The travel and tourism industry has voiced concerns over the Government’s decision yesterday to tighten travel restrictions for UK holidaymakers.
The UK government’s decision to remove Portugal from the travel green list gives holidaymakers less than 5 days notice to return home before quarantine restrictions apply. Portugal’s move to the amber list means that UK tourists holidaying there must isolate for 10 days on returning to the UK after 04.00 on June 8th.
The fact that no more countries will be added to the green list for quarantine free travel at least until 24th June signals a more cautious approach by the government. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps cited rising cases and a Covid mutation known as the Delta variant found in Portugal which has the potential to be 60% more transmissible than the Kent variant. The minister defended the government’s decision as ‘safety first’ which he said gave the UK the best chance of unlocking domestically.
However, critics of the move warned of the potential loss of jobs and confidence in an already damaged travel industry as shares in airlines and travel companies plunged after the announcement. Speaking to the BBC a spokesperson for British Airways said the news was disappointing and confusing for the aviation industry and customers adding that the UK had reached a critical point and urgently needed travel with low-risk countries to re-start the economy, support devastated industries as well as reunite families.
The potential impact on business as well as holiday makers was highlighted by John Foster, the CBI’s director of policy who warned that businesses across the country were losing out on key links with trading partners ‘just as the rest of the world was opening up.’ He urged the government to consider further sector specific support to save jobs and skills essential for future growth.
The government recognised the need for greater clarity and solutions on international travel by establishing the cross-party Global Travel Taskforce in November 2020. The GTT reported to government in April and their recommendations were factored into the traffic light system announced on 17th May for the re-opening of safe international travel.
For some, however more support is still needed. CEO of the Business Travel Association Clive Wratten said “The traffic light system is something we have long campaigned for. However, it is only one piece of the jigsaw if the aviation, business and leisure travel industries are to survive. We urgently ask the Government to at the very least maintain the current furlough scheme until September for the entire travel supply chain. This will hopefully enable us to contribute to UK plc as soon as it is safe to do so.”