The British airline EasyJet stated on Tuesday that bookings for flights increased by more than 300% and vacation reservations grew by over 600% on a weekly basis after Great Britain announced plans to resume international travel once again.
According to the travel giant, the Greek island of Crete is among the most popular destinations among those who want to travel during the month of August.
The British-based airline stated to the press that travel to coastal destinations such as Malaga, Alicante and Palma in Spain, the Lighthouse in Portugal and Crete in Greece are among the most popular destinations among vacationers who plan to travel during that month, typically when nearly all Europeans are off work.
EasyJet officials stated that July and September are the next most popular months regarding travel booking at present.
Lingering uncertainty over lifting of restrictions
The reservations were made despite the continuing uncertainty as to exactly how and when international routes will be reopened, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that restrictions within Great Britain will be lifting gradually.
Vacationers will know more on April 12 when the government announces updated information regarding travel instructions. The UK had already announced that the lockdown ban on most international travel would remain in place until at least May 17.
The vaccination program in Britain is progressing rapidly and more than 17.7 million people, one quarter of the population, has already received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Huge news for southern Europe
The UK embarked on a vigorous vaccination campaign after suffering the highest death rate of any Western nation during the pandemic.
After initially going for a “herd immunity” approach, in which the government hoped large numbers of the population would get a slight case of the coronavirus and be immune thereafter, the UK did a U-turn, instituting strict lockdowns.
The very welcome news for Southern Europe gives hope to airlines and travel companies as well, which are looking forward to resuming their normal operations after Britain lifts bans on non-essential travel and quarantine restrictions.
EasyJet and other air carriers are banking on the UK allowing international tourism traffic to resume in mid-May.
Foreign governments also need to acknowledge, however, that British travelers will be able to visit countries without the need for quarantining. At present, France and Spain, for example, have closed their borders to the British because of the new strains of the coronavirus.
However, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis has long been a proponent of the use of a vaccine certificate system, which will allow for free and unfettered travel between countries.
Push for EU-wide vaccine certificate
Greece is pushing its EU partners to approve Covid-19 vaccine certificates which would allow for the opening of travel throughout Europe, the Greek tourism minister said on Tuesday.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Harry Theocharis called on EU leaders to “move more quickly” to embrace the vaccine certificates.
“Looking at the reaction of some countries to vaccination certificate proposals, I feel there’s a lot of short-sightedness. There’s more to be done now to prepare ourselves,” Theocharis told the British paper.
“Some countries are very much preoccupied with the now,” he pointed out, as northern European nations, in particular, were unwilling to look ahead and plan for an economic recovery in the summer.
However, he urged “We need to move more quickly.”
The introduction of vaccination passports that could allow leisure and business travelers to move between countries after being inoculated will be discussed at the EU summit that begins on Thursday.
Travel deal with Israel
When discussing the outlook for Greece’s tourism sector in the summer of 2021, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated to Reuters recently: “I am a realist, but I am also cautiously optimistic that we will do much better than last year.”
A potential vaccination certificate deal with the UK may well add to Mitsotakis’ optimism for a successful tourist season this year.
The country has already struck a deal with Israel, which will allow vaccinated travelers from the Mediterranean country to enter Greece without coronavirus restrictions.
Cyprus and Israel reached a similar agreement between them on Sunday, creating a network of free travel between the Mediterranean countries for those who have been vaccinated.
After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem Greek PM Mitsotakis lauded the travel deal as well as Israel’s swift rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
Over 3.6 million Israelis have been inoculated against the virus, making the country’s distribution of the shot the most successful in the world.
Greek tourism took major hit due to Covid-19
Directly employing nearly one in five Greeks, tourism is one of the most important sectors of the country’s economy.
Greece welcomes around 4 million visitors from the UK each year.
The Mediterranean country hopes that opening up a tourist corridor with the UK for the summer will bring a much-needed boost to the Greek economy, which has suffered enormously in 2020 due to travel restrictions and strict anti-virus measures.
In total, in the first nine months of last year, the accommodation sector had revenues of only 1.89 billion euros, when last year in the corresponding period revenues were 6.15 billion euros — representing a staggering loss of 4.26 billion euros.