Britons have raced to secure trips to popular spots like Costa Del Sol and Menorca in the hopes of reduced coronavirus restrictions by the summer, MailOnline can reveal.
Reservations on rental cottages in the UK are 63 per cent higher than last year as others take the more cautious approach of planning a staycation amid tightening border restrictions in the UK.
Airlines have been encouraging potential holidaymakers to book their summer getaways this month - despite Priti Patel yesterday saying it is too soon to tell what the restrictions will be in the warmer months.
Last year restrictions were eased as cases fell when the mercury rose, but it is still unknown whether this year will follow a similar trajectory. At yesterday's coronavirus briefing, the Home Secretary said: 'It is is far too early in terms to speculate around restrictions, such as the point you just made should people be booking a holiday.'
But one travel agency founder told MailOnline he has seen a 300 per cent increase in bookings this month compared to November. Tom Harding at Nemo said: 'These are split between staycations from March, European trips from around June and longer haul from September.
'In the last few days there's been a definite increase in inquiries and bookings but everyone needs really flexible terms so we're offering cancellation up to a month before.'
Bathers enjoy the beach of La Malagueta, where Malaga and the province is in orange warning for high temperatures, on August 28, 2020. Airlines have been encouraging potential holidaymakers to book their summer getaways this month - despite Priti Patel yesterday saying it is too soon to tell what the restrictions will be in the warmer months
Last year restrictions were eased as cases fell when the mercury rose, but it is still unknown whether this year will follow a similar trajectory. At yesterday's coronavirus briefing, the Home Secretary said: 'It is is far too early in terms to speculate around restrictions, such as the point you just made should people be booking a holiday'
Potential holidaymakers said they were unsure whether their holidays could still go ahead, despite paying thousands to secure deals.
One holidaymaker, Sara Tye, from Swindon, told MailOnline: 'I booked four weeks in Marbella in July until August. I moved the one last year to this year and am now worried I will be doing this again. I have worked a whole year with no break like many others and we have a holiday in New York in June which I reckon I’ll be moving.'
Despite the uncertainty, one recent EasyJet advertisement has encouraged Britons to book now to make the most of cheap prices. It said: 'You deserve something to look forward to... We've got high hopes for this summer – we want as many of you as possible to get away on well-deserved getaways. Book now and save £50 per person on your next holiday.'
The advertisement, sent to customers in the form of an email, reassured those worried about coronavirus uncertainty that the bookings were 'super flexible'.
Heathrow airport have cancelled and stopped the use of the electronic passport gates. Instead they have made people who have travelled from multiple destinations queue in a system that doesn't allow for social distancing. Pictured, queues yesterday. Despite the uncertainty, one recent EasyJet advertisement encouraged Britons to book now
A health worker vaccinating a nursing home worker in Mahon, Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain, on December 30 last year
A Facebook page called My Party Holiday is rife with young people posting about booking their summer holidays. A note on the page reads: 'My Party Holiday offer the ultimate party holiday package for summer 2021. My Party holiday have picked the most popular party resorts Ibiza - Magaluf - Zante - Ayia Napa and added the best events on the island with top quality accommodation'
It added: 'Making travel plans should be exciting, not exhausting. That’s why easyJet holidays packages include flights, accommodation, 23kg of luggage per person and transfers on beach holidays.
'Our bookings are super flexible, too – you can make changes until 28 days before your departure, and our best price guarantee means you'll get unbeatable value.'
An EasyJet spokesman said: 'Vaccines are the key to unlocking travel and so with the promising progress with the roll out of the vaccine, we are looking forward to this enabling people to travel this summer. We know that our customers want to travel again and so we will be ready to ramp up and take people on a much-needed holiday as soon as we are able to.'
A Facebook page called My Party Holiday is rife with young people posting about booking their summer holidays. A note on the page reads: 'My Party Holiday offer the ultimate party holiday package for summer 2021. My Party holiday have picked the most popular party resorts Ibiza - Magaluf - Zante - Ayia Napa and added the best events on the island with top quality accommodation.
'To top that off My Party Holiday have added celebrity reps who will be partying with you for the whole holiday making it the ultimate party holiday not to be missed. 500 boys and 500 girls on one BIG My Party Holiday.'
A surfer makes their way into the sea off of Boscombe beach in Dorset before sunrise this morning. Provider Forest Holidays, which offers cottages and cabins in forests across the country, said it is ‘currently 63 per cent ahead of where they would expect to be for bookings in 2021’
Yesterday, 1,290 deaths were recorded from coronavirus in the UK - as it was revealed 37,892 people had tested positive with with disease in the last 24 hours.
How would 'quarantine hotels' and GPS tracking work?
Ministers are scrambling to upgrade the border quarantine system amid fears the rules are being flouted.
Civil servants have been ordered to study the 'managed isolation' arrangements used by countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
Under those schemes, arrivals from abroad must stay in quarantine hotels for 14 days at their own expense.
Passengers are transferred direct from airports to the hotels, and largely confined to their rooms - with the authorities monitoring to check no-one leaves.
The systems have been credited with stopping Covid cases being imported.
However, some airlines have stopped flying to Australia and New Zealand as the routes are not sustainable - with many citizens stranded abroad as a result.
Officials have also looked at the arrangements in Poland, where isolating individuals face 'enhanced monitoring'.
That includes being contacted once a day and made to send a picture of themselves at the location where they are meant to be quarantining.
The pictures are validated using facial-recognition technology and GPS data.
However, the option is thought to have been rejected as too intrusive and difficult to implement on scale.
Yet Awaze, which owns two of the UK’s biggest holiday cottage booking sites Hoseasons and Cottages.com, told Which? that bookings are up 52 per cent for Whitsun week compared to the same time last year.
Provider Forest Holidays, which offers cottages and cabins in forests across the country, also said it is ‘currently 63 per cent ahead of where they would expect to be for bookings in 2021.’
Rebecca Berzins, a travel counsellor, told potential holidaymakers 'now is the time to be booking your 2021 summer holiday' in a Facebook post.
She wrote: 'Prices are low at the moment with lots of free kids places available and early booking offers to be had. Yesterday I booked a young family holiday to the Zafiro Hotel in Menorca for travel in August.
'All holidays are ATOL protected and secured with a low deposit. I know we're all hoping Covid restrictions will be eased by the summer but you can book now with peace of mind knowing that if they're not you'll have me at the end of the phone to take care of things.
'If government restrictions mean that you cannot travel then you'll get your money back. So what are you waiting for? Book now and give yourself something to look forward to.'
It comes as it was today claimed ministers are in talks with hotel chains over plans to force UK arrivals to quarantine at airports. Travellers could be prevented from using their own accommodation under the proposals being put together by the government. Using GPS tags to ensure compliance is also believed to have been considered.
The draconian 'quarantine hotel' system, similar to that used in Australia and New Zealand, is a prospect amid rising fears about the spread of Covid variants around the globe.
Arrivals would potentially have to pay for their stays while they self-isolate for 10 days, or even a fortnight. There are reports today that negotiations are already taking place with hotel chains, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was in favour.
The powerful Covid O Cabinet sub-committee is due to discuss the ideas over the coming days - although a final decision is not likely until next week.
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary George has refused to rule out even more drastic action, with foreigners barred from coming to the UK altogether.
Asked about the possibility, Mr Eustice told Sky News: 'We always keep these things under review. And it has been considered.
Huge queues prompted anger from passengers and questions over the number of staff at work. Britain's airports are already struggling to cope with demand, with passengers queuing for hours yesterday to get through passport control at Heathrow as the border situation worsened
'There is concern at the moment about the number of mutant strains.'
Any new restrictions would be a further blow to the beleaguered travel industry and put the holiday plans of millions at risk.
Britain's airports are already struggling to cope with demand, with passengers queuing for hours yesterday to get through passport control at Heathrow as the border situation worsened.
The lines were so long staff were said to have handed out free water to exhausted travellers just hours after the Home Office insisted there were no staffing issues and people were moving through in 'good time'.
Rishi Sunak's Treasury and Grant Shapps' Department for Transport are pushing against new travel measures over the 'severe' impact they would have on aviation, one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, and the wider economy.
But Priti Patel and Matt Hancock are eager to enforce harsher rules to stop mutant strains from entering the country, potentially undermining the vaccine operation.
Amid growing doubts over the summer holiday season, the Cabinet's Covid operations committee will thrash out how to tighten border controls. Passengers are pictured queuing at Heathrow Airport on Thursday
Options on the table include imposing the 'quarantine hotels' for all arrivals, or for 'high risk' countries. The 'test and release' scheme, under which people can cut their isolation to five days by having a second test, could also be suspended.
But one senior source told The Telegraph: 'Once in place, the restrictions would be difficult to exit, as Australia and New Zealand have found and their economies are suffering as a result. Nor have their quarantines and managed self-isolation proved watertight.'
Marriott today denied that was in talks with the government about using its hotels for quarantine.
World Health Organisation Health systems development consultant Alvaro Garbayo was so infuriated with the chaos at Heathrow he attempted to contact Matt Hancock on Twitter to complain.
He asked him: 'Border control at Heathrow a complete mess, a crowd queuing for more than one hour with not enough space to keep safe distance. Just making sure we all get infected before entering UK? Proactively pushing for herd immunity?
'And just to make it more likely they hand over water for free so people remove their masks. No special arrangements for people with children, people with disabilities, elders... and we get surprised with our numbers?'
The self-service e-gates at Heathrow Airport are currently closed - with border guards having to check all paperwork and passports manually.
A Home Office spokeswoman said on Wednesday: 'Border Force has the necessary staff needed to fulfil its vital function of keeping the border secure and protecting the public.
'Even with the increased Border Force spot checks on arrival, with passengers liable for a fine of £500 for failing to comply with the new rules, the vast majority of people have been moving through the UK border in good time.'