Abta has hit back at transport secretary Grant Shapps’ comments advising consumers to delay holiday bookings.
Speaking on Radio 4 on Wednesday (10 February), Shapps urged: “Please don’t go ahead and book holidays for something which, at this stage, is illegal to actually go and do, whether it’s here or abroad.”
Shapps advised consumers to wait for the full roll-out of the vaccination before travel restarts, but an Abta spokesperson said consumers could book “with confidence” through its members.
“If we wait for the full roll-out of the vaccination programme in the UK before people start to travel overseas, we’ll lose another summer season to the pandemic – something the travel industry can’t afford,” the spokesperson said.
Abta appealed to the government for a roadmap out of the crisis. “We need a reopening strategy that keeps up with the developing medical situation and with medical understanding, and considers the role of optional vaccine certificates and testing together to open up travel.”
The spokesperson added: “The government also needs to provide tailored financial support to help travel businesses through the difficulties they are facing.”
Pilots’ union Balpa also joined the criticism, saying Shapps’ advice "means the aviation industry is essentially shut down".
It said: "If the effect of government action is to shut down this whole sector then it stands to reason the government must compensate for lost business. The UK aviation sector cannot survive another summer with hardly any flying."
The European Travel Commission, which represents national tourism organisations, condemned the hotel quarantine measures being introduced from 15 February, with the threat of long jail terms for non-compliance.
“We must put a stop to placing the act of travelling in the same category as severe criminal offences,” it said.
ETC president Luis Araujo added: "Travellers are not felons and should not face several legal repercussions for arriving back home from another country.
"Throughout this crisis, we have learned that blanket restrictions are not the way forward, especially in countries with already high levels of community transmission.
“We firmly believe that the process of vaccination, testing on arrival and departure, together with efficient tracing systems and hygiene measures, will safely restore movement between countries.”