Just as Cyprus began to raise its hopes of an influx of British tourists from the end of May, and with preparations underway to take bookings from April1, according to the tourism ministry, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Brits on Wednesday it was still too early for them to book a foreign summer holiday.
According to the BBC, Shapps said there were “lots of questions” to answer about “how safe it will be in June to travel” even though the plan was that Britons could travel for leisure purposes from May 17.
Greece, Cyprus and Portugal were among the countries keen to welcome UK visitors. “Under the current rules, foreign travel from the UK is banned apart from for exceptional reasons,” the BBC said. Britain is Cyprus’s biggest source of tourism.
“While 17 May has been marked as the date that rule could change – the decision is subject to a review closer to the time,” it added.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday if it was too early to book a summer holiday, Shapps said: “Yes.”
He added: “We have said it will remain illegal to travel internationally until at least 17 May – that’s an at-the-earliest date.”
Shapps said people should look towards April 12, when he will publish a global travel taskforce report, and said the government was weighing up not only the “extraordinary” UK vaccination rollout but also other countries’ vaccine programmes.
“So there are lots of questions the answer to which we simply don’t know yet about how safe it will be in June to travel around,” he told the BBC.
Earlier on Wednesday, deputy minister for tourism Savvas Perdios said the decision to open the country from April 1 would allow businesses related to tourism, tour operators and airlines to plan for the summer.
“This means the goal we set is that by April this destination will be ready to receive tourism based on the ECDC [European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control] protocol,” Perdios said, explaining that from April 1, key markets for Cyprus, such as Britain, Israel, Russia and Ukraine, but also Lebanon, the Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar will begin to open.
Commenting on the fact that these countries were currently in the red category and therefore need a double negative test for Covid, he said that no tourist arrivals were expected today from these markets.
“But we wanted to send the message to the markets that by April we would be open to make reservations for the coming summer,” he said, adding that there is now the framework and stability to plan.
During consultations with tour operators the deputy ministry was told Cyprus is the first country which clearly informed them how it will function as a tourist destination, Perdios noted.
Concluding, he said the deputy ministry would dedicate March to consultations with tour operators and airlines in cooperation with the transport ministry and airport operator Hermes and the private sector will take their own actions “to achieve the best we can for the upcoming tourist season.”
However, Perdios’ own comments came before the cabinet on Wednesday decided to postpone the announcement of new relaxations until Friday.