Holiday bookings have exploded as ministers are poised to confirm which countries will be connected to the UK through ‘air bridges’.
Over the weekend, Britain’s biggest travel websites saw inquires for some European destinations rise by 350 per cent and bookings were up by as much as 80 per cent on the week before.
Travellers are being tempted by promised savings of up to 76 per cent.
The reductions mean it is possible for a family of four to save more than £500 on the headline price of a sunshine break.
Such was the surge in interest that the Eurostar website ground to a halt under the weight of bookings.
The Travel Supermarket website saw a doubling of price comparison searches this weekend on holidays to Spain, Italy and France compared with the previous weekend.
Searches for breaks to Croatia on the website increased by 350 per cent, while those to Greece increased by 220 per cent. The most popular Greek destinations were Crete, Corfu, Rhodes and Santorini.
Irene Hays, from Hays Travel, the company that bought Thomas Cook after the operator collapsed last year, said the phones ‘had not stopped ringing’ with inquires.
EasyJet said it was monitoring demand and would look into increasing the number of flights if there was a surge in bookings.
It is currently planning to fly on 50 per cent of its routes in July and 75 per cent in August, but a lower frequency of flights would mean it would only be providing around 30 per cent of its normal summer capacity.
Garry Wilson, chief executive of easyJet holidays, said: ‘Our website has seen a very promising flurry of activity this weekend. While we wait for all the confirmed details, traffic to the website was up more than 50 per cent compared to last week and we’re seeing strong demand for the Balearic and Canary Islands as well as Greece and Turkey.’
Oliver’s Travels said bookings for self-accommodation in France have increased by 357 per cent year on year.
The travel website Lastminute.com saw an 80 per cent rise on holiday sales over the weekend compared with the week before. This was largely attributed to the announcement from Spain that it will not require British visitors to go into quarantine.
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle said bookings on Saturday were around three times higher than on the same day last year.
Emma Coulthurst, of package holiday price comparison site Travel Supermarket, said: ‘A huge fall in demand has seen a parallel fall in prices. Holiday providers have a lot of holidays left to sell so there are bargains to be snapped up.
‘For the height of summer in August, I’ve seen some of best prices on offer for many years.’
A new traffic light regime is set to list countries on a green, amber and red classification based on their coronavirus levels. Those listed as green and amber by the Foreign Office will be approved as suitable to visit without the need for holidaymakers to go into a 14-day quarantine period on their return.
Only passengers arriving in the UK from nations in the red category, where the spread of coronavirus is deemed to be high, will be told to self-isolate for two weeks.
There are some questions around which countries will be listed as red, but they could include Portugal, Sweden, Brazil and the US.
The details, including a list of countries, are due to be published on Wednesday and come into force by July 6. But Home Secretary Priti Patel – who established the quarantine regime which is now being dismantled and replaced by the ‘air bridge’ system – has indicated that negotiations on the start date for the new arrangements are still going on.
Speaking to Sky News’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday programme, Miss Patel said air bridges will be announced ‘in the next few days’ but said they ‘won’t come in overnight’.