The trade has welcomed the publication of a list of ‘safe’ destinations as a ‘lifeline’ for travel firms but called for devolved administrations to follow suit.
The government has announced the countries UK citizens can travel to without quarantine restrictions on their return.
It followed news the 14-day quarantine rules on arrivals in England will be relaxed from July 10, with blanket Foreign Office advice against all non-essential travel dropped from today, July 4.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of travel agency consortium Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “It’s a relief to finally have sight of the UK government’s long list of quarantine exempt destinations.
“Many of these destinations will be big sellers for the summer season and along with the change in Foreign Office advice we know our members in England will be better equipped to confidently sell holidays to clients today.”
But she urged Wales, Scotland and northern Ireland, to drop the quarantine policy for arrivals. “We hope the devolved administrations act in line with the government to allow all UK travellers, and agents to benefit from these changes,” she added.
UKinbound chief executive Joss Croft similarly called for quarantine rules to be dropped across the devolved administrations.
While English tourism businesses in the inbound and outbound sectors would be breathing “another sigh of relief”, he stressed: “We’re also still waiting to hear if the devolved nations will follow suit, and lift quarantine. The health and safety of visitors of course needs to be the first priority, but the government needs to understand the inbound industry will only begin to fully recover when quarantine is removed for all markets and so will need continued financial support.”
Tour operators and agents said the easing of travel restrictions would help both the trade and UK economy to recover, with holiday enquiries already on the rise.
Karl Thompson, managing director of Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd (UCHL), Sandals and Beaches Resorts’ UK tour operation, said: “Despite the long wait the industry endured to get clarity on international travel regulations, this news offers much needed lifeline for many UK businesses and many destinations.
“The important thing now is that, when flights start back up again, clients feel confident that they can holiday safely.”
Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie & Kent said enquiries were 80% up for European villas but urged the government to give destination-specific advice.
He said: “Lifting of travel restrictions is the lifeline the UK economy needs right now. We applaud the UK government for finally giving the UK travel industry the lifeline it needs to get back on the road to recovery.
“While not only injecting cash into a ravaged travel industry, it’s an essential step in lifting the mood of the nation. We need more destination specific guidance so that Brits can make informed decisions.”
Travel Counsellors called the news a “positive and reassuring step for the industry” and claimed the role of travel agents would become more important in future.
Chief commercial officer Kirsten Hughes said holidaymakers were keen to travel this summer. The firm’s latest customer survey showed more than 50% of clients felt optimistic about booking a trip for later this year or next.
She said: “We have certainly seen this sentiment reflected in our own figures, with our Travel Counsellors now making three times the number of booking since the start of April and a spike over the weekend when the restriction plans were first announced with bookings nearly doubling from the previous weekend.”
She added: “Travellers will of course still have concerns and questions around what the ‘new world’ of travel looks like and will need reassurance, insight and flexibility when booking, with the role of the trusted travel adviser being more relevant than ever.”
Airports said the change in travel restrictions was critical to aviation’s recovery but called for more air bridges to key destinations for the UK market.
Charlie Cornish, group chief executive of MAG, which owns Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands aiports, said: ”These travel corridors will open up the chance for people to enjoy a well-earned break abroad and directly benefit the hundreds of thousands of people whose jobs depend on air travel for their livelihoods – whether they work in aviation or for the UK’s tourism and hospitality businesses.
“The Government should continue to take a risk-based approach to quarantine arrangements and, where possible, build more air bridges to key tourism and business destinations with low infection rates. Each one will help protect jobs and preserve billions of pounds worth of economic activity in the UK.”
Most of the destinations served by Doncaster Sheffield Airport are on the government’s ‘safe’ list, including Lanzarote, Tenerife, Majorca, Kos, Rhodes, Tunisia, Cyprus and Turkey. Chris Harcombe, aviation development director of the airport, said: “We welcome the news as it is critically important to the start of recovery for the aviation industry. This is the news we have been waiting for so our passengers can get their summer holidays off to a great start.”
Scott Davies, chief executive of ITM, questioned the use of the quarantine policy. He said: “Opening up these key business routes is very good news for the business travel sector and the UK economy. While the safety and wellbeing of travellers is our members’ number one priority, the effectiveness of the quarantine policy was highly questionable.”
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