11 Feb

ABTA hails return of the half term getaway as post-arrival tests scrapped for fully vaccinated

New ABTA data reveals holidays are more important to families than any other group

ABTA – The Travel Association says hundreds of thousands of people will be heading abroad this half term for winter sun and ski trips, as families look to make the most of UK’s relaxation of travel rules which come into force today (Friday 11 February).

ABTA Members are reporting that Turkey, the Canary Islands, Egypt and Portugal are popular for short haul trips, while departures to Dubai, Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean have sold well for longer haul holidays. Ski resorts in France, Italy and Switzerland are also popular for those taking to the slopes this half term.

A snapshot of some of the UK’s biggest airports shows 200,000 passengers are set to depart from Stansted between 11-18 February, plus a further 186,000 from Gatwick, and 160,000 from Manchester, in addition to around 90,000 leaving from Luton, 55,000 from Bristol and 17,000 from East Midlands airport. According to Eurostar, more than 125,000 travellers are booked to travel between the UK and the continent during the school holiday.

ABTA says the removal of all tests for fully vaccinated adults and under 18s on return to the UK[i] makes foreign travel much easier, including significant savings on the cost of tests.

It also says it is an important next step in the industry’s recovery, as February half term is the first opportunity families have had since the start of the pandemic to travel abroad with minimal rules and restrictions from UK government if you’re fully vaccinated. 
Not being able to holiday abroad has ramped up families’ appetite for travel, according to new data from ABTA. Almost two-thirds (64%) of families with children under 16 say the limited opportunities to travel due to the pandemic have made their holidays more important to them than before[ii] – higher than all other groups including young people and over 45s with no children at home.

Given just how important their holidays are, families are increasingly keen to enlist the help of a travel professional. Those with children under 16 are 50% more likely to book with a travel professional now than before the pandemic (compared with 30% more likely for the population as a whole) primarily for the security of a package holiday (43%), followed by guidance with COVID-19 travel requirements (35%).

Graeme Buck, Director of Communications at ABTA – The Travel Association said:

“Today’s changes to the travel rules are the start of a new chapter for the travel industry’s recovery. Testing has been one of the biggest barriers to travel, so it’s hugely welcome that the process of travelling abroad is now much cheaper and easier for millions of UK holidaymakers.

“It’s great to see so many families treating themselves to some quality time together this February half term and now that the UK’s restrictions have eased, we expect many more will feel confident to travel and will start to plan their summer break.

“We expect to see increasing numbers of people turning to travel professionals to help them plan their trips, as they recognise their invaluable knowledge of the latest travel requirements and their expertise in finding the best holiday for them at a competitive price.”

As travel to the UK becomes much easier, other countries still have their own entry requirements and local measures to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. ABTA is advising holidaymakers to regularly check the latest requirements for their destination at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice and to book with an ABTA Member for expert help and advice.

ABTA has comprehensive advice for travelling during the pandemic at www.abta.com/readysteadytravel, which includes a new webpage to guide holidaymakers through the main things they need to know about travelling abroad this February (www.abta.com/februarytravel).

ABTA’s top tips for booking and travelling with confidence this year are:

  1. Use the expertise of an ABTA Member to help plan your trip and navigate the latest advice.
  2. Book a package holiday for the greatest level of protection.
  3. Regularly check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice for your destination and sign up to email alerts.
  4. Take out travel insurance as soon as you book and check its cover for Coronavirus.
  5. Check your travel documents are in order, e.g. your passport validity meets entry requirements and you’ve applied for the visas you need.
  6. Note that many companies offer flexible cancellation and booking policies.
  7. Make sure you know how your vaccination status affects what you need to do on return to the UK.
  8. With your holiday booked, sit back and look forward to heading off on your well-deserved break!

[i] As of 04.00am on Friday 11 February, fully vaccinated passengers and under 18s arriving in the UK no longer need to take any tests on their return. Unvaccinated passengers arriving in the UK no longer need to take a PCR test on day eight of their return or self-isolate for 10 days, but they will still need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two of their return.

[ii] ABTA research from a nationally representative sample of 2,000 consumers related to holiday booking habits and future travel plans. Fieldwork was conducted in the last two weeks of August 2021 by The Nursery Research and Planning (www.the-nursery.net/). ‘Families’ refers to all survey respondents living in a household with children under 16.

Notes to editors

ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for over 70 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence. The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.

We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.

ABTA has around 4,000 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined pre-pandemic annual UK turnover of £40 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the UK public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.