were among those to be removed, due to worsening coronavirus data.

Meanwhile data analyst Tim White said: “With Grant Shapps and the travel lottery, no-one can be sure.

“But the data firmly support Turkey being removed as it has no threat of variants and a lot of genomic sequencing.”

James Pieslak, of Jet2, said: “Bookings have risen in the last few days, particularly the last 24 hours. If what we have seen speculated happens, they will certainly go up even further.

“These changes, if they happen, will give people a lot more confidence to get away to the sunshine.”

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