Tourism chiefs across Europe are calling on Brits to splash the cash and travel to save their summers.
Towns and cities across France, Spain and Portugal are begging for tourists to return, as the Continent reopens to visitors after months of lockdown.
With the Government due to announce the countries it has struck air bridge deals with on Wednesday, hoteliers, mayors and industry chiefs are begging Brits to return to holiday hotspots this summer.
Nicolas Langlois, the mayor of Dieppe, in Normandy, northern France, said: “The lack of people coming on ferries from England has had a major effect on our economy. From hotels, bars, restaurants and shops, we cannot wait until the Brits return. Some businesses will close unless they come back very soon.”
The town’s local paper last week had a headline saying, “We miss our dear Englishmen very much”, in a report about the struggling tourism industry.
Ministers have yet to confirm which countries will form part of the air bridge system but Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and Italy are expected to be included.
A recent spike in Covid-19 infections in Portugal has ruled it out for the time being, while there is also uncertainty around Croatia, Turkey and Malta.
But Algarve industry chiefs in southern Portugal, are pleading for our return.
Eliderico Viegas, president of the Algarve’s Association for Hotels and Tourism, said: “The British are our main market. We are counting on them to rise to this new challenge and new opportunity.”
Hoteliers in Spain, who have had swathes of cancellations due to the crisis, are urging us to fly out. The country is the most popular destination for Brits, with almost 16 million going each year.
Expat Robert Webster, 52, runs Hotel Arce in Galicia, north-west Spain. Robert, from Cheltenham, said: “We have one message to British tourists – you can have a fantastic holiday, so get over here to Spain. People are genuinely excited to be opening their doors. For tourists, the only major difference will be having to wear a facemask when around other people.”
Britain’s largest independent travel agent, Hays Travel, reported a “flurry” of people booking foreign holidays since the air bridge plans were revealed. Owner Irene Hays said: “The phones have not stopped ringing. It has been remarkable.”
TUI, Britain’s biggest tour operator, said: “We’re confident they’re now finalising air bridge agreements, which will effectively save summer for Brits.”
Under the Government’s traffic-light air bridge system, countries will be rated green, amber or red, depending on the prevalence of coronavirus. The Government’s 14-day quarantine will be axed for countries rated green or amber.
Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday warned: “These measures won’t come in overnight. They will take time because some of this will be down to negotiation and discussion with certain countries.”
Tour operators and airlines have already launched a price war to woo travellers. Offers include all-inclusive seven-night stays for two adults and two children at four-star hotels with reductions of up to £1,795. EasyJet, which will resume flights on July 1, has 300,000 seats for £29.99 up for grabs.
Emma Coulthurst, of TravelSupermarket, said: “You can currently get so much for your money – more stars and an increased board type than you would normally get for the price.”
The Foreign Office’s ban on non-essential travel is expected to be lifted soon so those using air bridges can get travel insurance.
A spokesman for industry body ABTA said: “Confirmation of the list of countries is eagerly anticipated and should encourage customers to book.”