Travel Industry Alliance calls on select committee to demand traffic light clarity

The Travel Industry Alliance has urged the transport select committee to call the transport secretary to explain why the government will not publish the full methodology and data behind its classification of countries under the traffic light system.

The group of industry associations has written to the committee’s chair, Conservative MP Huw Merriman, to demand that Grant Shapps explains why the full reports cannot be made public.

The call echoes the case made by lawyers acting for Manchester Airport Group (MAG), who argued in the High Court that the government’s review of the traffic light system for international travel was unlawful. A ruling on that case is still due.

Danny Callaghan, TIA chair, said: “The refusal to publish this is particularly frustrating because all the actual data is in the public domain – case rates, vaccination rates, etc. – yet one would think we were asking for state secrets or confidential sources.

“It is of huge importance that consumers and travel professionals have visibility on what drives an individual destination’s grading.”

He added that new rules for those returning from amber list destinations and the subsequent decision to insist on 10-day quarantine for arrivals from France created “a whole new problem” for the industry.

“As we saw on Friday night, the government are changing the rules at the drop of a hat, with the ‘amber-plus’ rules that have been invented for France,” he said. “Are we really saying that a family of four on holiday in, for example Spain, could suddenly find themselves on the red list with a bill for thousands of pounds for managed quarantine?

“We urgently need visibility on whether an amber country is at the ‘green end’ of the scale or verging on red.”

Callaghan added: “Questioning of the secretary of state for transport inevitably results in his statement that the information is on the .gov website. Whilst there is a small amount of information available, it is far from comprehensive and offers no opportunity for those of us in the travel trade to understand the methodology.

“As a result, we have asked that the secretary of state be called before the transport select committee to explain why this information cannot be published.

“I think we have all but given up hope of the methodology itself being published, but it would be nice to at least know why it can’t be published and why the travel industry is being left in the dark.”

The TIA’s letter to Merriman came as other industry bodies added their weight to criticism of the government’s approach.

Speaking about the decision to increase re-impose restrictions for arrivals from France, SPAA president Joanne Dooey said: “We’re way beyond U-turns now. In 2020, we described the sudden changes of direction with travel corridors as being like the hokey cokey, as we didn’t know from one minute to the next if a country was in or out.

“Now it’s like some surreal game of Jenga or Twister – but at least those games have rules. We’ve been asking repeatedly for the data on which the decisions are being made. It’s only fair that the public understands the rules and the justification for these confusing and costly pronouncements and U-turns.”

She added: “Where do testing and vaccination fit in? How can we move to a reasonable and meaningful return to international travel? Or are our governments simply shutting the door on the travel sector and the significant financial contribution it makes to the Scottish economy, the jobs it provides and the role it plays in making a small country like Scotland have a global impact?”

Virginia Messina, senior vice-president of the WTTC, said: “International travel remains either off limits or frustratingly difficult for many. This means the door to significant overseas travel still remains effectively closed, especially following the new ‘amber list-plus status’ for France which caused such chaos last week.

“We need international travel; economically, socially and emotionally. Our pent-up desire to travel remains undimmed, and we must take advantage of the hugely successful vaccine rollout to safely resume it.

“We hope the UK government will extend these revived domestic ‘freedoms’ to include the freedom to travel safely internationally, so we can reconnect with the world and harness all the benefits that it brings to us as individuals, and collectively to the travel & tourism sector and the country.”

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