VILAMOURA, Portugal (Reuters) – With Britons still unsure if they can travel to holiday in Europe this summer, its restaurants, hotels and bars are increasingly anxious about losing their business.
As major European countries began lifting the shutters on businesses closed by coronavirus lockdowns, Britain this week imposed a two-week quarantine for international arrivals which many fear will scupper foreign holiday plans.
“If the quarantine is not lifted it will be a disaster for us. We really need the British people to come back,” Cecile Guevel, co-owner of the Brit Hotel du Commerce in central Bergerac in France, said of the move.
Guevel said she hoped some French tourists would opt for the region but she was not optimistic, as most holiday on the coast.
“The Dordogne is about castles and culture, wine and canoeing on the river, not beaches,” she said.
From the Algarve in Portugal to Ayia Napa in Cyprus, empty beaches await any British holidaymakers, who Eurostat data shows are normally among the biggest spenders in Europe, after tourists from Germany and France.
Spain’s Benidorm, which is a traditional hotspot for British sunseekers, is preparing for a year of transition.
“Benidorm is like Piccadilly Beach,” Tony Mayor, head of the hoteliers association at the Spanish resort, said of its long association between British holidaymakers.
“They are much loved and very loyal,” Mayor added.
Meanwhile, British government ministers have said they are looking at whether travel corridors could allow Britons to go on holiday in destinations with a low coronavirus infection rate, an idea which does not yet appear to have gained traction.
In Italy, where hotels expect a slump in British arrivals, a spokesman for the hoteliers association said Britons would be “welcomed with open arms”.
A pent-up desire to escape lockdown for a guaranteed sunshine-filled beach stay means airlines are seeing a spike in interest among Britons for overseas holidays from July onwards.
Ryanair plans to have around 40% of its normal flying capacity in July and August, and has reported solid demand for outbound flights. The budget airline is offering flexible tickets in case of problems flying over the summer.
However, IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said an increase in British bookings despite the quarantine demonstrated confidence that it would prove short-lived.
“Passengers are expecting this relaxation to happen because it can’t last too long,” de Juniac told Reuters TV.
At the Sete Cafe in Vilamoura on Portugal’s Algarve, any easing cannot come too soon for the business owned by soccer superstar Luis Figo and Portuguese jetsetter Paulo China.
“I think 70% of our customers are foreigners, especially British,” said 27-year-old waiter William Costa.
“We really need them to come back. It is very important the airports return to normal. We need to secure jobs.”
(Reporting by Catarina Demony in Portugal, Clara-Laeila Laudette in Spain, Gavin Jones in Italy, Geert de Clercq in France, Sarah Young in Britain, Cecile Mantovani in Switzerland, Renee Maltezou and Angeliki Koutantou in Greece; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Alexander Smith and Keith Weir)