Hello there and welcome to my latest Podcast, the last one for 2020!
Apart from the ravages of war-time, 2020 will go down as a year like no other; a year of disruption, of chaos, a time for self-reflection, much of it in isolation.
From February 2020, I found myself commenting extensively on Travel, or our lack of being able to travel, Consumer rights and refunds and what the future holds for Travel as a whole.
As we approach the end of the year, the focus has changed from COVID19 to Brexit.
In simple terms, the debate has now moved from Project Fear to Project reality and it is that reality that Travel Consumers will now have to face!
The best way to describe how you will travel from 1 January 2021, is by advising you that you will be travelling in the future, as we did, back in 1970!
Everything that you have taken for granted this past 45 years will disappear overnight and you will have to rethink all your plans on travel and what that means for your journey and expenditure.
As I wrote this Podcast, I didn’t just simply take the government’s word for it, because quite simply, for the last 10 years, they have provided gloss and inaction over key or substantial matters - there is a limit to how far we can fudge around the issues!
So I’ve taken my lead from the European Union, who have set out the changes to UK Citizens, starkly and transparently.
I am going to speak very briefly about rights and what will happen to them in the UK, but before I do, we need to talk about when we should expect to see Travel return to normality!
At each stage of the COVID journey, the Travel commentators and bloggers have come out of the woodwork to declare that ‘happy days are here again’, when in fact any such optimism has been short-lived. Take for example the announcement at the beginning of December, when we all welcomed the news of vaccines! But to read the papers, you’d have thought that we could all go out and book that 2 weeks in the sun, just in time for Christmas! Then along came the latest COVID variant and the out of control levels of sickness in London and the South-East, and that as they say, put paid to any notions of a return to normality.
Last March, I wrote a Podcast about how Summer 2020 may not happen and it was my considered opinion that the earliest we could perhaps get away would be around the end of July. That did happen to an extent, but it was pressured by other countries restrictions and a general public sense that they should stay at home.
As I write this, I see commentators suggesting that by April the 1st - perhaps it was a joke - we would be returning to Travel normality.
I wouldn’t go as far as that because, there are major challenges ahead on any vaccination programme along with the availability of vaccines. I think that at the earliest, a return to some form of Travel normality will be seen around the end of July and into August 2021. But that will depend on whether countries want proof of your vaccination and the manner of that proof; it will also depend on whether airlines and tour operators have opened up sufficient capacity. That’s my immediate prediction - I don’t expect to see a wide-ranging Travel normality until the end of 2021 and perhaps into the first quarter of 2022!
So, before any thoughts of Brexit, you should gird yourself for a few more staycations, perhaps?
But a word or two about Consumer Rights. From 11pm on 31 December 2020, all European Consumer Laws/Rights do not apply to the UK. However, the UK government promised that they would incorporate all Consumer Laws onto the UK Statute books. So whilst we may have some certainty concerning our Travel Rights, we should prepare for the likelihood that these incorporated laws will be watered down. I expect this to take place in the next 12 - 18 months and there will be a need for all Consumers to check and double check all Consumer Rights laws before they Travel. If however, you buy Travel Products from an EU based Travel Provider, the likelihood is that you will be able to rely on EU laws and enforcement procedures - again, you will need to check those laws, the company’s website and in particular, their terms and conditions!
But, getting away in this era of Brexit is very simply returning 21st Century holidaymakers back to the time of 1970, when we were all familiar with Travel obligations, which are now viewed as being restrictive from 1 January 2021!
The principle ‘restriction’ comes in the form of Passports:
- You will no longer be able to enjoy the Travel freedoms enjoyed by other European Citizens, because the wording on to of your current passport has been negated by Brexit;
- Your burgundy coloured passport will however remain valid until its expiry date;
- You will have to ensure however that your UK Passport was issued for 10 years and that you have at least six months validity on your passport when you arrive at your destination;
Arrival at your destination:
This will be different because up until 31 December 2020, you have been able to follow the EU Passports sign - that now ends:
- You will have to join the ‘other’ passports queue,
- Your passports should be stamped, and
- You should prepare for questions about the purpose of your stay and demonstrating that you have a return ticket and sufficient funds to manage your stay and whether you have adequate health and/or travel insurance!
- None of this should surprise you because that is how we have treated ‘other’ passports, when they have arrived in the UK!
- You should expect delays while you wait to enter your destination, but
- It is entirely possible that popular holiday destinations may create a different queuing system for UK passport holders.
Entry and Visas:
As part of the new restrictions, UK holidaymakers will be limited in the amount of time that they can stay in a destination and indeed within the European Union.
For many holidaymakers this is not key because their visits are limited to long weekends or the customary 2 week summer holiday!
Restrictions on stays will affect students and retired persons, both categories taking advantage of the long periods they could take outside the UK. If may also affect second-home owners if they do not hold a European Citizenship!
The rules are quite simple, on entry to a EU Member State, you will be permitted to stay there for 90 days in any period of 180 days - crossing over the border to another EU Member State will not restart the clock. If you breach the rule, you could be fined and barred from reentry for up to 12 months!
Another issue on the horizon concerns the new EU Visa - the ETIAS. This is not due to come into force until 2022 and is very similar in construction to the US ESTA system. The ETIAS will be required for all members of the family or a party visiting an EU country and is estimated to cost €7 and will last for 3 years. As a UK Citizen, you will have to ensure that when the ETIAS system comes online, that you apply for the visa, otherwise you will not be able to travel!
As the UK is now a 3rd party country, I would recommend that UK Citizens take photo-copies of their passports when travelling. They should carry the copy of their passports when visiting EU Countries (leaving the original document in the hotel safe). Holidaymakers should expect that they may be stopped and asked to produce identity documents - the photo-copies will help to mitigate what could be a difficult and unfamiliar situation. If this happens, keep calm, understand that rules have changed and remain polite at all times!
This has been the principle area of my concern!
The commentary up until Christmas Eve has been firmly focussed on UK Holidaymakers losing access to this valuable benefit. But let’s remember, access to health-care was with us through various schemes, notably the E1-11 form, which allowed access to treatment or a refund for medical treatment received. As the EU developed, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) was introduced, which allowed for a more efficient access to healthcare whilst on holiday.
The Trade Agreement has extended access to that scheme:
- If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is valid after 1 January 2021, then you will be able to continue to use that card, if you should need treatment up to its expiry date (Protocol of Social Security Coordination - Article SSC.17 - Page 1156);
- These provisions will continue for 15 years only, unless the protocol in the Trade Agreement is extended;
- The government has already stated that it intends to issue a Global Health Insurance Card, but there is no date when that is expected to be launched. I would also warn you that such a ‘Global’ card is very unlikely to be just that - Global!
- If you haven’t got a valid EHIC card, then you will need to ensure that you have fully comprehensive travel insurance before you travel - you may be asked to produce it at your port of entry!
- In any event, whatever the changes, irrespective of whether you have an EHIC card, I would strongly recommend that you carry with you fully comprehensive Travel Insurance, just in case there are difficulties in understanding the Trade Agreement!
There are many holidaymakers who take their cars or caravans abroad each year, giving them flexibility for wherever they stay!
But the following needs to be considered:
- You will need to ensure that your car and/or caravan has a GB sticker;
- Your UK-issued EU Driving licence will not be valid within the European Union. However, the licence will still be valid in the UK until its expiry. To use the driving licence in the European Union, you will need to obtain an International Driving Permit which will accompany your UK Driving Licence;
- You will also need to ensure that your car insurance comes with a ‘Green Card’ - this ensures that your UK Domestic Car Insurance is extended for your visits in the European Union.
This is a highly contentious area and one that is bound to attract misunderstandings and mistakes! It’s estimated that some 250k Britons take their pets abroad with them on holiday each year, so it’s important to understand some key changes:
- Firstly, the Blue Pet Passport and the Scheme that accompanied it will cease to exist for UK Citizens at 11pm on 31 December 2020!
- A new regime exists whereby that no less than 10 days before you intend to travel, you have to obtain an Animal Health Certificate (AHC);
- The AHC is valid for 10 days for entry into the EU or NI;
- The AHC is valid for 4 months in the EU, and
- Is valid for 4 months after issue for reentry for your pet back into the UK.
- Your animal must be microchipped;
- Your animal must be vaccinated against rabies (minimum age 12 weeks);
- If vaccinating for the first time, you have to wait 21 days before you can travel;
- To get your AHC you have to prove that your pet has been microchipped and be able to show your animal’s vaccination history/records;
- There are extra health treatments you will need to get for your dog if you intend to visit Finland, Norway, Malta, Republic of Ireland or NI;
- When you arrive in your destination, you will have to pass through a ‘Travellers Point of Entry’ (TPE) and produce your original AHC, proof of microchipping, vaccinations and any other treatment required!
- You need to have a new AHC for each new trip you take into the EU!
- On returning to the UK, there are currently no new health requirements, but you will be expected to produce your AHC if you are a returning UK Citizen from your holiday - there are other requirements for non-UK Citizens - note the UK will accept EU Pet Passports from visiting EU Citizens!
One aspect rarely discussed is the question of increased costs. For many years, the UK’s £ has been resting within the relatively sheltered waters of the Eurozone. As a 3rd party country, we should start to expect to see the UK £ becoming subject to the fluctuations of the market (we’ve seen that already since the referendum), and from currency speculations.
When you purchase a travel product, you are relying on the Travel Company having effectively hedged their bets on purchasing fuels or hotels at a rate that is advantageous to the deal you make. As the £’s rate will fluctuate, we should expect to see those fluctuations vary the prices we pay, not just for the holiday, but also for what we can afford in resort. I have already carried out an estimate as to what to expect in the prices you’ll pay for a holiday in the future. Now whilst there is some current Consumer Protection that helps with big increases, I’ve nonetheless predicted that for a family of 4 (Mom, Dad and 2 kids), they may have to pay an extra £840 for the same holiday they could have bought for less in 2016!
There is no comfort here because the Agreement makes no provision for these to continue apart from an aspiration that they will! Some companies have apparently stated that they will continue with not charging roaming charges, but this may be accompanied with extra charges outside of membership of the EU - check with your mobile telephone provider before you travel!
I was groaning as I was writing and now reading this during this Podcast!
Some are celebrating the return of Duty-Free! We live in such an interconnected world, it is likely that we can secure better deals online than what we can find at airports. In my view, the debate on duty-free is utter nonsense, particularly as UK Citizens have been used to their virtually ‘unlimited’ limits. I don’t intend to spend too much time of this, save to say, check your in-flight or travel magazine, because these should provide you with details of the up-to-the-minute limits.
I would give one word of caution however. From 1 January 2020, if you bring more than £380 of goods back into the UK, you will have to pay duty on them - no more buying that ring or watch you fancied!
So these are the key points that you need to bear in mind. You should research them beyond this Podcast and check and double check on your Travel obligations.
There are other issues that concern me about the nature of Aviation Regulation and Flight Safety, but that is the topic of another podcast you will be relieved to hear!
Travel was never meant to be like this. Back in 1970, it created a buzz, an excitement that you were heading off. But we’ve all moved on and have different expectations of the world around us. These changes won’t add anything to the holiday experience, just irritation and extra costs. But as with all things in life, the changes we are about to experience as UK holidaymakers are circular - One day we’ll return to the 21st Century!
Until then and the to next time I Podcast, I wish you all a very Happy and Safe New Year!
(This is the script for Frank's Podcast - Travel back to 1970! You can watch and listen to Frank's Podcast here. This text and podcast is subject to © 2020 and any reproduction of text, sound or video, in any form, requires written permission)