Advantage Travel Partnership chief Julia Lo Bue-Said has said it is vital the government endorses and supports Heathrow airport’s plan to create a coronavirus testing facility.
Lo Bue-Said said testing would help "ease the panic caused by sudden quarantine announcements", such as the government’s decisions to revoke Spain and France’s travel corridors.
She also stressed any such move would be an opportunity to shorten the return quarantine requirement, and redress the damage done to travel by "blanket quarantine procedures".
It comes after Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye on Wednesday (19 August) urged prime minister Boris Johnson to "get a grip" on border policy and find an alternative to the country’s 14-day quarantine on arrival policy for those arriving from countries with higher rates of coronavirus infection.
Heathrow has partnered with Collinson and Swissport to work on its testing proposals; the scheme would allow passengers to book an appointment before their return flight, take a 90-second test at the airport, and then head to their nominated quarantine location to await the results, which are typically available within seven hours.
“The announcement Heathrow plans to create a new coronavirus testing facility is a positive step in the right direction towards redressing the damage done to the travel industry by blanket quarantine procedures," said Lo Bue-Said.
"Scientific advice supports the process of double testing, one on arrival and one at the travellers home two days later. This could be a very real opportunity to significantly cut down the quarantine time and at the same time help prevent transmission of the virus."
Lo Bue-Said said the decisions to remove Spain and France from the UK’s "safe list" had seen consumer confidence plummet to an "all-time low". "We urge the government to consider this potential compromise as a priority," she said.
"A solution such as this would surely boost confidence for many Britons, who simply cannot afford to take 14-days additional leave after their holiday as a result of the quarantine rules."
She added: "We’re hoping the plan will move forward quickly, be endorsed and supported by government, and rolled out by other airports.
"For leisure travellers, it would help ease the panic caused by sudden quarantine announcements and make people less fearful to book future holidays."
Holland-Kaye said on Wednesday quarantine was "holding back" the UK’s recovery, and putting thousands of jobs at risk – adding now was the time for ministers to allow testing as an alternative to quarantine.
Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed discussions with the sector were under way.