Many hoteliers will not police bookings from Londoners when the capital, along with parts of Essex and Hertfordshire, moves into Tier 3 from Wednesday.
Restrictions under the toughest tier include avoiding travelling outside of your area or staying overnight in other parts of the UK. However, hotels are not required to check where their customers have travelled from, and some refuse to do so.
"Hotel guests can travel from Tier 3 to Tier 2 or Tier 1 if they deem necessary," Dan Brod, the co-owner of the Beckford Group, which has boutique hotels and pubs with rooms, in Somerset and Wiltshire, told Telegraph Travel.
"We are relying on the guest to do that and taking the view it is not our role to police this unless a very obvious breach of law or guidance is taking place," he added.
Meanwhile, Simon Cotton, the managing director of the HRH group, which has hotels in North Yorkshire, pointed out the difficulty of monitoring where guests have arrived from: “Whilst our teams are trained to highlight the rules when taking reservations, in the modern day, so many bookings are made online and particularly through third party sites such as Booking.com [...] and we don’t get to see the guests details other than name and arrival date.”
However, some hotels, such as the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel in the Forest of Dean, are cancelling bookings from people in Tier 3 areas, despite it meaning the loss of vital business.
“We are using the postcode check on the government website to check where guests are coming from [...] Health should be a priority, but the government needs to provide proper funding for our sector as we have been hit the hardest," said a spokesperson for the hotel.
Scroll down for the latest news.
What happened today?
The main headlines:
Quarantine cut to as little as five days – if you take a test
Singapore to open for business travellers with 'bubble' facility
Tier 3 residents asked to cancel self-catering holidays
Test to Release providers struggle to keep up with demand
Catch-up with the rest below, and join us again tomorrow.
Demand surging for Covid tests for overseas travel
The Test to Release scheme, which allows those returning to the UK from non-travel corridor countries to cut their quarantine time, has hit difficulties on day one.
Meanwhile, many holidaymakers planning to escape the UK for Christmas will need a negative test result for entry to their destination country. Melio Health, a provider of PCR and antibody tests, pointed to the following issues in the Covid testing market:
Demand for private PCR testing is very high: December 16 and 17 will be the peak days
Consumers are using firms that don’t have the infrastructure in place to turn results around in time
William Stoddart, co-founder of Melio Health, said:
I would urge travellers to book tests promptly and make sure you’re buying from a company that has the infrastructure to deliver – check reviews online and ask questions before you book. Sadly, we’re helping more and more people who appear to have been ripped off by disreputable firms taking advantage of the pandemic.
Cruise pilot resumes after Covid scare proves false
A cruise passenger whose positive Covid-19 test ended Royal Caribbean’s first voyage in nine months didn’t have the virus after all, subsequent tests have shown, reports Kaye Holland.
The cruise giant resumed sailing again this month with three- and four-night ‘Ocean Getaways’ – better known as ‘cruises to nowhere’ – as part of a pilot scheme approved by the Singapore Tourism Board, in an effort to kick-start the stricken industry.
All passengers onboard Quantum of the Seas were required to take a Covid-19 test 48 to 72 hours before boarding, and to be able to prove a negative result. But soon after setting sail an 83-year-old passenger fell ill and tested positive for coronavirus, forcing all 1,679 passengers and 1,148 crew to isolate in their cabins as and the ship returned to port.
On disembarking the man was taken to hospital for further tests.
Two further tests did not reveal infection and after a third negative test, authorities declared the passenger virus-free. Singapore’s Ministry of Health said in a statement: “A final confirmatory test [...] has confirmed that the 83-year-old male Singaporean [...] does not have Covid-19 infection.”
The lure of the world's most unexplored places
Some people need to conquer tangled jungles, empty deserts and mountain summits, but Chris Moss prefers to get lost in them.
The end of the road doesn’t exist. I know, because I’ve spent much of my travelling life – 35 years and counting – looking for it. But what I’ve found on reaching for the handbrake at the end of Chile’s Southern Highway, arriving in the Beijing terminus of the Trans-Manchurian railway, or standing on the glorious, snowy heights of Ben Nevis in late December, is that there’s always a way to continue a journey. A faintly marked footpath, an unexpected train line, a peak in the middle distance teases like Shangri-La or Ultima Thule – and I’ve known, in my heart, that the next stage will be even better than the last.
That’s probably why my spirit of exploration, such as it is, is most sated when I find myself a bit lost, somewhat lonely, and far from everywhere else. This might not sound like arrival, but it feels like that to me – and the feeling is most emphatic when the landscape is inhospitable or even hostile.
Spanish bars hope vaccine will help hospitality's recovery
Spanish bars and restaurants hope that coronavirus vaccinations can help restore their revenues by the end of next year to 2019 levels after sales dropped by half this year amid the pandemic.
In its annual report released on Tuesday, the Spanish Hospitality Industry Association (HDE) said however that if vaccines fail to prevent new waves of contagion and tighter restrictions next year, sales would continue at 2020 levels, putting more businesses in jeopardy.
About 85,000 establishments have been wiped out this year.
“With clouds still in the air, I am confident that Easter will be a turning point,” HDE President Jose Luis Yzuel told a news conference.
Before Covid struck, Spain had the highest density of bars in the world with one for every 175 residents, according to a study by Nielsen consultants.
Comment: Militant anti-hunting campaigns ignore the needs of poor rural Africans
However uncomfortable we in the West feel about killing animals for sport, it is of great economic benefit to poor African populations, writes Graham Boynton.
Switzerland: Government advisors call for lockdown as cases surge
The leading expert advising the Swiss government on the coronavirus pandemic has called for an immediate and strict lockdown to contain the infection rate, echoing comments from other scientists, officials and medical professionals.
"We think we need very strong measures, the earlier the better," Martin Ackermann, who heads the independent scientific advisory body on Covid-19, told a media briefing today.
Ackermann called for the closure of restaurants and non-essential shops and for strict work-from-home rules.
"We are afraid we'll see more close contacts over the year-end holidays," he said. "(We have) a bad situation and a high risk it'll get worse."
Unlike neighbouring countries, Switzerland has so far refrained from imposing another lockdown, mostly sticking to recommendations and ordering restaurants, bars and shops to close from 7pm across most of the country. Ski resorts remain open.
Much-anticipated ski hotel opens in Japan
One of the most hotly anticipated new ski hotels of the year has opened its door today, reports Lucy Aspden.
Higashiyama Niseko Village, the latest property by the Ritz-Carlton Reserve group, is in one of Japan’s most popular winter destinations, Niseko Village. The resort comprises of four linked ski areas, famed for deep, light, powdery snow, on the northern island of Hokkaido.
The hotel is ski-in/ski-out at the base of Mount Niseko Annupuri, with views of active volcano, Mount Yotei. It further bolsters the resort's reputation as a bucket-list destination for die-hard skiers and snowboarders.
Ski resorts in Japan have been open since the start of December, much to the envy of powder-hungry skiers and snowboarders in Europe, where the majority of ski lifts still standstill. Niseko Village opened on December 4. “To all our international guests who are unable to visit at this time, we miss you,” read a statement on its social media.
Unfortunately, Britons are unlikely to be able to sample the world-famous Japanese powder snow or stay at the resort’s new hotel at all this winter – Japan’s borders are closed to the majority of non-residents, and look likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Ella Al-Shamahi: 'I want to show the rest of the world how beautiful Yemen is'
A visit to her parents' Yemeni homeland taught TV presenter Ella Al-Shamahi how to live with risk.
My parents were so proud of their heritage and, growing up, they would tell me and my siblings how amazing Yemen was. They would speak about family members and historical events, such as my paternal grandfather Judge Abdulla Al-Shamahi, who was the deputy minister of justice. They would explain that, in the new republic, the ministers ended up all living on that one road next to the republican palace [Jamal Street] and that was why the family home was there.
I had visited Sanaa, where my parents grew up, every so often since I was little. Despite having a level of familiarity with their home town, it was this road trip to see the whole country that was a game-changer.
Britons have to consider 64 different restrictions for UK travel
There are different Covid restriction systems in place across England, Wales and Scotland. England has a three-tier system, Scotland has a four-tier system, while Wales isn't running a tiered system.
These eight different restriction levels result in a total of 64 different possibilities for Britons when considering if they are allowed to travel to another region in the country, according to research by travel website Snaptrip.com.
Tui launches winter holidays to Aruba
Tui UK has launched its first winter holiday programme to Aruba, with flights from London Gatwick starting on 16 December. The first Tui service to the island has sold out.
Aruba is included on the Government’s travel corridor list, meaning holidaymakers do not have to quarantine on their return home. Tui is offering seven and 14-night holidays to the island.
Richard Sofer, of Tui, said: "Aruba is a quality destination with amazing hotels, fantastic beaches and guaranteed winter sunshine. We know our customers need a holiday now more than ever, so we’re really excited to be extending this destination into winter, giving our customers more choice."
Michael Gove to hold urgent Christmas bubble call with First Ministers
Michael Gove is to hold a virtual meeting with the leaders of the Devolved Administrations about the four-nation Christmas bubble plan, amid growing pressure for the Government to scrap its planned easements.
The Cabinet Office minister will speak with Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill at 5pm, the Telegraph understands.
Confirming the call was to review the festive window, Ms Sturgeon said: "If you can avoid mixing with other households over Christmas, especially indoors, please do."
Mark Drakeford told the Welsh Parliament "the choice is a grim one", noting "In either direction, harm is done... If we seek to prevent people from meeting over Christmas, a different sort of harm will be done to people's sense of mental health."
Quarantine cut to as little as five days – if you take a test
British holidaymakers returning from destinations without a travel corridor can cut their quarantine period to as little as five days from today if they take a Covid-19 test.
Under the Government's Test to Release scheme, travellers can choose to pay for a private test from the fifth day of their self-isolation – if they test negative their quarantine can come to an end. An approved list of test providers for the scheme was released on Monday night and includes just 11 names.
Private tests typically cost up to £150 per person and returning travellers could face waiting times of up to 48 hours to get their results back due to delays at testing clinics. Therefore the scheme may only not cut the standard 10-day isolation time by just three days.
Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy PC Agency, told the Telegraph: "Test and release is being set up to fail because people will not be prepared to pay £100 per person to be tested when they can be released three days later.
"There is a danger that it is a bit of a damp squib because of the reduction in quarantine [earlier this week] from 14 to 10 days. It is compounded by signs that some private testers are overwhelmed and cannot deliver."
The best hotels to book for winter sun in quarantine-free destinations
It’s fair to say that a blast of winter sun has never been more appealing. Thankfully, destinations such as the Caribbean, the Maldives and Dubai have emerged as beacons of holiday hope in recent months. Not only do trips to these places mean no quarantine on return to the UK, but many simply require the now routine evidence of a recent negative PCR test to visit.
Machu Picchu shuts again, but Covid isn’t to blame
Peru’s most popular tourist site has closed to visitors once again, only six weeks after reopening following an eight-month shutdown.
The Unesco World Heritage site will remain closed for an indefinite period after protests from locals regarding the cost and frequency of regional train services, which ferry tourists to the site. Demonstrations have reportedly involved blocking tracks, leading to clashes with the police.
"Due to the announced stoppages in the Machu Picchu district and in order to safeguard the integrity of its visitors, the citadel of Machu Picchu will not be open until this situation is restored," said a statement issued by the Directorate of Culture of Cusco, the closest city.
Test to Release already 'overwhelmed', as test providers struggle to keep up with demand
Of the 11 companies on the approved list, just two currently offer the ability to purchase Covid-19 tests, writes Hazel Plush.
The long-awaited 'Test to Release' service, which offers the opportunity to cut post-travel quarantine to just five days, is already struggling to keep up with demand – with one business publicly appealing to be removed from the list due to an "overwhelming" volume of enquiries.
The Government's list of preferred testing providers was published late last night, within hours of the scheme's launch this morning. And, predictably, demand for the tests has – in many cases – completely outstripped the capacity to supply.
This morning, Telegraph Travel contacted all companies listed on the ‘Test to Release’ website, to enquire about their testing availability. Of the 11 companies, just two currently offer live links to purchase Covid-19 tests: Prenetics and Screen 4.
Thousands of hotels forced to close as London faces bleak winter
Hoteliers in London and beyond are once again "devastated" by the latest Tier 3 announcement, with some reporting huge numbers of cancelled bookings and industry leaders predicting 2,000 hotels will have to close from tomorrow, writes Charlotte Johnstone.
Istanbul residents endure weekend lockdown, while tourists are free to explore
Residents of Turkey’s largest city must stay at home between 9pm on Fridays and 5am on Mondays but, in a curious twist, visitors are exempt from the rules.
Many museums and attractions are staying open on the weekends, though the city’s restaurants must shut, except for those in hotels.
Police officers have been dispatched to check IDs of those out and about on the weekends to ensure they are tourists or essential workers.
Turkey is unusual in not requiring arrivals to provide evidence of a recent negative PCR test or submit to a quarantine period.
Tokyo Olympic torch relay to go ahead despite crowd fears
The organisers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics have confirmed that a socially distanced torch relay will go ahead next year.
Starting in March, the Olympic flame will visit all of Japan's 47 prefectures, despite fears of potential crowds increasing the spread of the virus.
Tokyo Games Vice-Director General Yukihiko Nunomura, said: "We want to make sure that everyone's health is secure – the spectators, the torchbearers, the officials and the citizens in the local areas."
He added: "We want the runners to smile, and we want the spectators to smile as they welcome the torch. We want to generate excitement so that people really feel that the Tokyo Olympics are coming."
Comment: 'Efficient airport checks in Barbados put the UK to shame'
The UK's abysmal lack of Covid checks on arrivals is shameful, writes Mark Stratton.
It’s been well-documented UK arrivals aren’t required to present negative PCR tests. This alone is unfathomable. Add to this, the lack of thermal scanners to test arriving passengers’ temperatures, despite the veracity of this procedure’s effectiveness. Instead, the only shield offered against the importation of coronavirus is an online Passenger Locator Form, that, since early July having re-entered the UK from ten overseas assignments, I have never once been asked to show at immigration, let alone be contacted at my chosen address of self-isolation to make sure of my compliance.
My irritation with this dereliction of care was compounded yesterday morning at Gatwick queueing in close proximity to over 200 passengers for one-and-three-quarters hours for my British Airways flight to Bridgetown because there was simply not enough available staff to check passengers in. I wondered how Barbados would cope with the same full planeload...
'It is not our role to police this' – the hotels turning a blind eye to tiers
Tier 3 restrictions which come into force tonight in London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex mean that thousands of bookings at hotels across the country will be cancelled in the lead up to Christmas, one of their most lucrative seasons, reports Jade Conroy.
The restrictions advise people to make as minimal journeys as possible and to only travel when necessary.
But the questions remains – how should hotels in Tier 1 and 2 areas manage the quandary of checking from where guests are travelling?
Simon Cotton, the Managing Director of the HRH group, which has hotels in North Yorkshire, explains the difficulty of policing the Tier 3 restrictions:
“Whilst our teams are trained to highlight the rules when taking reservations, in the modern day, so many bookings are made online and particularly through third party sites such as Booking.com [...] and we don’t get to see the guests details other than name and arrival date.
“If someone were to check in late, say after 10pm and they’ve traveled over 200 miles, it would be irresponsible to turn them away, onto the streets late at night, so we would have to honour the reservation.”
Safety warnings as planes return to service
Warnings have been raised about the return to service of planes that had been stored away during the slump in air travel and pilot rustiness after a period of not working.
Both regulators and insurers have suggested that planes may need additional maintenance, including cleaning insect nests out of vital sensors, and that pilots could be out of practice.
International aviation body Iata recently reported an increase in the number of ‘unstabilised approaches’ that can lead to hard landings, runway overshoots or even crashes.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has reported a surge in the number of reports of unreliable airspeed and altitude readings during the first flight after a plane leaves storage.
Gary Moran, head of Asia aviation at insurance broker Aon, told the BBC: “We’ve got people returning to work who are quite rusty, which is a big issue [...] “Flying an aircraft can be quite technical. If you haven’t been doing it for a while, it’s certainly not second nature like riding a bike."
Polish told to stay home at for Christmas and New Year
As the UK debates whether Christmas restrictions should stand or be lifted, Poland's health minister has urged people to stay at home throughout the festive period to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told a press conference that people should not mix over Christmas ad New Year as the country is set to launch vaccinations soon - any increase in cases could put this process in jeopardy.
"We cannot allow that the vaccinations take place when the pandemic escalates, as it will be difficult to organise an efficient vaccination process," Niedzielski said.
Spanish ski resort opens for business as European Governments enforce rules against skiing
Despite their under-the-radar reputation and governments across Europe putting strict rules in place to prevent skiing, ski resorts in Spain have begun opening for business. Yesterday Baqueira Beret, in the Spanish Pyrenees, was the first and is today reporting up to 60cm of snow and 36km of its 146km of slopes open.
Following suit later this week, Sierra Nevada in Granada in southern Spain close to the Costa del Sol, plans to open on Friday (December 18).
Spain is currently still under a state of emergency with a number of restrictions on travel in place. Over Christmas these are being tightened to ban people from moving between regions from December 23 until January 6, but families are allowed to visit each other. Ski resorts will be allowed to remain open and Baqueira Beret has introduced a number of new safety measures, including compulsory face coverings, a limited number of people in cable cars and pre-purchased lift passes, to avoid people gathering at ticket offices.
But really, can you ski in Spain? Yes.
Ski writer Peter Hardyy visited in 2014, after which he claimed he had finally found the perfect ski resort: “Baqueira – I’ve been there several times since it opened in 1964 – now has just about everything any of us could ever want from a ski resort,” citing low prices, a good snow record and ample intermediate terrain and off-piste opportunities as its accolades.
London Tier 3 ruling 'feels like a massive sideswipe,' says hotelier
Telegraph Travel has been collecting reaction from those in the hospitality industry as London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire head into Tier 3 restrictions on Wednesday:
Olivia Richli, General Manager at Heckfield Place, said:
The London Tier 3 announcement feels like a massive side swipe and winded all of us at Heckfield. While we remain in Tier 2 here in Hampshire, and can operate as we have been for the last 6 months with all our Covid measures in place, many of our guests are from the centre of London, looking to escape to the space and nature that we have on the estate.
We have received many calls and emails overnight, with confusion over the guidance and many cancellations and room bookings moving into the New Year. We have such a wonderful Christmas planned and had been looking forward to a full house for the festive season, with a positive end to this Coronacoaster of a year. We cannot wait to wave it goodbye and look forward with a more positive outlook into 2021
Comment: Fear and loathing of Londoners is about to get even more intense
Covid has triggered a renewed anti-London zeal that takes me back to the dark days of Scargill and Derek Hatton, writes Rob Crossan.
It’s official. The capital is now toxic.
Yet it seems that any notions of empathy and support from beyond the M25 have gone the same way as kedgeree, spats and rotary dial telephones.
The collective klaxons of schadenfreude that have sounded over social media since yesterday’s announcement that London and parts of Essex are about to be cast into Tier Three are as baffling as they are unpleasant.
The new rulings for the region – urging residents to avoid travel beyond their area, along with the statutory shutdown of all pubs, hotels and restaurants within, will simply compound an already shattered travel and hospitality industry which, like it or not, is reliant on London more than any other city.
If London suffers, the entire nation suffers. This is a basic economic fact. Not a sniffy, superior assessment of the capital’s importance.
Sandals Grenada bans new guests after Covid outbreak
Grenada's Ministry of Health says a Covid outbreak has been discovered at Sandals Grenada with 26 positive cases linked to the resort.
Guest, employees and their close contacts were among those to have contracted the virus. It was discovered during a routine testing program.
Grenada's health minister said his department is investigating "why, when and how" the virus spread at the resort.
"Grenada's situation is an isolated one, the asymptomatic individuals were quickly identified, and we are collaborating with public health authorities to develop key learnings further," Sandals said.
"The government has asked that we pause the acceptance of new arrivals for the next several days, however, the resort is currently open and fully operational for guests to enjoy."
Sadness, fear and boredom: What the rest of the world thinks about Brexit
With a no-deal Brexit looking increasingly likely, we asked our experts around the world to share their thoughts.
Here's a take from Nicola Brady in Ireland:
Were it not for the very direct impact it’s going to have on Ireland, any discussion of Brexit would be accompanied by a generous dose of eye rolling. Brexit has long been viewed by the Irish as an impending disaster, and each stage of mismanagement has only strengthened the general opinion that it’s a catastrophically bad idea.
But, as a nation that shares a land border with the UK, the impact of a no-deal Brexit is causing a rising sense of dread and anxiety. That, combined with the worrying anti-Irish sentiment coming from certain British voices, is only adding to the general feeling of doom.
UK unemployment rate is the highest since 2016
UK unemployment surged in the three months through October, exposing the brutal impact of lockdowns on the economy, reports Bloomberg.
The figures will revive criticism that Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak acted too late when he expanded programs to support jobs and businesses hit by the worst downturn in 300 years, cut businesses had already taken the decision to cut jobs.
The number of people looking for work jumped surged by 241,000 in the period, taking the jobless rate to 4.9 per cent, the highest since 2016, the Office for National Statistics said onTuesday.
It followed an increase of 243,000 in the third quarter, a rise last seen in the financial crisis of 2009. Redundancies increased by a record 217,000 through October, while the number of people on payrolls was 819,000 below pre-pandemic levels in November.
Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc is cutting more than 5,000 jobs this year as reduced air travel hammers its aerospace engine business. Heathrow Airport, Britain’s busiest, says it’s trying to avoid reducing staff by implementing wage cuts, prompting more than 1,000 employees to go on strike earlier this month.
Battling Tier 2 restrictions in Sussex's most well-to-do tourist town
Despite a tough year, the residents of Arundel have not held back on their seasonal spruce-up, reports James Litston, who spoke to local hospitality businesses during a stay in the town:
Admittedly it's a cold Monday night, but when I head for supper at the Norfolk Tap, I'm the only customer. The bar specialises in craft beers and ales with a particularly strong showing from Arundel Brewery. "It's the Tier 2 restrictions that are killing us," says the barmaid, pulling me a pint. "We'd normally be full of locals popping in after work, but the rules state that we can't serve drinks unless customers order food. Not everyone wants to stay out for a meal and even if you do, we can't serve more drinks once you've finished eating, so it rushes people out of the door. I'm sure many pubs won't survive."
Things are a little better across the square at The Swan Hotel, where I'm staying in one of its cosy guestrooms. "Obviously pubs are suffering under Tier 2," the manager, Beate, had told me when I'd checked in earlier. "We had to cancel our Christmas party bookings, but hotel occupancy is good and the restaurant is holding up, especially at weekends with our popular Sunday roasts."
Thomas Cook to have Covid testing 'deals' in place by Christmas
Thomas Cook, the relaunched online-only tour operator, welcomed the start of the the Government's Test to Release scheme.
However, the company's chief executive Alan French added: "It’s a shame that it’s been very last-minute as our customers have been keen to get their tests booked in.
"Now we have the list of providers, we’re busy working with them to ensure our customers can get tests if they want to. We would hope to have deals in place by Christmas.”
Brexit means end of an era for wayfaring pleasure cruisers in Europe
From January 1, when Britons can only spend 90 days in any 180-day rolling period in the Schengen Area, UK cruisers will find their cruising season cut hideously short, reports Nicola Williams.
They will also have to meticulously log each day spent in European waters to ensure they do not exceed Brexit’s restrictive new quota. Anticipated penalties for overstaying include hefty fines, boat seizure and a ban from Schengen.
“I know it sounds like a privileged existence, but many hundreds of keen cruisers sell their homes in the UK or commute large chunks of their pensions to fund it, and they will find it increasingly difficult after 31 December,” explains Gordon Knight, a member of both the Cruising Association with 6,000 members and the Royal Yachting Association representing 110,000 sailors in Britain, about 40,000 of which cruise Europe. “Some of my colleagues are already thinking of selling up and stopping boating”.
Staycation cancellations ramp up for holiday operators
Tourism businesses in the north of England were already coping with high numbers of cancellations, according to Susan Briggs, director of the Tourism Network.
Tourism businesses across North Yorkshire have already experienced many cancellations due to their near markets being in Tier 3. They have already noticed additional cancellations since it was announced that London would go into Tier 3 and these look set to continue.
Some businesses have decided to simply close their doors until 2021. Many have noticed excellent levels of advance bookings from Spring 2021 and gift voucher sales are booming!
Frustration grows in Germany over Christmas lockdown and vaccine delays
Despite BioNTech having its headquarters in Germany, the country may not have any vaccine doses until the end of January, Paul Sullivan reports from Berlin.
“Here we go again...”
As well as a lot of heavy sighing and shrugging, this seems to epitomise the general feeling here in Berlin, as Germany prepares itself for a tougher new lockdown from Wednesday. Planned until January 10, it will see everything from schools and nurseries to cafes and non-essential shops close, Christmas gatherings restricted to five persons (plus children up to 14 years of age in the closest family circle) from December 24-26, and bans on public drinking and the sale and use of fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
As dismaying as this news is to many, it was also very predictable. The ongoing (and still current) ‘lockdown light’ — in place since early November — has not been denting the rise in cases that emerged at the beginning of autumn and continued spiking into winter. This has gradually undermined Germany’s previous reputation for dealing well with the virus, and prompted Angela Merkel to point out that “an acute national health emergency" will almost certainly occur if a bigger compromise is not made.
More than 2,000 hotels forced to close under Tier 3 restrictions
Moving the capital into Tier 3 will mean more than 2,000 hotels will be forced to close and "many more people will once again be losing their jobs," said Jane Pendlebury, chief executive of HOSPA (the hospitality professionals association).
She added: "I hope the closures, on the most part, will only be temporary, and that we'll probably see new hotel operators taking over certain establishments. All in all, it's another horrific blow to our sector."
Reduced quarantine time not increasing desire to travel, survey suggests
The reduction of self-isolation time for travellers under the new Test to Release scheme is having a limited impact on people’s desire to travel overseas, according to price comparison site Skyscanner.
The price comparison site released the results of its latest consumer survey as test to release was launched, cutting quarantine to five days from high risk countries.
While more than third of respondents want to go abroad in the next six months, but only a third of those were influenced by the new shorter quarantines.
However, the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine saw 41 per cent of the UK population feeling more confident to travel overseas by summer 2021.
Since the announcement of Test to Release on November 24, Skyscanner has seen a 62 per cent spike in searches for travel between December and February 2021, with Spain seeing a 70 per cent increase.
Are hotels in England checking where guests travel from?
With London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire to enter Tier 3 from Wednesday morning, many who have booked staycations will now be advised against travelling outside their local area.
Telegraph Travel has asked hoteliers how they are dealing with guests from higher risk areas of England. So far, they seem to be leaving it guests to make the decision whether to cancel their bookings.
Robin Hutson of the Pig and Lime Wood, said:
We can only repeat the advice from government, we are not the police and we will do what we can to uphold the directives, but we won’t hold a ‘Spanish Inquisition’ if guests tell us they live in Dorset rather than Dalston!
Dan Brod, co-owner of the Beckford Group (hotels in Somerset and Wiltshire), said:
We are definitely seeing cancellations and everything is quieter, though not a complete disaster. We are not checking where guests are coming from. Hotel guests can travel from tier 3 to tier 2 or tier 1 if they deem necessary. We are relying on the guest to do that and taking the view it is not our role to police this unless a very obvious breech of law or guidance is taking place. Most independent hotels are adopting this view also as I have been chatting with alot!Even guests coming from tier 2 are cancelling because there is less of a wish to travel, which makes sense as this is what the government are trying to achieve.
A spokesperson from The Gallivant in East Sussex, said:
Most of our guests don't tell us where they live when they book with us, but we have a clear policy on our website for our guests.
South Africa to restrict alcohol sales and close beaches
South Africa’s government will curb alcohol sales and close some of the nation’s beaches at the height of the summer holiday season, among a series of new restrictions to rein in surging coronavirus infections.
The government declared the start of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic on December 10 as the number of daily new cases doubled this month.
"Given the rate at which new cases have grown over the last two weeks, there is every possibility that if we don’t act urgently and if we don’t act together, the second wave will be even more severe than the first wave," President Ramaphosa said in an address broadcast on state television.
The new measures include, but are not limited to, restricting alcohol sales to 10am to 6pm from Monday to Thursday and closing beaches in the Eastern Cape province from Dec. 16 to Jan. 3 and in KwaZulu-Natal on the busiest days of the festive season.
The nationwide curfew has also been extended from 11pm to 4am.
Flexible flights up to 17 times more expensive than standard tickets, finds Which?
Flexible options when booking flights can see costs soar to 17 times the original price, according to the consumer group Which?
It looked at the prices of standard fares and flexible fares for flights to check if paying extra for flexibility is worth it after months of travel disruption and uncertainty.
Which? said in every example it reviewed, the cost difference between a flexible ticket and a standard fare was greater than the cost of the standard fare. As such, it would seem passengers would do better to simply pay for a standard fare and make a new booking if they ended up unable to travel, rather than paying for a flexible fare.
It said many passengers could also benefit more from the flexibility provided through airlines' "book with confidence" policies, which many carriers have introduced to allow passengers to make changes to their bookings for free due to the pandemic and resulting travel restrictions.
Which? found a significant increase between a standard and flexible fare for a British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Barcelona in February 2021. The cheapest standard flight Which? found cost £57, but the same route booked with an Economy Plus Flex fare saw the price shoot up to £966 - around 17 times the cost of the standard fare.
Tier 3 residents asked to cancel self-catering holidays
People who live in Tier 3 areas of England, including those which are set to move into the toughest level of restrictions on Wednesday, are being asked to cancel self-catering stays by UK operators
A spokesperson for Canopy & Stars, which offers luxury glamping holidays, said:
We are contacting all our guests with a booking in December to let them know that if they live in a Tier 3 area, government advice is not to travel out of your area. We have also advised any guests due to be travelling to Tier 3 areas in the UK and Levels 3, 4 or 5 in Scotland that advice is not to travel to these areas.
We are then asking any guests who are not able to travel (due to government health measures, tier restriction or a positive Covid-19 test/ being asked to self-isolate by Test & Trace to get in touch with us to arrange a date change or, in cases where that is not possible, we can look to refund.
We’re not cancelling bookings until we have spoken to guests, we are contacting all guests to inform them of the situation and to advise them to check the restrictions for where they live and where they plan to travel to, any guests affected by restrictions should contact us. We are reviewing this in line with when the tiers are reviewed; anyone with a booking in January and beyond should wait until we have updated guidance and we’ll be in touch as soon as we do.
LoveHolidays to refund over £18 million for cancelled holidays
Travel company LoveHolidays has committed to pay out over £18 million to customers waiting for money back after their holidays were cancelled due to coronavirus.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an investigation after receiving hundreds of complaints that people were still awaiting refunds. When customers contacted LoveHolidays to request a refund for a cancelled holiday, they were told they would only receive money back for their flights once the firm had received refunds from the respective airlines.
Under the Package Travel Regulations, online travel agents are legally bound to refund customers for package holidays cancelled due to coronavirus, regardless of whether or not the agent has received money back from suppliers, for example airlines. Following CMA intervention, LoveHolidays has now signed formal commitments – known as undertakings – that ensure these customers receive all their money back.
In total, over £18 million will be refunded to 44,000 LoveHolidays customers. Of this, so far £7m has been refunded to 20,000 customers.
Travel industry's recovery 'a long way off' until Foreign Office advice changes
The introduction of the Test to Release scheme in England does open the door for more international travel but the reality is that the Foreign Office still advises against travel to most countries.
"While that remains the case, the travel industry’s recovery is a long way off ," according to Abta, the leading association of travel agents.
An ABTA spokesperson added:
The Foreign Office travel advisory should be reviewed so that advice against non-essential travel in relation to COVID-19 is restricted to destinations where it is clear that the risk to travellers is unacceptably high, based on clear and transparent criteria.
We also need to see a testing scheme in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and it is important that the test to release scheme is kept under review, to make sure that advancements in testing are used to further reduce quarantine to as short a period as possible.
Tier 3 is 'catastrophic for our industry,' says London hotelier
London will enter Tier 3 from Wednesday, forcing hospitality venues across the city to close.
Hoteliers are among many within the industry who are criticising the move.
Henrik Muehle, general manager at Flemings Mayfair said:
Tier 3 is catastrophic for our industry, it’s lockdown by another name. No other industry is paying the price of tougher restrictions like we are – it’s totally unacceptable and incomprehensible. Restaurants and hotels have gone above and beyond to adhere to Covid-19 and the public should feel much safer dining out than visiting a supermarket.
Our Mayor is quite frankly not up to the task and has let London down in every way from congestion, to supporting the capital’s economy. It’s not looking like a ‘merry’ Christmas for hospitality, that’s for sure.
Singapore to open for business travellers with 'bubble' facility
Singapore is to start a new travel lane for "business, official and high economic value" travellers that will allow people to come to the city-state without quarantine for short-term stays and reside in a dedicated “bubble” facility near the airport, reports Bloomberg.
Singapore’s economy is largely dependent upon the tourist and service sectors for growth. To that end, the country has been working to reopen its borders by establishing green lanes and special travel arrangements with countries where the virus is also under control, like New Zealand and Australia.
Applications for the new travel lane will open next month. People from all countries can apply but must adhere to the travel lane’s strict health and testing protocols.
For the duration of their up to 14-day stay, visitors will be housed in a “bubble” within a dedicated facility, undergo testing upon arrival and on days three, five, seven and 11, and must observe all prevailing safe management measures. They will be able to conduct meetings with local visitors and with other segregated travel lane groups at the facility, however if they’re meeting with locals, travellers will need to remain behind floor-to-ceiling dividers.
Luxury tour operators to contribute to Covid test costs
The Test to Release scheme may be off to a disorganised start, but some travel companies are working to help customers make use of it.
Luxury operators Abercrombie & Kent and Cox & Kings will offer a £50 contribution towards testing costs for holidaymakers travelling with them in 2021.
The offer includes a flexible booking policy that allows trips to be changed or postponed for any Covid-related reason up to 15 days before travel on bookings made before February 28 2021 for departures before November 30.
What happened yesterday?
The main headlines from Monday:
Quarantine for 'high risk' arrivals cut to ten days
London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire to enter Tier 3 on Wednesday
Japan ditches controversial domestic tourism campaign
UK quarantine reduced to maximum of 10 days
Cruise bosses demand clarity over restart date
Australia and New Zealand agree 'travel bubble'
Now onto today's news.