TUI AG (LON:TUI), easyJet PLC (LON:EZJ) and other travel company shares were back in choppy waters on Friday after the UK government brought in new coronavirus quarantine restrictions on arrivals from France.
France, along with Monaco, Malta, the Netherlands, Turks and Caicos and Aruba, will be added to the UK's quarantine list from 4am on Saturday, ministers revealed overnight.
Travellers returning from those countries must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Britain, with a similar ban having been imposed on Spain late last month, with Belgium and Luxembourg also added since.
Downing Street said the countries has been removed from the list of ‘travel corridors’ because of a “significant increase in COVID-19 risk,” and asked “employers to be understanding”.
France, which is Britain’s second most-visited country with around half a million Britons currently thought to be on holiday there, said it will introduce similar measures for visitors to the UK returning to France.
The UK also advised against all but essential travel to France.
EasyJet, which operates more than 150 flights a week between the UK and France, said that it still plans to operate its full schedule in the coming days but that customers can switch their flights or receive a voucher,
Eurotunnel operator Getlink warned customers not to just turn up without a booking: "The service is already very busy this weekend and there is no additional capacity. To avoid long queues and severe disruption we strongly advise against turning up at the terminal outside the allocated time. Customers will be unable to board alternative shuttles without a valid booking.
"We will continue to run our services as scheduled, as we did throughout the height of the pandemic; not only for freight but to transport those whose travel is essential and those customers who might be travelling to other European destinations."
One in five British adults has cancelled their travel plans because of the possibility of having to self-isolate at home for 14 days after travelling abroad. They were asked by @ONS before the latest quarantine decision on France, the Netherlands, Malta, etc. #Quarantine pic.twitter.com/BinVbSg3zE— Rob Young (@robyounguk) August 14, 2020
Shares in WH Smith (LON:WHSM) and SSP Group (LON:SSPG), which both rely on airports for much of their business, were 6% and 4% lower respectively.
Market analyst Neil Wilson at Markets.com said: “The move will force a large swathe of cancellations right at the peak of the summer holiday season for one of the largest markets for UK tourists.
“Apart from the immediate damage this will do at the height of the school holidays and peak summer season, the quarantine decision also underlines the inherent risk you take in booking a holiday abroad right now, which will do nothing for consumer confidence.”
The problem for the airlines, said Russ Mould at AJ Bell, “is that people’s desire for a break in the sun may be outweighed by their fear of the logistical challenges of holing up for two weeks when they get back”.
“This decision will feel particularly painful as it comes at the height of the UK holiday season and the question now becomes just how long the likes of EasyJet, Ryanair and British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines can continue under these conditions.
“It appears summer 2020 will be something of a write off, the industry cannot afford for the same to be true in 12 months.
“And yet until there is a vaccine, the recovery from the coronavirus is likely to be patchy with the risk of travel restrictions between countries when there are localised flare ups.”