Industry associations and consortia have reiterated calls for tailored financial support and a ‘roadmap’ for the reopening of travel after confirmation of stricter border controls and testing requirements from Monday.
The Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK said a two-week review clause must be included in the measures and demanded that the lifting of travel restrictions form part of the prime minister’s February 22 update on the government’s strategy for exiting lockdown.
Abta and Advantage noted that the restrictions would have limited immediate impact due to the low numbers of people travelling and urged the government to further pursue the use of testing and measures such as vaccine certificates to restart travel.
And the Business Travel Association said the UK risked being “cut off from the world” without “mapping out a route to safe travel”.
An Abta spokesperson said: “At present very few people are going overseas due to lockdowns in the United Kingdom and a range of other restrictions on travel. However, we will restart travel at some point and any requirement for multiple tests could have serious cost implications for travellers, which will hurt demand, so any new measure needs to be temporary.
“Government needs to work with the industry to develop a roadmap to reopen travel. As the vaccine rollout progresses in the UK, it is appropriate that the government keeps their approach to testing requirements, and other matters, such as vaccine certificates, under careful review to enable international travel to recover while at the same time protecting public health.
“Wider use of rapid testing methods, providing quicker and cheaper testing, could be part of that solution.”
They added: “In the meantime, we need to see some recognition from the government of loss of income and revenue experienced by the travel industry over the last 12 months, by providing tailored financial support to help businesses get through the crisis.”
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said: “The BTA recognises the need to prioritise public health at this critical stage in our fight against Covid-19. Today’s announcement of details around quarantine hotels and increased testing will bring business travel to a standstill, preventing thousands from doing their jobs.
“The health secretary recognised the work of ports across England but has singularly failed to see the impact of these decisions on their supply chain. The government’s latest decisions are inflicting mortal damage on livelihoods across the country.
“It is critical that the government finally looks to the future. It must offer targeted support to our industry and lead the way in agreeing International Standards of entry. We risk being cut off from the world if we do not start mapping out the route to safe travel from this latest lowest point.”
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association and Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said in a joint statement: “Whilst public health must come first, this latest measure means all travellers to the UK will need to take three tests in addition to quarantine. It adds a further barrier to viable air travel and deepens the worsening 2021 outlook for our sector, which has already been largely grounded for a year.
“A two-week review clause is essential to ensure that the current complex, blanket set of measures are rolled back as soon as it is safe to do so. International travel must also be part of the prime minister’s forthcoming roadmap out of lockdown, including transparent and risk-based health criteria for the lifting of travel restrictions.”
They added: “In the meantime, airports and airlines are battling to survive with almost zero revenue and a huge cost base, and practically every week a further blow lands. Aviation-specific financial support is urgently needed to ensure our sector can get through the year. UK aviation can be the conduit to the government’s Global Britain and levelling-up agendas but only if we have a viable and competitive sector still standing come the end of the pandemic.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “The introduction of the new enhanced testing regime by the UK government is academic at this very moment in time given the ban on leisure travel. We understand the sentiment around why these measures will be introduced, to ensure an added element of security to stop the spread of new potential variants imported from abroad.
“With the successful vaccine rollout and a reduction in Covid-19 cases, in isolation, the positive message we can take from this announcement is that the UK government is at last taking testing very seriously and we strongly urge the government to create a clear testing policy for when travel can resume.”
She added: “As an island nation we now need the government to work with the industry on a risk-based approach and to start working on a recovery plan that will enable the travel industry to support the government’s ambitions to rebuild the economy.
“When all you sell is international travel, our travel agent members who have seen revenues drop by 95% are in need of urgent financial support. There are thousands of businesses across the country employing millions of people which support both leisure and business travel, who are exasperated and unable to plan for the months ahead.
“As an industry we are critical to re-establishing Global Britain on a competitive world stage. This can only be done if there is a travel industry in place once restrictions relax.”
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