Why is anyone surprised about the problems for UK tourists on foreign holidays?

Everyone likes a holiday, but this year it is wise to ignore the Costal Del Sol for the attractions

Everyone likes a holiday, but this year it is wise to ignore the Costal Del Sol for the attractions of a British beach. Picture: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/PA - Credit: PA

Everyone likes to go away on holiday – and most want their week or fortnight away from home to be as stressless, relaxing, and enjoyable as possible.

So I am not without sympathy for those who have found themselves stranded in foreign countries which have suddenly had new travel restrictions imposed by the UK government because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

But, having said that, I do marvel at the sheer lack of preparation and loud whingeing we have heard from some people who have been caught up in the crisis and either had to make a rapid dash home or face 14 days in quarantine when the government rules changed.

It has been blatantly clear for months that foreign travel this year was going to be problematic and it was unwise for anyone to contemplate going abroad on holiday in 2020.

Back in May Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock spelled this out absolutely clearly. He said: “We will and seek to reopen some hospitality from early July if we keep successfully reducing the spread of this virus.

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“But social distancing of some kind is going to continue and I think the conclusion from that is that it is unlikely that lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer.

“I just think that’s it – a reality of life.”

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What part of that did people who complained about having to rush home from France and Holland last weekend not understand?

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Also it was totally clear to anyone who followed the news that, following the quarantine rules imposed on people heading back to Britain from Spain at the start of the month, France was next on the list with Covid infections rising.

It was also clear that, following the Spanish example, when the rules changed it would be for the whole country – including areas which currently have low infection rates.

And here’s a tip for you: if you’re thinking of book a late cheap holiday in the sun beware of Croatia, Greece and Turkey. Infection rates are starting to rise there and no one will be surprised if they’re added to the quarantine list over the next few weeks.

As I said, I’m not totally unsympathetic to people who are caught out abroad – especially those who booked their holidays at the end of last year before anyone had any idea that there was a killer virus about to strike the world.

But this sympathy is tempered by the fact that for most people the final decision to go on holiday will have been made after the full horror of the pandemic became clear.

As any parent knows, holidays in August are hideously expensive. The cost of a foreign holiday for a family at this time of the year is likely to run into thousands, rather than hundreds of pounds.

It is very rare for anyone to have to pay up the whole cost of the holiday up front. Usually you book it with a deposit and pay a balance a few weeks before departure.

So for the vast majority of people caught up in the quarantine crisis, the final decision to go will only have been taken well into the pandemic. They may have stood to lose a few hundred pounds in deposit – but they also risked the thousands of pounds they would have to pay as the final balance.

I know it’s a difficult decision – and no one wants to lose hundreds of pounds. But for most who have booked an August holiday that will not be the kind of sum that would destroy the family.

For me personally this is all rather academic. We had always planned to have two one-week holidays in the UK this year. We lost (or rather had postponed for 12 months) a week in Devon in June and we’re hoping to get away to Yorkshire next month.

I can’t help feeling this year’s experience could give a real boost to the UK tourism industry – although it could clearly be devastating for package holiday companies and airlines.

There does seem to be a feeling for some people that a holiday isn’t a holiday unless it involves foreign travel. While it’s always great to expand your horizons, you do have to be aware of the wider situation the world is in.

Closing your eyes to the reality of life and just ploughing on as you always have done really isn’t an option when the whole global society is in a state of flux.

Hopefully next year the situation for foreign holidays will be clearer throughout the season – but in 2020 it makes now sense to adopt a “hear no evil, see no evil” approach to the pandemic.

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