As lockdown measures ease across the world, our business editor looks at what destinations could be possible for the Northern Ireland public.
You may have a hankering for Gaudi’s famous unfinished cathedral, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona — or maybe just some sangria in Torremolinos.
Well, the good news is that Spain wants to open for tourist business in June, and its Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Lay has said it wants to be the “safest destination in Europe”. The popular Canary Islands and Balearics are likely to be the first to open — and Jet2.com, which flies from Belfast International, is now offering package holidays to Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands. Ryanair is also offering a flight to Malaga from Belfast in July — a gateway to the Costa del Sol but a pleasing city destination in its own right. It is also offering flights to Alicante in October.
Paris has long been one of the best-served European routes from here and it looks like a long weekend flying from Belfast will be theoretically possible from July, as easyJet is now selling flights to Charles de Gaulle Airport. But while France began lifting lockdown around two weeks ago, it is not yet welcoming overseas sightseers. It has yet to announce when foreign travel into the country will be permitted and visits even by French people living in the UK are only allowed when strictly necessary. Initially it appeared that the UK and France would exempt one another from their quarantine arrangements. However, the UK Government later said only freight drivers and Covid-19 experts would avail of the exemption.
Portugal is a popular destination for a lot of Northern Ireland holidaymakers, from families with young kids to golfers. And it’s looking reasonably viable that you could make it there in June — subject to all the usual caveats such as Foreign Office advice. Jet2.com is now selling flights and holidays from Belfast International to Faro, starting from June 19. Portugal has had relatively fewer coronavirus deaths compared to many harder-hit European countries. It has been in lockdown although the measures are now being lifted, including the reopening of campsites and motorhome parks. If you are travelling to the Azores, you will be asked to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test on arrival.
Turkey’s tourism authorities have been conspicuous in their moves to keep marketing the country as a holiday destination despite Covid-19, with a big TV advertising campaign over the last few months. And flights are available from Belfast International from mid-June. According to Express.co.uk, its embassy has indicated it wants to get back to normal “very soon”, stating: “We hope to start the holiday season in June by gradually resuming international flights to Turkey. Of course, resumption of flights will depend on the progress of the pandemic, quarantine measures being taken around the world and general outlook.” It’s expected a certificate system for visitors to prove they are virus-free will be imposed.
Greece is due to reopen its borders to overseas tourists in July but British holidaymakers may not be welcome. Greece has said it will reopen to tourists gradually from the start of the month but will use “epidemiological criteria” which could mean UK travellers aren’t welcome. Its Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis has indicated that UK visitors will not be accepted until figures show that the number of cases in the UK has “improved”. Its Prime Minister has announced that Greece’s tourist season for the internal market will kick off around mid-June. Some frantic UK-Greece diplomacy may be required to ensure that sunseekers from these parts get the holiday in Greece they’ve been dreaming of in lockdown.
When I sat down back in January to plan our summer holidays, which this year included a surprise five-day city break to Bordeaux to celebrate my husband's 60th birthday, I could never have imagine that the furthest I am likely to get is my own back garden.