Britons have lost no time in booking their slot of summer sunshine after UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced a string of dates to slowly ease a national lockdown, including allowing foreign holidays as early as 17 May.
The UK prime minister added that a Global Travel Taskforce will submit a report on returning to international travel by 12 April so "people can plan for the summer".
The country has been in full lockdown since 4 January, and Johnson's four-step out-of-Covid restrictions plan announced Sunday 21 February inlcuded a string of dates for reopening schools, weddings, pubs, hospitality-services and travel.
And by 17 May, most social distancing restrictions will be lifted. Groups of 30 will be able to gather outdoors, while pubs and restaurants will resume indoor operations, though the rule of six remains. Indoor venues will be able to also host up to 1,000 people, and up to 10,000 spectators will be allowed back to live outdoor sporting meets.
On the same day of announcement, the UK’s largest tour operator, TUI reported a six-fold jump (500%) in bookings, while discount airline easyJet saw demand for flights more than triple. Travel packages business Thomas Cook also saw a 75% increase in website traffic.
"The announcement from the prime minister on 22 February was positive and shows that by working with the travel industry on a risk-based framework our customers will have the opportunity to travel abroad this summer," said Andrew Flintham, managing director TUI UK and Ireland, according to an Associated Press report.
"We will continue to work closely with the government so people can look forward to a well-deserved break away, after what has been a very difficult year for many."
According to the tour operator, Greece, Spain and Turkey are top favourites for travels from July, all booked overnight from the day of Johnson's announcement.
David Kevan of Chic Locations in the UK expects Greece, Canary Islands, the Maldives and the Caribbean islands will be popular destinations. "The Maldives and the Caribbean were both seeing good UK arrivals until mid-January when our government introduced a complete ban on travel," he noted.
Southeast Asia is unlikely to be the recipient of the first wave of British travellers heading overseas, stated Kevan. "I cannot see Southeast Asia accepting UK clients until late June or early July at the absolute earliest, and even then with restrictions which most clients will find unattractive."
As of 25 February, more than 18 million across the UK have had their first vaccination. Next, are plans to offer a jab to all adults aged 50 and above as well as those at higher risk due to health conditions by 15 April, and to every adult by the end of July 2021.