Holiday bookings for Portugal have surged since the country was lifted off the Covid-19 risk list.
One resort reported a 300% increase from the UK hours after the travel ban ended.
But as Portugal welcomed Brits back, there was a rush to leave Croatia, where rising infection rates put it on the banned list.
The Quinta do Lago golf resort in Algarve, Portugal, said its phones “had not stopped ringing” since the nation was given air bridge status. A number of easyJet flights from London airports to destinations across Portugal heading out today and tomorrow were sold out.
Average cost of tickets to Algarve gateway Faro soared from £35 to £190 while flights to Lisbon rose from £55 to £185 within hours of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ announcement.
Holiday giants Jet2 and Tui were hastily re-writing flight schedules to cope with demand and Jet2, which was already flying to the Portuguese island of Madeira, will resume flights to Faro from Monday. It has added more flights to meet huge demand.
Paul Charles, boss of travel consultancy The PC Agency which advises more than 30 firms, said: “It’s fantastic news about Portugal because it will have a late summer season and a strong autumn.”
Around three million Brits head to Portugal every year with the Algarve the most popular resort.
Ticket prices also shot up for Brits rushing to get home from Croatia to avoid a two-week quarantine. British Airways charged £276 for a flight from Zagreb to London yesterday morning – up from £82 four days before.
One couple from Keighley, West Yorks, stumped up £800 to travel home from northern Croatia via Munich after finding it impossible to book a direct flight in time to beat the quarantine.
Urged to end blanket bans on nations and opt for regional air bridges, Mr Shapps said it would be too “difficult” to implement. He added: “I do sympathise. I had to actually quarantine myself after I changed the rules.
“This is a very unpredictable virus which unfortunately just doesn’t play ball as far as the way that it can just sometimes take off in a country and I think anyone travelling this year will know that there are risks involved.”
He added: “Indeed, we’ve added Portugal back on to the list, but you need to go with your eyes open there or anywhere that you travel this year because coronavirus is just a fact of life, we’re having to live with it.”
Experts called for Covid-19 tests at airports and during holidays to solve the quarantine merry-go-round but Mr Shapps said it was “a bit more complicated than is sometimes suggested”.
But Mr Charles of the PC Agency hit back and said: “Consumers have to be given clear information and the only answer is testing which will take away the need to quarantine.
“The majority of people being quarantined are perfectly healthy.” Karl Whitburn is returning early from Split so his wife, an NHS nurse originally from Croatia, will not miss work.
Mr Whitburn, 51, a data analyst from London, thinks that with rearranged flights, unused car hire and other costs, they will lose £600-800.
He believes the Government should have done more to help Britons in Croatia get home, saying: “They gave us the notice on Thursday they’re shutting down 4am on Saturday, there’s only about four flights before then, and this beach here is full of British people.”
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