More than two-thirds of people – 68% – have not booked any summer holiday this year, and most of those who have fear they may have to cancel or rearrange, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer.
The message that “we’re not going on a summer holiday” this year rings out loudly from the survey, which suggests the vast majority of people have reconciled themselves to either staying put at home, or taking some limited form of break in the UK.
Over recent days, government ministers have gone out of their way to dampen down public expectations about foreign breaks, saying they believe it is “extremely unlikely” that overseas holidays will be permitted in the near future because of the dangers of people returning with coronavirus variants to the UK.
And on Sunday, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said he was doubtful over the resumption of non-essential international travel and acknowledged all legal restrictions may not end in June as was hoped, after a government adviser raised concerns about the full relaxation timetable.
Foreign holidays are currently not allowed, and returning travellers have to quarantine. Under the current plans for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England could holiday abroad would be 17 May. A government taskforce will report to the prime minister on 12 April to discuss when and how international travel can resume.
Dowden said “all options” were being considered when asked about a possible system that could allow shorter quarantine periods with greater testing for countries deemed less risky. But he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge there were “challenges around international travel”, pointing towards rising infection rates in Europe.
People are pessimistic about the chances of foreign holidays resuming any time soon. Asked when they thought they would be able to go on a foreign break again, only 5% said August, normally the most popular month. Some 33% of people said they believed they would not be able to take a holiday abroad until 2022.
Among those who have booked UK holidays this summer, the most popular options are rented cottages in the countryside or by the sea (44%) followed by rural or seaside Airbnbs. Only 13% have opted for city breaks.
Asked what they have missed most during the pandemic, 63% said it was seeing friends and family. Some 44% said they missed going on holidays, 42% eating in restaurants and 26% missed going to the pub.
The poll gives the Conservatives a four-point lead over Labour on voting intention. This is a slight drop (by two points) from two weeks ago. The Tories currently stand on 41% of the vote, with Labour unchanged on 37%.
Meanwhile, both Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer have seen their approval ratings drop. Johnson now has a net approval of +1, down from +7 two weeks ago, with 42% approving of the job he is doing (-2) while 41% disapprove (+3). Starmer’s approval is now -5, down from +5, and 30% approve of the job he is doing (-4) while 35% disapprove (+6).
In addition, public approval of the government’s handling of coronavirus has also fallen, with 39% approving (-2) and 44% disapproving (+3).
Adam Drummond, head of political polling at Opinium, said: “As we head into a crucial set of local elections, it looks like the polling might be beginning to settle down. Rather than the dramatic swings we saw for a lot of 2021, our research is now consistently showing a small Conservative lead off the back of the recent vaccine bounce.
“We’ve seen how quickly the polls can change, but given how far the government’s numbers dropped last year, they will be happy to be coming out of the pandemic ahead, particularly given the number of seats up for grabs this May.”