The collapse in traveller confidence following the abrupt move of Portugal from green list to amber last week has been revealed by a 64 per cent slump in holiday prices.
Ministers disregarded promises of a “green watchlist” and imposed quarantine on returning holidaymakers at four days’ notice, triggering a rush home from Portugal.
Now a leading travel firm reports a drop of almost two thirds in the average holiday price from the UK to Portugal.
The cost of some peak-season trips has fallen below £200 as holiday companies cut prices to try to salvage something from the summer, TravelSupermarket reports.
Searches for holidays on the Algarve have fallen by 85 per cent. Elsewhere, the company says prices for the Canary Islands are much lower than in 2019, the last “normal” year. They have fallen by 25 per cent to Gran Canaria, 23 per cent to Tenerife and 15 per cent to Lanzarote.
Like Portugal, the Canaries are on the amber list, requiring quarantine on return to the UK, but the Foreign Office does not advise against travel there.
To Jersey, from which there are no return restrictions, prices are 27 per cent higher than in 2019.
Emma Coulthurst from TravelSupermarket said: “Prices are often the most expensive at the start of the school holidays as people are itching to get away as soon as they can. This year, they are some of the cheapest due to the current confusion and chaos over how the traffic light system is implemented.
“The industry has many holidays to sell. Yet the government’s failure last week to follow its own traffic light system and offer a watchlist and base its decisions on countries’ data has created a lack of clarity for holidaymakers.
“Many people do not want to or are unable to self-isolate.”
Separately, the travel guide and wildlife photographer Paul Goldstein has offered ministers what he says is “a simple formula to get travel back on its feet again: Jabs & Go”.
“Anyone fully vaccinated should be able to travel anywhere and return to the UK without quarantine, but with a PCR test,” said Mr Goldstein.
The travel veteran, who is co-owner of Kicheche Safari Camps, said: “It’s a simple, safe and effective policy mimicking the one successfully rolled out in the US and Europe.
“The government’s defence of its travel policies and farcical traffic lights is just jabberwocky. Jabs & Go is not.”
“Ministers must implement it immediately, or see the travel industry consigned to many years of misery.”
When the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced the short-notice change in Portugal’s status, he said: “The public has always known travel will be different this year and we must continue to take a cautious approach to reopening international travel in a way that protects public health and the vaccine rollout.”