More than 200 travel and hospitality companies have joined an industry campaign calling for the government’s Covid-19 quarantine plans to be overturned and replaced by so-called ‘air bridges’.
The companies together account for over £5 billion of sales in the travel and hospitality sector.
They include major brands such as Abercrombie & Kent, Red Savannah, Scott Dunn, Claridges, Rocco Forte Hotels, The Ritz, The Connaught, Mandarin Oriental, Original Travel, Kuoni, Travelbag, iescape, Gold Medal, Cosmos, Dial-A-Flight, Active Travel Group, Neilson, Inghams, Hotelplan and Travel Republic.
The 217 firms, including Travel Weekly and its parent Jacobs Media Group, have now endorsed a letter to home secretary Priti Patel, arguing that the plans are unworkable, poorly thought-out and already damaging sales in the travel industry.
Patel will lay the regulations in Parliament on Tuesday, enacting the quarantine under which all international arrivals, including returning British travellers, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
The signatories are also calling for the Foreign Office to relax its current travel advice warning against all non-essential travel as this is also preventing people booking future holidays.
The growing momentum against the quarantine restrictions, due to be enforced from a week today (June 8), came as new Iata research found that Britons were “relatively keen to travel again”.
The study by the aviation trade body found that 48% of people in the UK would be willing to travel within a “month or two” of the threat of Covid-19 being controlled.
This was above the international average and higher than the US, Japan, Germany, Canada and Australia.
But Iata warned that the quarantine would destroy any attempt to resume international travel into or from Britain.
Mounting opposition to the quarantine made the front page of The Times today following high profile consumer media coverage over the weekend.
Iata UK and Ireland country manager Simon McNamara told the newspaper: “As the concern about Covid-19 recedes, if the quarantine is still in place people are not going to travel.
“It is not a question of being prepared to go through quarantine because they want to travel. All the evidence we have is that this will just kill travel.
“Governments seem to have a stark choice. They cannot pretend that quarantine enables their international travel markets to open up, because the evidence is quite simply not there. If they persist with quarantine it is effectively the same as locking down your country.”
The Iata intervention follows easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren speaking out against the quarantine measures over the weekend, joining Ryanair rival Michael O’Leary as criticism mounts. About 50 Conservative backbenchers are against the plan.
Independent forecaster the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated that the quarantine would contribute to more than 90% of the UK’s summer tourism trade being obliterated.
Founder Douglas McWilliams estimated the overall cost of coronavirus to the travel industry could be more than £20 billion.
He said: “The peak summer months of July, August and September would [normally] bring in over £9 billion from inbound tourism.
“If the two-week blanket quarantine is enforced, this £9 billion is likely to be reduced to £0.5 billion, costing the tourist industry £650million a week.”
Air bridges, enabling travel to destinations deemed safe from coronavirus, are being considered by transport secretary Grant Shapps and the Department for Transport.
The leader of the trade campaign for change, George Morgan-Grenville, chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah, said: “This is not just a group of company bosses complaining, but employees from bottom to top calling for the quarantine plans to be quashed.
“The extent of their pain is deeply worrying for our economy and our country.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, told The Times: “The quarantine will destroy jobs and put back the recovery at the exact time that other countries are opening up their borders. It is just about the worst thing they could do if the aim is to restart the economy and get aviation and tourism moving again.”
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilot’s union Balpa, added: “It’s like hanging up a ‘Britain is closed’ sign and the whole economy will lose out as a result, not only delaying recovery from the coronavirus crisis but also putting at risk our preparedness for full Brexit at the end of this year.”
*If you would like to endorse the call for quarantine plans to be removed, please email your support to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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