Abta has called for an end to widespread PCR testing as new data revealed members’ 2021 foreign holiday bookings are down 83% on 2019.
Almost half of companies also reported no increase in 2021 bookings compared to last year, despite the rollout of the vaccine programme. Research also found 58% of bookings with departure dates in July or August this year had to be postponed or cancelled.
Abta has written to the transport secretary and chancellor to share its latest evidence and outline changes needed as well as repeating calls for tailored financial support. It will also host a Twitterstorm, aimed at transport secretary Grant Shapps, at 2pm on Tuesday (14 September).
Abta said the government should use the strategic review of travel requirements to end the traffic light system and treat all destinations “as open by default”. It said the red list should be “only for the management of known variants of concern”.
The association also called for an end to widespread PCR testing by removing the need for fully vaccinated travellers to do any test on their return from lower-risk countries.
The new Abta member data also revealed the impact on UK travel businesses, with 69% of travel companies with staff on furlough expecting to make further redundancies once the scheme ends this month, taking the estimated total of jobs lost “to nearly 100,000 in the outbound travel sector and more than 226,000 once supply chains are also considered”.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “While our European neighbours have been travelling freely and safely, the British were subject to expensive measures which have stood in the way of people visiting family and friends, taking that much-needed foreign holiday and making important business connections.
“There is no logical explanation as to why people who are fully vaccinated should be taking expensive PCR tests – or any test at all - when returning from lower risk countries. This widespread use of PCR tests needs to stop.
“The dire summer season also means the need for a package of tailored financial support – extending the furlough scheme for travel businesses and a dedicated grant fund – remains paramount. The chancellor has dismissed the extension of furlough as being too ‘challenging’ – that’s not good enough and a way must be found.
“No matter how many times government may try to claim it has supported travel businesses, there has not been a penny of tailored support for travel agents or tour operators, with many missing out on essential funding.”