TOURISM

Has UK flurry come too late?

Lifting of quarantine for returnees to Britain as of July 19 may not be early enough for Greece

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The Greek tourism market is harboring hopes of a significant increase in tourism flows from the United Kingdom, based on the first indications following London’s decision to lift the demand for quarantine on travelers returning to Britain.

The compulsory quarantine will end on July 19 for people arriving in Britain from destinations on London’s amber list, such as Greece, ending the main counterincentive for Britons to visit one of their favorite holiday locations.

The UK is the second biggest market for Greek tourism after Germany, and last year 1 million British tourists came to Greece, bringing a total of 750 million euros. In 2019, when the market functioned properly, arrivals from Britain had topped 4 million and their travel spending exceeded €2.5 billion.

However, this may have come quite late, according to some industry professionals, as a large section of the summer will have passed by July 19, while the Delta variant threatens to bring new restrictions from the fall. At least the British market has responded to the decisions of its government, with sources speaking of a spectacular increase in bookings for air trips to Greece – albeit from a very low starting point.

Sources from the biggest European tour operator, TUI, estimate that in the coming days the avalanche of demand anticipated by recent surveys will turn into actual bookings, and report a massive rise in visitors to its websites concerning holidays in Spain, Italy and Greece. Flight booking platform Skyscanner saw visitors surge 53% overnight.

British media on Friday reported the start of a wave of bookings both online and at travel agencies, while airlines reacted immediately to the soaring demand and adjusting their policy. Therefore easyJet added an extra 145,000 seats to its availability as it saw its bookings rise five-fold overnight at some destinations, with Corfu in particular showing a 400% increase. The airline’s holiday packages posted overnight growth up to 440%.

Not to be left behind, rival carrier Ryanair rushed to offer cheap tickets for as little as 6 euros (4.99 pounds) to amber-list destinations.