I wonder how many people are seriously planning to go on holiday to southern Europe this coronavirus summer. Will warnings of the feared second wave simply conjure up pictures of invigorating surf crashing onto a sun-kissed beach?
There will doubtless be those who see two weeks on the Costas as a risk worth taking after enduring months of lockdown in Liverpool or social distancing in Doncaster. Going by recent emails from Ryanair and Jet2 there’ll clearly be no shortage of deals to choose from, although the threat of having to self-isolate for 14 days on return – or at least through June and perhaps July too – will act as a deterrent.
I reckon most of us will not be cheerfully whistling that old Cliff Richard hit “We’re all going on a summer holiday” and getting on a plane when some of the restrictions are eased. The whole air travel experience is simply not conducive to the way we are now accustomed to behaving in order to save our lives. Queues through passport controls and security checks have already been getting longer and more time-consuming year after year, so imagine what they will be like if you have to build into them two metre or just one metre gaps.
Add the problem of social distancing in airport shops, bars and cafés. At least two in three departure lounge seats would have to be put out of use to observe current rules, making the wait for flights a thoroughly miserable experience for many. Then there’s the queues at departure gates, and the issue of how you can feel safe in an aircraft cabin with constantly recirculating air. It’s a holiday in hell even before you’ve left the runway.
Last year UK residents each had 9.8 nights abroad and spent £48 billion. Spain was by far the most popular country, drawing 15.62 million of us, with France (8.56m) and Italy (4.16m) the next most popular destinations. So for argument’s sake imagine at least half of all this business going to destinations in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
It points to the sort of domestic holiday experience not seen since the 1970s, more than two decades before the portmanteau word “staycation” entered the language, and could lead to the long-overdue renaissance of the British seaside, complete with ice creams and fish ’n’ chips. Perhaps we will see the reinvention of less-favoured places like Withernsea and Hornsea on the Yorkshire coast – their heyday just a sepia-tinted memory – and the pace of revival at resorts like New Brighton and Morecambe begin to accelerate.
For years I have shown my age with younger members of my family by declaring that you just can’t beat the UK coast on a good day. Seriously, when the sun is out I would rather walk along that fine sweep of sand in Filey Bay towards the gleaming chalk cliffs of Bempton than be on any beach I can remember seeing in Spain or Greece.
Inland, there are plenty of holiday options too. It could be a bumper summer for the Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales, with honeypots like Langdale and Malham experiencing crowds not seen for half a century. Elsewhere the possibilities are endless, and I have it on the highest authority that the place to be seen this year is the picturesque north Pennines town of Barnard Castle.