The Foreign Office has come under ridicule from specialist travel association Aito as it lifted its advice against all but essential travel for more than 30 countries and territories.
Some of the countries and nations involved are former war zones, most could not easily be pinpointed on a map, and the vast majority don’t have much, if any, holiday infrastructure to speak of, Aito argued.
The list issued by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office includes Algeria; Armenia; Bangladesh; Belarus; Benin; Comoros; Tokelau & Niue; Djibouti; Equatorial Guinea; Fiji; Gambia; Guinea; Kazakhstan; Kiribati; Kosovo; Liberia; Madagascar; Malaysia; Marshall Islands; Micronesia; Nauru; São Tomé and Príncipe; Senegal; Solomon Islands; Togo; Tonga; Tuvalu; Vanuatu; Congo; America Samoa; French Polynesia; and Ghana.
Aito chairman Chris Rowles said: “Is this a joke in extremely poor taste?
“The FCDO can only attract ridicule when it claims that it is ‘striking the right balance between keeping people safe, which remains our priority, and giving them the freedom to exercise personal responsibility, while supporting the travel sector as it continues to recover’and then names destinations such as Algeria, Belarus, Djibouti, Liberia and Congo.
“They are not destinations on the majority of holidaymakers’ lists, quite frankly.
“And who knows, without Googling or checking a map with a good index where Tokelau & Niue sit on the globe?
“The ivory towers in which the FCDO is based, remote from the real world, might have given them altitude sickness – how else to explain such a singularly bonkers statement?
“Gambia (pictured) is one of the few places on the list within a five/six-hour flight to which holidaymakers might reasonably travel for winter sunshine; the rest are extremely long-haul, challenging journeys which simply won’t merit a tick on the majority of travellers’ wish lists.”
The comments came as ministers are due to meet to cut the number of red list destinations with a possible decision today (Thursday).
Aito hopes that the Department for Transport and the FCDO will align and add some more “palatable destinations” to the approved list within the next very few days, as promised at a briefing with stakeholders on Monday.
Rowles added: “If we can help [foreign secretary] Liz Truss and [transport secretary] Grant Shapps with some suggestions – perhaps well-established destinations such as those in Latin America, Africa and Asia, which are already open to many other nationalities, and which have good infrastructure – they have but to let us know.”
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “The often contradictory advice and rules on where you should and shouldn’t travel to from different government departments have been difficult for travellers to understand and navigate.
“This move, which creates a more unified set of rules, is welcome news for those hoping to book holidays or visit friends and family abroad.
“It remains crucial to also check the rules of entry of the country you are travelling to, as several retain restrictions on entry by UK residents as well as having specific rules on the need for tests if you are unvaccinated.
“This is especially important with the half-term holidays fast-approaching and many under-18s in the UK being unvaccinated. If you don’t meet the entry requirements of the country you are travelling to, you won’t be able to board the plane or get your money back.”
Advantage Travel Partnership chef executive Julia Lo Bue-Said tweeted: “With over 85% of adults now vaccinated, we are urging the government to go further than the changes made earlier this month.
“Scrap the red list altogether, scrap the ineffective testing requirements and let us get on with the business of travel.”