The travel industry could have stopped quarantine being imposed in June had its voice been stronger, speakers on a Travel Weekly webcast have claimed.
Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni parent Der Touristik UK, said: “I think it’s been a failing of the travel industry for almost as long as I’ve been in the industry, that we are notoriously bad at coming together with a single voice, when actually that’s patently the right approach.
“Of course, people are going to have different tactics; of course, people are going to approach things differently; and some organisations need to be more politically aware of long-term relationships than others do.
“But this whole quarantine issue is a really interesting one because I think the reality is that the government knew before they went into quarantine, that they’d made a mistake. I don’t think anyone in government really, wholeheartedly, believed three weeks ago, that they were doing the right thing.”
Jones added: “There’s a lot of politics behind it, and had that voice being stronger sooner, I do think we could have stopped this position from even becoming an issue in the first place.
“All credit to Paul [Charles] and the guys over at Red Savannah [the company behind the Quash Quarantine campaign], as I do think that, very quickly, we created an effective lobby group, and our voice was heard.
“I’ve played a small part and done a few radio interviews and tweeted as I do, but really, it’s the co-ordinated efforts of Paul, and the letter writing and the lobbying that I do think has resulted in a quicker u-turn on this.
“And probably a more significant u-turn in terms of the number of countries that we’re now talking about, than would ever have been the case if we if we hadn’t got involved.”
Jones said lessons should be learned for the future, adding: “We need to build on the relationships that we’ve made during this process and take that forward into whatever comes next.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency and co-ordinator of the Quash Quarantine campaign, said: “I think there should be a good look at the learnings from the last few weeks, because I don’t think the industry bodies have necessarily done us all a favour.
“I do take issue with some of the groups who do have the ear of government on a week-to-week basis [such as] Abta and UKHospitality. Tui were saying the other day they they’ve been in meetings with government. We should never have got into this situation. We should never have got to a point where the government even considered bringing in quarantine during June, well after it should have done in March.
“I think we should be questioning how the industry operates in future so we never get into this situation again.”
Charles described the achievements of the Quash Quarantine campaign as “amazing”.
“From our side, it’s been amazing to get 500 companies to agree in the industry on one very focused issue, which was removing quarantine. We haven’t completely removed it, but we’ve removed the blanket quarantine which is an achievement and, besides, it’s important to have some quarantine measures there to stop cases coming in from ‘Red’ countries like Brazil and India, America, etc.
“From a lobbying point of view, with no money, we have been very successful as a group – but it’s not over yet.”
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