The scrapping of 14-day quarantine restrictions for arrivals from lower risk countries will come as a “huge relief” to the travel industry.
The message came from Abta as the government confirmed that passengers returning to England from certain destinations – including Germany, France, Spain and Italy – will no longer be required to self-isolate for two weeks from July 10.
Almost 50 countries are expected to be included in a list – down form an originally anticipated 75 – due to be outlined by transport secretary Grant Shapps later today. The US will not be included, he confirmed.
The Foreign Office is to set out exemptions for a number of destinations from its global advisory imposed in March against ‘all but essential’ overseas travel, with changes in place from tomorrow (July 4).
A statement said: “The government’s expectation is that a number of the exempted countries will also not require arrivals from the UK to self-isolate. This will mean that holidaymakers travelling to and from certain destinations will not need to self-isolate on either leg of their journey.
“The exempted countries and territories will be kept under constant review, so that if the health risks increase self-isolation measures can be re-introduced to help stop the spread of the disease into England.”
However, the Department for Transport added: “The devolved administrations will set out their own approach to exemptions, and so passengers returning to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should ensure they follow the laws and guidance which applies there.”
An Abta spokesperson said: “The government announcement today will be greeted with huge relief by the travel industry, which can now plan ahead and take summer holiday bookings.
“Later today, we will receive the list of countries exempted from quarantine restrictions for passengers returning to England from 10 July, and the FCO will set out exemptions for a number of destinations from its global advisory against ‘all but essential’ international travel, with those changes coming into effect from tomorrow.
“Travel businesses have been under enormous pressure since the start of the pandemic, and the industry can now start to meet customers’ pent-up appetite for travel. Getting the balance of health risk and economic risk is a difficult challenge, and we strongly support the Government in taking this initiative.
“There will be some changes to people’s travel experiences because of the health and safety measures in place to limit Covid-19, and it will be important going forward that customers speak to their travel provider so that they so they can book and travel with confidence. And, of course, continued access to overseas destinations depends on our keeping Covid infection and transmission rates low in this country, so everyone should continue to heed public health guidelines.
“We now urgently await the approach to be taken by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to relaxing travel restrictions.”
Kuoni chief exective Derek Jones tweeted to say: “Let’s be really clear, this isn’t the end of the challenges that the travel industry faces. It’s just the end of the beginning; it is still a long way from the beginning of the end.
“The journey to full recovery remains and long and difficult one whch not all will finish.”
Advantage Travel Partership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “We welcome this update from the government as visitors will now be able to travel to and from the selected countries without the need of quarantining upon to their return.
“It’s important that whilst we see the industry begin to move forward, the experience of travelling abroad will have changed quite considerably and the support and advice from your local travel agent will now be more valuable than ever.
“From providing advice on what to expect whilst transiting through the airport, what safety precautions travellers will need to take on flights, to how transfers and resorts will operate, booking through a travel agent will provide the British public with an added layer of reassurance and peace of mind. In a time of uncertainty where there will be more questions than ever, being able to pick up the phone and speak to a travel expert will help put travellers’ minds at ease.
“Travel agencies are open up and down the country, and agents are ready to inform and inspire clients to send the British public on much a needed and deserved holiday this year as well as help those travellers who are desperate to visit friends and family abroad or those who need to travel for business.”
Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson said: “The entire UK travel industry has been waiting for confirmation on when foreign travel may resume and today’s announcements about easing quarantine and the lifting of the blanket travel ban will go some way to restarting inbound and outbound tourism.
“However, the disjointed approach regarding travel between the UK governments and devolved governments could further hinder consumer confidence and cause confusion – especially for holidaymakers across the rest of the UK.
“We need urgent clarification from the devolved governments about their plans for regional quarantine to allow the full UK industry to collectively begin its recovery and ensure consistent messages are shared.
“There is no doubt that there is a pent-up demand from customers looking to travel this summer but holidaymakers need sight of as much information as possible about their destinations and travel plans.
“Naturally, they will turn to their trusted local travel agent for real-time advice about imminent travel. It is important for the travel industry to be fully briefed about these measures in order to ensure the management of correct information to UK holidaymakers.”
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “It’s a very welcome announcement and we’re pleased UK airlines will be able to re-start services to many key markets in time for peak summer travel.
“This gives a clear path to opening further predominantly long-haul destinations in the weeks ahead, and we look forward to working with ministers on measures to mitigate the risk from red countries such as via voluntary testing.
“There’s no doubt quarantine has had a devastating impact on our industry and whilst it’s welcome the government has removed its blanket ban we would encourage rigour and science is applied in all future decisions surrounding our businesses.
“Aviation is vital to our economy – and the huge increase in bookings over the past few days proves our customers are keen to get travelling again.”
Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said: “Airports have been calling for a risk-based approach to border controls, so today’s announcement is a welcome step forward for English airports.
“But it is imperative that a four-nation approach is adopted if we are to avoid putting further jobs at risk.
“We urge the devolved administrations to work with government urgently to find a solution before the 10 July implementation date.
“This new system will enable passengers in England to book a summer holiday with confidence.
“Industry and government have worked hard to put in place a package of health measures to manage the risks of Covid-19 which will help ensure that passengers can travel safely. It is essential that these benefits are extended to those living in the other three nations of the union.
“But this isn’t only about summer holidays – it’s about a successful restart of the trade and commerce that make this country prosperous and successful.
“Businesses need connections to key UK trade partners in order to restart, rebuild and renew. Before this crisis the UK had the third largest aviation market in the world, bringing in £1 billion to UK GDP every week and supporting countless jobs in communities across the country.
“Government must step up urgently to support a sector which will struggle to re-establish itself, especially after this highly damaging and unnecessary quarantine period.”
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “We welcome news that people will soon be able to fly into Gatwick from a range of countries without needing to self-isolate.
“Alongside changes to the government’s official travel advice, this announcement provides a significant boost to consumer confidence and sends a very clear message that it is now safe to take summer holidays abroad, visit family and friends and take international business trips again.
“We look forward to publication later today of what we hope will be an extensive list of countries that will be exempt from the need to self-isolate on return to the UK and we welcome the fact this will be kept under close review.
“The aviation industry has a long way to go to in its recovery from this pandemic however today’s news will hopefully mark the start of a turning point.”
A spokesperson for the Business Travel Association said: “Today’s confirmation of extensive quarantine exemptions is a welcome relief for the business travel sector, which is still at risk of losing one in two jobs in coming months. Further help will be needed.
‘The Government has responded positively to the BTA’s representations for vital business destinations to be included, with travel to key cities such as Frankfurt and Paris now possible and much welcomed.
‘The BTA has never supported quashing quarantine completely. Safety must remain paramount, and the traffic-light system is a more practical solution to the evolving global situation.’
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and spokesman for the Quash Quarantine Group, said: “There are still several obstacles to be overcome, namely ensuring Scotland support the planned changes, but this is a welcome boost for the travel industry at such a critical time.
“The traffic light system will bring clarity to holidaymakers and businesses wanting to travel overseas as well as to travel firms desperate for visibility on what they can offer for this summer and beyond.
“It is remarkably good news that the blanket quarantine restrictions are being lifted from July 10, and that the changed FCO travel advice will mean we can plan to go away from tomorrow.”
Dale Keller, chief executive of the The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) said: “The list of exempted countries is what everyone is eagerly waiting for and what we need is clear and concise requirements following a period of short notice interventions that were often drip fed through to the industry and public.
“Lifting quarantine and revising the FCO travel advice, combined with the enhanced health measures employed throughout the passenger journey, is finally allowing the airline industry to safely welcome back passengers with their wellbeing and confidence as our top priorities.”
Keller said there was “no reason” the whole of the UK should not reopen to the same list of ‘safe’ countries the European Union has issued.
He added: “Every day that overseas markets are closed is costing the UK heavily in lost jobs, collapsing trade and negative social impacts, and we urge the UK government to continually review and expand the list countries as soon as the criteria is met.”
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “The government has caused mass confusion over holidays in recent weeks, and while a traffic light system will be welcome news to some holidaymakers, many will still be left questioning if restrictions in other countries will prevent them from travelling, and if so, if they will be able to get their money back.
“Others are still very reluctant to travel while coronavirus remains a risk, so holiday companies and airlines should ensure they continue to offer customers flexible rebooking options.
“If the government is to get people travelling again successfully, it needs to restore confidence in the sector by providing support for the industry and working with the regulator to ensure companies are abiding by the law on refunds for cancelled travel.”
Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The government’s quarantine rules have been a fiasco from the onset. The fact is we did not stop people coming into our country when our infection rates were very high.
“Then in early June [home secretary] Priti Patel introduced a blanket quarantine period for all arrivals when many countries had, by this point, done a fair better job than our government at controlling the spread of the virus.”
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