Mixed messages leaving holidaymakers flummoxed as they get caught in travel 'pandemonium'

Feeling confused, stressed or even guilty? Well, you might just be planning to go on holiday over the next few weeks.

Holiday plans have been thrown into chaos.
Holiday plans have been thrown into chaos.

The Government's decision to remove Portugal from its 'green' list of countries Brits can travel to without needing to quarantine when they come back - just weeks after putting it on - has thrown plans of thousands of holidaymakers into chaos.

Those who were already on the Atlantic coast and either could not or did not want to quarantine were forced to scramble home at short notice before the latest rules came into effect.

There were also thousands of others who, having seen Portugal given the green light, naturally went and booked a holiday a few weeks down the line. Again, those wanting to avoid quarantining had to postpone or cancel those plans.

For the travel industry, the decision was yet another blow following a year when it has struggled to keep getting up off the canvas.

Critics said it was more evidence of the Government's flip-flopping over Covid, while ministers insisted they had seen something in the data requiring immediate action to protect the UK.

What isn't in doubt is the decision to remove Portugal from the 'green' list so quickly after putting it on will have dented confidence among would-be holidaymakers.

How can they be sure if Spain and Greece go on they won't come off again a few weeks down the line?

Holidaying this summer has been made complicated.

And this is all bad news for travel agents desperately trying to reassure wavering customers.

It is still possible to travel to 'amber' countries but those wanting to do so will have to quarantine when they return and pay for more stringent testing.

While it isn't illegal to visit 'amber' countries, the Government has made it clear they frown upon it, again adding to the confusion around foreign travel.

Peter Bruno, travel manager for Your Co-op Travel Walsall and Bloxwich, based at Crown Wharf Shopping Park, said: "I have got customers who have booked, one as close as this Sunday, and are making alternative plans. I've got some friends who are out in Portugal who scrambled to get flights home.

"For us, if they haven't travelled yet the tour operators have provided us with great levels of flexibility so we can pretty much move things around for them.

"In some cases those holidays are still going ahead but the customers won't all necessarily be able to self-isolate when they return or choose to pay for those additional testing requirements.

"Most have changed their plans or are in the process of changing them and the flexibility we've got makes all of the difference that they can, in some cases right up until 48 hours before. The majority are definitely deciding to change those plans."

Peter Bruno, travel manager for Your Co-op Travel Walsall and Bloxwich.

Mr Bruno said the decision to remove Portugal from the list so quickly after it was put on had not helped travel agents. There was frustration over the lack of warning, despite ministers having previously promised to put countries of concern on a 'green watch list' before coming off.

He said: "The traffic light system, to me, does feel unnecessarily complicated but that said the Government is the one tasked with these difficult decisions. They've got to make sure the health and wellbeing of the UK population is its priority.

"For me it would be good if there was more transparency behind some of their decision making and how they made those decisions.

"So, for example the green watch list, which was praised in mid-May in how that will stop people being caught out, that yo-yo effect, but actually the first incident (Portugal) was a yo-yo effect so that isn't what happened. And it just causes pandemonium."

Constant warnings from ministers that people should not really be travelling abroad this summer - despite it not being illegal to do so - have also caused anger among senior figures in the travel industry.

Mr Bruno believes these mixed messages have only added to the confusion, and in some cases, guilt among people wishing to get away.

He said: "We've been able to transition those bookings with ease for the customers but the ones that weren't and our determined to travel this summer, when they hear things like that from the Government they might begin to waver."

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