Grant Shapps warns over-50s to think twice before booking a summer break despite growing vaccine hopes as easyJet holidays cancels trips until late March because of UK lockdown rules
Grant Shapps today suggested over-50s should think twice before booking a summer holiday despite rising optimism prompted by the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines.
Holiday firms have reported a spike in travel bookings from older people and believe it is partly because of them being prioritised for jabs in the coming weeks and months.
But the Transport Secretary said 'right now' he is not planning a summer break as he stressed the focus should be on 'following the advice to stay at home'.
It came as easyJet holidays announced it is cancelling holidays booked up to March 24 because of UK lockdown rules.
Foreign travel is currently banned under the terms of the national shutdown unless people have a legally permitted reason to leave the country.
Grant Shapps today suggested the over-50s should think twice before booking a summer holiday
The Transport Secretary said the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines was cause for 'hope' but he said 'right now' he is not planning a summer break. Heathrow airport is pictured in July
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Which countries does the latest travel ban apply to?
A new travel ban applies to anyone who has travelled from, or through, the following countries to Britain:
- Cape Verde
- French Guiana
- Portugal (including Madeira and Azores)
Mr Shapps was asked this morning whether he believes it is wise for over-50s to book summer holidays.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I am the last person you should take travel advice on this from.
'I remember about this time last year or a little bit later being asked whether I would book a summer holiday.
'We then had the travel corridors, I did book, I went to Spain with my family and within an hour of getting there I myself put Spain, took them out of the travel corridor meaning that I needed to come home and start my quarantine, leaving my family there.
'So don't take travel advice from me.'
Asked directly if he was planning a summer break, he replied: 'Not right now for reasons that you might imagine.
'But there is of course hope because Britain has done three million vaccinations, jabs in the arm.
'That is more than Italy, France, Germany and Spain put together and in just the last two days we have done more than France in the entire time on vaccinations.
'So of course there is hope but right now we are experiencing a surge which has seen... 36,000 people in hospital, we have got very high levels of deaths, we have got cases which we are struggling to bring down though it is good to see that we are finally seeing a reduction.
'But that is only because people are following the advice to stay at home and that I am afraid at the moment has to be the absolute focus of this country.'
His comments came after he yesterday announced fresh travel bans for South America and Portugal in a bid to prevent the import of mutant strains of coronavirus.
Holiday firms have said a spike in bookings from older people is partly due to them being prioritised for coronavirus vaccinations.
Tui, the UK's largest tour operator, said half of bookings so far this year have been made by people aged over 50.
Managing director Andrew Flintham said demand from this age group 'wasn't coming through' previously. He believes the change is 'on the back of the positive vaccine news'.
National Express said its coach holiday business, which predominantly caters for pensioners, has seen bookings nearly triple for spring and summer trips compared with the same point last year.
easyJet holidays today announced it has started to contact customers with holidays booked up to and including 24 March to let them know their trip has been cancelled.
Affected customers will be able to rebook their trip, opt to receive easyJet holiday credit for a future holiday or ask for refund.
Matt Callaghan, easyJet holidays customer director, said: 'We know this news will be disappointing. But we want to give our customers as much flexibility and choice as possible so they can decide what is best for them.
'We're really proud that, where we've needed to cancel holidays, we've been able to process refunds in an average of 12 days. We'll continue to do the right thing for customers.
'And for any customers wanting to change their holiday or make a new booking, we've got holidays on sale all the way through to March 2022. We know there is light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine. We can't wait to take people on well-deserved holidays just as soon as it's possible for us to do so.'