Travel trade says quarantine-free travel removes ‘significant barrier’

Introducing quarantine-free travel for arrivals from amber list countries from July 19 represents the removal of a “very significant barrier” for international travel, the trade says.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed the date in the House of Commons today, after confirming last month that the policy would be introduced at some stage this summer.

He also said government guidance warning against travel to amber list countries will be removed on July 19.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, said: “Today’s announcement will be strongly welcomed by travellers in England, and by travel companies across the industry. Having to quarantine when returning from an amber list country has been a very significant barrier to travel for many people, so it is good that this will be removed for those who have had both vaccinations and for children. It’s especially welcome that this will come in time for the school summer holidays.

“We know there is significant pent-up demand to travel abroad – to see family and friends, make business connections and have a well-deserved holiday. The minister today has sent a clear message that people can travel abroad to amber list countries this summer – opening up travel to many popular holiday destinations, but there is a lot more than needs to happen for the industry to get back on its feet, and the need for Government support remains pressing.

“Government also needs to work to reduce the cost and need for testing, as well as making sure it has the right resources at the border to deal with the increased number of passengers, and it is important that the Foreign Office advice against travel to some amber list countries takes into account the increasing vaccination rates in destinations, and the reducing risks.”

Not Just Travel co-founder Steve Witt said: “Allowing fully vaccinated customers to travel opens up so many possibilities. Moving from ten-day isolation to a test-based system allows people to travel flexibly yet safely.

“This is a great step forward in that it means we all have many more options to get away this summer. It gives us confidence to plan our holidays both now and in the future. Although there are still many more steps to go before the entire world is available, this is a very important one.

“A wave of excitement has filled the entire travel industry as we start to feel that the world is opening up again. This is a big psychological step for the UK public and a statement to the world that we are serious about travelling. It is also a big relief to the travel industry. It’s not the answer to everything, but it feels like momentum is really building now.

“Of course, we will still have challenges for this summer as not all countries will be ready to receive us, and not all operators will have flights and options available. However, this news does allow both the industry and customers to start making plans with more confidence.”

Operators welcomed the announcement but some warned uncertainty still remains for travellers.

Kerry Golds, managing director of luxury operator Abercrombie & Kent, said: “This announcement could be the start of international travel which would be fantastic news for everyone in the travel industry. There is no doubt that people want to travel – but there’s been constantly changing and conflicting advice creating huge uncertainty.

“But it’s not enough – there is still a lot more we’d like to see from the government. We need clarity and alignment of travel advice between the FCDO and the traffic light system. Work needs to be done with other foreign governments to open up the world to UK travellers.

“We also need a simplified testing regime and continued financial support for an industry that has been brought to its knees by this pandemic.”

Paul Melinis, managing director of tour operator APT, welcomed the confirmation and said the “limited” list up to now had meant all of its trips were suspended. “It’s a great relief to be able to start planning for our much-wanted return to operation,” he said. “We can’t wait to welcome APT and Travelmarvel guests back onto our river cruise ships and tours soon.”

Michael Vinales, managing director of Olympic Holidays, said: “Finally some positive news that the travel industry has been in desperate need of. An announcement too that will no doubt bring great relief and excitement to the many individuals and families across the country.”

The Travel Corporation UK and Europe sales and marketing director Donna Jeavons welcomed the news, but warned: “There is still a significant lack of clarity for the travel sector and Brits on where travel is possible.

“While we anticipate more countries on the amber list will become quarantine-free for double vaccinated travellers returning to the UK, individual destinations still have their own entry requirements and restrictions in place.

“If we, as travel industry professionals, have to reference multiple data sources to decipher which amber list countries UK travellers can actually visit, then it will remain an absolute minefield for people trying to book trips abroad. For example, the USA is on the amber list but their borders remain shut to UK travellers – as do Canada, Italy and Ireland.”

“We urge the government to produce a single ‘source of truth’ list for the British public, to stop the confusion, and help avoid people booking trips to places they can’t enter.”

G Adventures hopes to capitalise on the announcement with a sale offering discounts of up to 25% on more than 90 of its tours until July 31.

Managing director, Brian Young, said the announcement was “a hugely positive step in helping to get travel up and running again and to provide double-vaccinated travellers the confidence to book a much-deserved break”.

But he warned: “Pent-up demand and shorter summer season means that many popular spots will be busier than ever, which is why we’re offering travellers the opportunity to escape the crowds and explore a lesser-seen side of these destinations, all at a great price.”

Karl Thompson, managing director of Sandals and Beaches’ UK tour operator Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd, said the move was “a significant step on the pathway to restarting international travel safely and responsibly” and “great news for Caribbean countries on the amber list who need British tourists to help boost their economies”

He added: “Airlines serving amber destinations can now stabilise their flying schedules which have been severely disrupted for the last 16 months and hopefully increase airlift.”

The operator reported a spike in bookings to its resorts in green list destinations earlier this week. Thompson said: “I am hoping to see an increase in bookings to all our destinations over the coming weeks, following the uplift we’ve recently seen.

“A lot of people who fit the profile of the average Sandals customer have been fully-vaccinated and are keen to make up for lost time as quickly as possible.”

Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) UK & Ireland, Chris Crampton, said: “Maybe this is the first sign we may be able to at least begin meaningful trading again.”

But he warned “significant barriers remain” and said destinations such as Japan, China and Thailand may now be open to UK visitors, depending on local restrictions in addition to Singapore and Brunei, which are on the green list.

“Slowly the region is becoming more accessible to British travellers,” he said.

But he stressed: “Welcome though this change is, we should not have to feel grateful. We have had no sector support from the government, and have been considered acceptable collateral damage throughout. No other industry has had to refund a significant portion of their 2019 revenue as well as go through all of 2020 to date without being able to earn a living.”

Danny Callaghan, chief executive of the Latin American Travel Association (Lata) warned the announcement is “only a very small step in the right direction”.

“There is still no transparency around why countries are graded as they are and why most amber countries aren’t simply graded green – or even some red list countries for that matter,” he said. “We have the ridiculous situation where Brits are actually less likely to catch Covid abroad than they are if they holiday in the UK, yet the government seems intent on promoting domestic tourism over international, effectively driving up Covid rates.”

The Business Travel Association welcomed the announcement. Chief executive Clive Wratten said: “This is a vital kick-start for British businesses. We urge the government to prioritise international protocols for overseas business travellers so we can completely take our place on the global trading stage.”

Abby Penston, chief executive of Focus Travel Partnership, said the announcement was “tremendously welcome to business travel, and we expect it will jump start our sector”.

However, she said: “This is not a return to normality.

“Business travellers, who are residents, from amber countries still have to self-isolate when they arrive in the UK and it does not sound like they will be exempt from these measures until later in the summer.

“We understand the need for a safe and responsible return to travel – and this is a start – but I fear the reasons for these delays are administrative and political, which means a recovery is being hobbled.

“So we were disappointed that the transport secretary evaded the request to extend furlough for our sector.”

American Express Global Business Travel chief commercial officer Andrew Crawley said the news was “a step in the right direction”.

He said: “Government should now actively engage with airlines to execute the changes to avoid overwhelming UK Border Force.

“It is, however, disappointing that this announcement excludes overseas visitors, including business travellers as any quarantine requirement will hinder a return to travel and trade.

“We urge the government to embrace the emerging global protocol of exempting all fully vaccinated travellers from quarantine requirements. The technology is already in place through the EU Digital Travel Pass and VeriFLY in the US so there is no reason why we cannot act.

“Every day counts, and we risk lagging even further behind our EU counterparts who have taken steps to permit the entry of all double vaccinated travellers without quarantine. We cannot afford to wait.”

Holiday Extras’ head of communications Seamus McCauley said: “We expect more people will book after today’s update. People so desperately want their week in the sun.”

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