My 2020 summer holiday abroad: a nightmare or a pleasure? What we can learn about overseas leisure travel in the months to comeBy Henry Clinton
August 2020 was a month filled with so much promise and excitement at the start of the year. Even at the start of April, I was confident that it would go ahead as normal. By early July, everything hung in the balance.
Lockdown measures were being relaxed in the UK and Spain had dropped its border restrictions to encourage tourism over the summer. Like many in the ‘Life Goes On’ segment, I felt I needed a holiday abroad. Booking was certainly stressful, as my colleague Jacob describes in his blog, but for me personally, the desire to get away and to enjoy some kind of normality was the real motivating factor. After a minor setback with a cancelled return flight, I was on my way to Spain!
My journey on the Piccadilly line to Heathrow was comfortable as I knew fewer people would be using public transport. On arrival, the hustle and bustle of the morning airport rush resembled pre-Covid levels and the excitement that only a summer holiday can create began to take over.
Face masks were mandatory and social distancing measures were encouraged to remind travellers of the adjustments that have been brought in to ensure everyone’s safety. This helped to make the experience feel safe and less stressful.
Getting on the British Airways plane was also stress-free. It was half-full at most and the personal sanitisation bag I received was a welcome surprise. This all contributed to a safer and more comfortable boarding experience compared to previous trips I have been on.
When I arrived in Spain I was greeted by strict mask and distancing policies. There were also QR scanners to check I had filled in the correct forms and on-site temperature checks. I was surprised to see such stringent measures were being implemented in the Alicante region where infection rates had been comparatively low since the start of the pandemic. Still, it was impressive to see the lengths they were going to in order to control any potential outbreaks. Indeed, whilst slightly more time consuming than usual, all these measures helped reassure me that the virus was being taken seriously, and were a welcome addition to the usual arrival experience.
When I stepped out of the airport I could really let my hair down and forget about the virus. I was able to relax by the pool or in the sea. All public spaces and attractions were open and extremely welcoming – including bars, restaurants and amusement parks – whilst rigorously conforming to the Covid-19 regulations.
Bars and restaurants made a concerted effort to provide an excellent experience. Face masks were mandatory except when seated, and staff were even more focused on the customers and providing the best service possible.
On the whole, there were very few tourists around - not just from the UK but from all countries. This made my trip more enjoyable as I knew there wouldn’t be overcrowding on activities or at places I explored such as the Jávea beachfront and the antiques market in Jalón. My trip turned out to be exactly as good, if not better, than I imagined it to be back in January.
However, on returning to Heathrow I was shepherded off the plane and through the airport as if nothing was different. My FCO form (which took 30 minutes to complete) was not checked in the airport by either scan or person. I also received no instructions for my obligatory quarantine or given guidance on how to travel home. This undoubtedly requires improvement but, given my Spanish arrival experience, seems to me to be an easy fix and one that I hope the UK authorities latch onto quickly.
Taking everything into account, the holiday was a pleasure and well worth the small frustrations caused by Covid-19. In fact, the relaxing and novel opportunities created by the virus far outweighed the concerns I had at the start of the trip. So much so that I planned another trip to Jávea in Spain for this month!
Once country and transport links open up again, travel with confidence and experience somewhere outside your town or another part of the UK. Public confidence in taking an overseas holiday pre-pandemic was 45%; 3 weeks ago before the latest Government advice and regulations it was 20%. No doubt this figure will have fallen even further since then and the exact number can be found in our first ClearSight report, available for download here.
Yes, we need to follow recent guidelines set out by the Government as this period of uncertainty is likely to remain for a while longer yet. But the lesson I learnt from my experience this year is to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. Seize the moment!
To find out more about Henry’s travel and holiday experience, just get in touch.
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