As the French authorities reopened the border to UK travellers, business was brisk at airports and ports alike. Thursday’s lifting of restrictions means British visitors will no longer need a “compelling reason” to enter the country and will not have to isolate for 24 hours, with only a negative test within a day of travel required.
At Gatwick airport, skiers heading back to the French Alps spoke of their joy.
James Ramsay, 23, was flying to Geneva to head on to a ski resort in France.
The Royal Navy sailor from Portsmouth said: “It will be really nice to go abroad, it’s the first time I’ve been since before Covid ‑ so nearly two years.”
He was among hundreds seizing the opportunity to book a last-minute holiday.
Airlines yesterday said they had seen bookings surge by up to 600 percent.
And it is not only France ‑ and its ski resorts ‑ seeing a large upturn. Several other destinations are also benefiting from a growing confidence that the worst of the pandemic may finally be over.
Travel firms said bookings are soaring because of last week’s change in testing rules for international travel, with fully vaccinated people not having to test before flying home.
Jet2 said demand had now returned to “around pre-Covid levels” and easyJet also said its sales had shot up.
The airline has put around 1.1 million more seats on sale from Gatwick.
It said flights to Spanish destinations Tenerife, Alicante, Malaga and Lanzarote were the most in demand, with bookings for the latter up more than 400 percent in recent weeks.
Don Bircham, managing director of Hays Travel, said: “The first part of January was very slow but the fact you only need a lateral flow test on return has given customers the confidence to fly again.”
However, as Omicron sweeps across Europe, France recorded a record 368,149 cases over 24 hours on Wednesday.
Comment by Ali Gayward
With France welcoming British tourists once again, the ski season is well and truly back on track.
This is welcome particularly for those looking to book a last-minute family break for half term or planning to head to the slopes, with low fares still available.
We know there is pent-up demand with many desperate to get away, which we see each time restrictions are removed.
Following the announcement on Thursday by the French government, we saw a 600 percent lift in UK bookings to popular French ski destinations.
Last-minute bookings to Switzerland also saw a peak immediately after the news broke with a 386 percent increase, suggesting consumer confidence in travel is building.
At easyJet we are offering more seats to Europe’s major ski destinations from the UK this winter than any other carrier.
With flying already scheduled to increase in the coming weeks, we will continue to review our schedule to meet demand.
We look forward to taking our customers away on a long-awaited break this winter.
Ali Gayward is easyJet UK manager