Support British tourism and holiday in Yorkshire this year – Andrew Vine

MY inbox is filling up with emails from every budget airline I’ve ever flown to book a holiday abroad without delay, with discounts being scattered about like confetti.

Planes on the runway at Leeds Bradford Airport.

Thanks, but no thanks. I’m as fond as the next person of a couple of weeks of guaranteed sunshine and leisurely dinners eaten overlooking the Mediterranean or Aegean, but not this year.

It’s just too soon, after all that has happened. The prospect of having to go through the tortuous security process at an airport with the added delays that social distancing will inevitably cause is a complete turn-off. So is the thought of wearing a mask for hours on a plane.

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But there’s more to it than that. The shambles that the EU has made of the Continent’s vaccination programme should make some of its most popular destinations off-limits to any sensible holidaymaker this year.

Columnist Andrew Vine will resist the temptation to fly to the Algarve this summer.

Though sorry for the people who rely on tourists for their living in places like Spain and Greece – disgracefully let down by a lumbering and arrogant European bureaucracy – Britons should steer clear for their own sake.

And if they aren’t likely to do so voluntarily, then the best thing for all concerned is for flights to remain grounded.

I’m no fan of excessive authoritarianism by the Government on what people can or can’t do, but in this instance if it decreed that the ban on foreign holidays is to be extended to cover the peak period of the school summer break, I’d be in favour.

Though by then the bulk of the adult population will have had at least their first Covid vaccination, it seems too much like tempting fate to go leaping feet-first into countries where rates of infection remain disturbingly high and governments struggle to bring the pandemic under control.

Andrew Vine is looking forward to a stroll along Scarborough's beach later this year.

It doesn’t make any sense for us to hand-wash obsessively and splash around gallons of sanitiser every time we enter a supermarket, only to bowl up at hotels or apartments in what remain Covid hot-spots.

We already know to our cost the potential for people coming into the country to spark new surges of infection, and the prospect of returning plane-loads of holidaymakers resulting in another ghastly autumn and winter of lockdown is just too awful to contemplate.

One glaring failure of the Government’s response to the first wave of Covid last year was its perplexing refusal to place any restrictions on the masses of air passengers arriving in Britain every day and then fanning out across the country.

Who knows how many new cases of coronavirus were spread by them? It would surely be folly to allow a boom in foreign travel at least for the next few months until the effects of vaccination and the gradual easing of domestic restrictions can be properly judged.

The cautious exit from three months of restrictions began only yesterday, and though all the signs are that the country is at long last heading in the right direction, bitter experience should have taught us to be risk-averse.

Caution was thrown to the winds last summer, and Britain’s people paid the price later in the year, too many with their lives.

That mustn’t happen again. People will understandably want to throw off whatever shackles of restrictions they can this Easter weekend, especially if the weather is good, but at least they won’t be gathering indoors at pubs and restaurants, or boarding flights.

Home – as in Britain – should be where the heart is for all of us hoping for some sort of break later this year after enforced isolation from those we love and the places we cherish.

I’m yearning less for a beach on the Algarve than a stretch of sands on our own coastline, the freedom to wander at will, being able to go into a pub or finding somewhere to eat.

To be able to spend time with family and friends that I haven’t seen in a year trumps everything else.

Losing that freedom again as a result of a wave of infections arriving from abroad on package-holiday flights would be completely dispiriting.

There’s another reason to stay in Britain, beyond personal and public safety. It’s to support all those in our own tourism industry who have endured such a torrid and potentially ruinous year.

Whatever I can afford to spend on a break is going to go into the pockets of people at the seaside, in the countryside, in the towns and cities that have been out of bounds for a day out for what seems like much longer than three months.

It’s perfectly understandable that people weary after months of restrictions are itching to get away, to board a plane and see reality recede for a couple of weeks as it takes off.

But this isn’t the time. Next year, probably. For now, though, best to stay in Britain and enjoy the freedom that has been so hard-won.

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