If you haven’t heard of Sunshine Saturday, you’ve been missing out. Travel agents and tour operators are inundated with bookings on the first weekend of January, as many look to grab themselves a bargain in the sales. But what effect will COVID, and the new variant, have on people travel plans in 2022? – will we still have a Sunshine Saturday booking boom?

In response to the discovery of the new variant, the UK has tightened restrictions for anyone entering the country. A negative result from a lateral flow test was introduced just a few weeks ago, however this has now been reverted and the more expensive PCR test is required to be taken on day two of arrival back to the UK, with the requirement to isolate until a negative result is received back. Passengers will also need to self-isolate. 10 southern African nations have been added to the red list. At date of writing, these new requirements are applicable for all, even those double jabbed and boosted!

As more countries confirm cases of Omricon, tougher measures are being put into place. Governments across the world are encouraging people to get vaccinated, including a booster, wear masks in public places and wash hands frequently. Australia has announced it will delay reopening borders, Japan, Israel and Morrocco have closed their borders entirely and India has introduced mandatory testing on arrival. Many other countries are requesting negative test results and self-isolation on arrival.

It is not yet known how dangerous the new variant is, or how quickly it may spread. People looking to travel soon or book their holidays in the January sales should ensure they are checking COVID restrictions carefully. Most travel insurance providers are not offering cancellation cover should countries be moved onto the red list or close their borders. Therefore, people should be looking to protect themselves with a package holiday. Many travel agents and tour operators are allowing customers to move their travel dates should the worst happen, and their holiday cannot go ahead. Individual restrictions will apply between companies, so terms and conditions should be checked carefully before booking.

The travel industry was starting to find its feet after a treacherous 18 months and after what seemed to be a positive push forward it is now unclear whether the winter flu surge and the new COVID variant will slow recovery until the Spring, as we saw last year when the cases start to drop again. The issue, as it was previously, is the uncertainty that surrounds COVID and the focus to prevent another outbreak. The status is continuously changing with cases of the new variant now rising daily forcing the government to amend rules and plans. Having said that, it is not just the governments restrictions that will send the travel industry spiralling again.

Disinclination to travel due to fear of contracting COVID and the new variant as well as self-isolation and the uncertainty of whether trips will go ahead may prevent people from booking their next holiday. However, those that are still looking to get away should take full advantage of Sunshine Saturday but be sure to make sure they are happy with the COVID cover they are receiving.

Information was correct at the time of publishing. As always, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch: hello@travelinsuranceexplained.co.uk