Tens of thousands of Britons had cruise holidays and New Year ski trips cancelled yesterday as European border restrictions continued to tighten.
Crystal Ski, Britain’s biggest winter sports operator, cancelled its departures to Austria next week after ministers there toughened their stance on arrivals from the UK.
Anyone arriving from Britain will need to provide proof that they have been double-vaccinated, had a booster and show a negative PCR test from tomorrow. Those who fail the criteria must quarantine for ten days.
A spokesman for the operator said: “Unfortunately, due to the short notice of this announcement and the difficulty in getting a PCR test over the festive period, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel our holidays to Austria departing on December 27. We understand the huge disappointment this will cause.”
Last night the company was contacting affected passengers. They are being offered refunds, while those due to travel on January 1 and 8 will be able to change their holiday without paying fees until December 29. Families with children aged 16 or 17 will also now face difficulty getting into Austria and will be contacted.
The extent of the problem became apparent as MSC Cruises cancelled three more sailings from the UK because of European border restrictions. MSC Magnifica’s departures from Southampton on December 28 and January 4 and 11 have been axed. They were due to call at Ijmuiden in the Netherlands, Hamburg in Germany and Le Havre in northern France.
The Netherlands has entered a strict lockdown until at least mid-January and arrivals from Britain must quarantine for ten days. Germany and France have both banned tourists from the UK.
Antonio Paradiso, the line’s UK managing director, said: “It’s a shame. A cruise experience is made up of two parts. People want to enjoy the ship and the destinations. It’s better to stop for a bit and resume when the time is right.”
Ski holidays have been especially badly affected by the recent tightening of rules.
Travel companies reported a surge in bookings to Austria last week after France announced it was banning almost all arrivals from Britain from midnight on Saturday.
Hundreds of thousands of Britons had their Christmas holiday plans thrown into chaos when the announcement was made by officials in Paris. French ski resorts are reeling as a result of the decision, with some reporting that more than 40 per cent of their business has been wiped out over the festive period.
Most major tour operators, including Crystal, have cancelled all departures to the country until at least the middle of January. In a double whammy for skiers, French resorts are celebrating their best start to the season since 2012.
The outlook for international travel into next year is bleak with countries rapidly implementing tough new rules.
Eamonn Brennan, the director-general of Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control group, said Christmas was a “dead duck” because of Covid restrictions. Airline “no shows” have jumped to 20 per cent in the past week as passengers opt not to travel or are banned from entering countries.
Brennan said: “The next two months are going to be difficult. What everyone is hoping for now is Easter, not Christmas.
“Politicians are stuck in the headlights. It’s not popular to open up and then find there is more of the virus in the community, so politicians are risk averse. Christmas is a dead duck.
Yesterday Ryanair said it was cutting its capacity for January by 33 per cent because of restrictions. A spokesman for the airline said: “The impact of these recent government travel restrictions, in particular last weekend’s ban on UK arrivals into France and Germany, and the suspension of all EU flights to/from Morocco has lowered Ryanair’s expected December traffic from 10 million to 11 million, to a lower range of between 9 million to 9.5 million.
“In responding to these restrictions, Ryanair has now cut its January capacity by 33 per cent, reducing its expected January traffic from approximately 10 million to 6-7 million.”
EasyJet, the UK’s biggest airline, also said it was cutting capacity into the New Year.
Sophie Dekkers, its chief commercial officer, said: “We’ve taken some capacity out of early January to reflect the lower load factors. But we’re still waiting to see the impact of Omicron.”
The travel restrictions
Vast majority of arrivals from Britain are banned. Those who can enter must show a negative test taken no more than 24 hours before arrival. All travellers must also isolate for 48 hours, after which time a negative PCR or antigen test is required to end isolation. Transiting is permitted.
All arrivals from the UK must present a negative PCR test at the border taken within 72 hours of arrival or a lateral flow test no more than 24 hours old.
From tomorrow, arrivals must be double-vaccinated, boosted and show proof of a negative PCR that is no more than 72 hours old.
Visitors must provide proof of double vaccination as well as a negative test. Children under 18 do not need to quarantine if they are travelling with a fully vaccinated parent and (for those over six) have a negative test.
Only fully vaccinated Britons may enter. Applies to all over 12.
From Tuesday, all arrivals entering Sweden will have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test regardless of their vaccination status.
Visitors must be tested on arrival, regardless of vaccination status. If there is no test centre at your entry point, a rapid antigen test must be taken within 24 hours. Those who are not fully vaccinated must also provide proof of a negative test on arrival.
Arrivals must provide proof of double vaccination as well as a negative test taken within 24 hours of departure. Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement, but anyone over the age of two must take a test.