Abta joins transatlantic lobbying for borders to reopen

Agents on both sides of the Atlantic are calling on legislators to recognise the value of Covid vaccines and to open up travel between North America and Europe.

Senior figures from agency associations in the UK, US, Canada and Europe were united in their message to governments to allow the resumption of travel, especially for vaccinated travellers, to ensure the survival of their sector.

Speaking on a Facebook Live debate – organised by the American Society of Travel Advisors (Asta) – Graeme Buck, Abta’s director of communications, said: “Government policy has not helped deliver meaningful recovery.

“The UK has opened up far less quickly than the rest of Europe despite our vaccinations being ahead.

“We want rules fit for purpose so more people can travel and we can trade more.”

He said uncertainty about the multiple changes to rules makes travelling “unwieldy and untenable”, adding: “Government policy is making a difficult situation worse.”

He said associations such as Abta and its counterparts in Europe and North America must keep lobbying politicians and amplifying their message in the media.

“More consistency across the borders will build more confidence,” he said, highlighting the benefits allowing of fully-vaccinated people to travel more freely.

Zane Kerby, chief executive of Asta, also called on his peers on either side of the Atlantic to keep lobbying.

He said 175 million US citizens are now inoculated against Covid-19 but they are being treated as if they are still unvaccinated, he told the debate.

“[The US government] has to follow their own science,” he said, calling for a two-tier system with different rules for the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

“We have to be bombarding legislators,” he commented.

“We can apply pressure and help goverments see that restarting travel is in their interests.

“We should use our collective voice.”

Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, highlighted how harmonisation of regulations was important, especially as many Canadians have received mixed doses of vaccines, such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

“It is important for governments to manage risk rather than having us shuttered for next five years,” she said.

Eric Dresin, secretary-general of Ectaa, which represents the national associations of travel agents and tour operators in Europe, highlighted how Sweden and the Netherlands have now effectively banned leisure travellers from the US.

He urged the industry to speak with a single voice and pointed to the value of the EU’s Digital Health Certificate as a way to help more travel open up.

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