France emerged as the most likely candidate to offer Britain its first foreign holiday deal this summer.
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Boris Johnson and French leader Emmanuel Macron have vowed to help each other save their tourist sectors.
Spain, Portugal Greece and Australia could also soon follow — with all declaring that they will be ready to receive British tourists by July.
Ministers are hopeful of negotiating deals for safe air bridges and sea corridors with other countries with similarly low level of infections by the first review point, June 29.
But Brits were warned not to rush out and book just yet.
Home Secretary Priti Patel insisted it was “not about booking holidays right now”.
But she said: “When it comes to air bridges, we should be absolutely open to all ideas.
'IT'S GOING TO TAKE TIME'
“This is not for today but it doesn’t mean we should rule this out for the future.
“We should be looking to lead the world when it comes to reopening aviation but that’s going to take time.”
Downing Street also held open the hope of foreign holidays this summer. The PM’s official spokesman said: “The FCO’s current advice is against all but essential travel.
"As the Transport Secretary said in the week, the Government is looking at the air bridge idea.”
Spain indicated it could start welcoming Brits back from July.
Madrid said it would look to strike safe corridor deals with countries that have similar rates of infection to its own.
Neighbouring Portugal yesterday announced tourists were welcome again as of today and no quarantine would be imposed on people arriving by plane.
The two countries follow Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Malta, which all want to open again to visitors as soon as possible.
European countries are almost certain to demand exemptions for their own citizens in return for tourism pacts with the UK.
The Spanish environment minister Teresa Ribera said international visitors might be allowed as soon as the country’s lockdown is lifted.
She said one way forward would be to strike travel deals with countries with a coronavirus R-rate of 0.3 or less.
She said: “We would know that statistically the probability of a person being infected would be about the same in the destination and the origin.”
The UK’s infection rate is higher than Spain’s, at between 0.7 and one, but numbers of cases and deaths are falling
Spain’s Canary Islands wants to welcome a trial group of British tourists in July to test new technology and social distancing rules before fully reopening.
Brussels has said travel restrictions might be lifted first between regions with low infection rates.
'CASH FOR HOLIDAYS'
Britain is imposing its two-week quarantine rules just as countries across Europe are getting ready to scrap or loosen theirs.
Bulgaria has announced it is dropping restrictions for visitors from the EU travelling for business or humanitarian reasons.
Earlier this month, Spain surprised neighbours by introducing a quarantine — but Ms Ribera suggested it would soon be scrapped.
France and Germany have both exempted Europeans including Brits from their schemes, with Italy set to follow suit on June 3.
Greece has also offered to grant UK tourists a waiver from its requirements as long as the UK reciprocates.
Meanwhile, a UK tourism expert reckons Brits should be given cash to spend on holidays at home this summer.
Visit Britain Acting CEO Patricia Yates believes the measure could boost struggling businesses.
In Italy, the government is offering to give lower-income families up to €500 to take a holiday in their own country this year.
Asked about whether the UK should follow Italy’s lead, Ms Yates told Sun Online Travel: “For every country, kickstarting the domestic market is really important and Italy has gone with that idea.
“It is an interesting suggestion for us, if we look at what others are doing.
“So we could be looking at marketing campaigns or yes, you could give money straight to people and incentivise them to holiday at home.”
Tourist firms really need it
Lisa Minot, Travel Editor
THE borders may be closing but there could be light at the end of the tunnel for all those desperate to get away on holiday this summer.
While we’re now subject to a two-week quarantine from June 8 it was made clear by Priti Patel that the rules would be reviewed on a regular basis.
And that gives rise to the hope that once the initial three weeks is up, other options will make July or August holidays a possibility.
Air bridges or agreements with our favourite European neighbours may still be a reality when the rules are relaxed – and could lead to at least some of our holidays being possible later in July and August.
We can only pray that the rules are followed and we can begin to lift restrictions – our embattled tourist industry is in desperate need of it.
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