Holidaymakers from England will be able to travel to Portugal and Israel from later this month under new guidelines issued by the government.
Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Iceland and St Helena are also on the ‘green’ list revealed today by transport secretary, Grant Shapps.
Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and the Faroe Islands, as well as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, complete the list.
Shapps said: “Today marks the first step in our cautious return to international travel, with measures designed above all else to protect public health and ensure we don’t throw away the hard-fought gains we’ve all strived to earn this year.
“This is a new way of doing things, and people should expect travel to be different this summer – with longer checks at the borders, as part of tough measures to prevent new strains of the virus entering the country and putting our fantastic vaccine rollout at risk.”
Travellers visiting countries on the approved list will not face quarantine on their return to the UK, but they will need to take a Covid-19 test before and after their trip.
Currently, people in England face fines for holidaying abroad, and must have a valid reason for foreign travel, with changes to come into effect from May 17th.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not said when they might ease their strict travel rules.
Countries will be categorised based on their number of Covid-19 cases and the success of vaccine rollouts.
Sharon Bershadsky, director of the Israel Tourist Office, UK, said: “The news that Israel is one of the few countries included in the British ‘green List’ of approved travel destinations is a source of great pride for us.
“Both countries have worked hard to push back the tide of the pandemic and we look forward to welcoming returning friends and new visitors alike from across the world in late May.
“As part of our roadmap for reopening we will welcome tour groups as part of an initial pilot, and by July we hope that our skies will be open to individual travellers.”
Arrivals from amber countries will need to quarantine, while red countries have the strictest rules, with only UK or Irish nationals, or UK residents, allowed to return.
Travellers from these countries must also pay for a ten-day stay in a government quarantine hotel.
Turkey, Maldives and Nepal have today been added to the existing red list.
Shapps said the lists will be reviewed every three weeks, informed by public health advice, including the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s assessment of the latest data.
Commenting on the news, UKinbound chief executive, Joss Croft, said: “Confirmation that non-essential international travel will reopen on May 17th is a positive step forward and will be celebrated across the sector, but our industry cannot afford another false dawn and a stop-start recovery.
“The sparsity of countries on the green list and notable absence of the United States and much of Europe, along with the cost of testing and the continuation of quarantine measures, present further devastating barriers to business for the inbound tourism industry, which sustains over 500,000 jobs and would normally generate £28 billion annually for the UK economy.”
Among the notable absences from the approved list was the United States.
In response to the decision, Gloria Guevera, chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), said: “We welcome this first initial step by the UK government to begin opening the door to international travel with the announcement of today’s ‘traffic light’ system.
“However, airlines and the wider tourism sector will be hugely disappointed that the United States, which has a similar vaccination success rate has not been included on the ‘green list’ as it would have enabled the resumption of transatlantic travel.
“While we understand that protecting public health should be the priority, the UK is being too cautious and risks losing its hard-won competitive advantage achieved by the early vaccine rollout by being too slow to allow the significant resumption of international travel.”