Travel association Aito has accused the government of “putting the kibosh” on restarting travel with the recommendations of the Global Travel Taskforce (GTT).
The framework to reopen international travel from 17 May was attacked by Aito for having “significant and very pricey holes in its bucket of so-called safety measures”.
Aito chairman Chris Rowles pointed to the “pricey” costs for travellers who are just going to a “green” destination, under the new traffic light system of restrictions. They will have to take two PCR Covid tests to return to the UK, plus any extra tests required by their destination on the outbound leg of their journey.
“Those two UK tests alone will cost a total of between £180 and £300 per person,” said Rowles “That’s pricey just for a couple, but ridiculously and unaffordably expensive for a family of four - costing a total of between £720 and £1,200.
“It smacks of elitism, especially when lorry drivers from all over Europe are permitted to travel to the UK based on the much cheaper lateral flow test.
“If those travelling have been vaccinated, whether one jab or two, that should suffice – otherwise, what on earth is the point of the UK’s highly successful vaccination project and of the proposed travel certification mentioned?”
Aito added that it “fears the GTT is really a mere sop to the travel industry’s concerns, and the UK’s government has no intention of allowing the travel industry to trade again after 14 months of negative income”.
Other travel organisations were more positive about the GTT’s recommendations, with Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said calling it a “step in the right direction”.
“We must learn from mistakes made last year in order to avoid unnecessary cost, disruption and anxiety for travellers,” said Lo Bue-Said.
“It’s encouraging to see that the introduction of a ‘green watchlist’ will come from one single government source and pleased that the overall objective of the watchlist is to give passengers greater certainty when travelling and assurance for those who wish to travel abroad.”
John Bevan, chief executive of dnata Travel Group, welcomed the GTT’s “clear indication” to try to restart international travel in May but he shared the industry’s “frustration at some of the recommendations”.
“The new watchlist needs clarifying. While it will provide consumers and operators alike with a degree of additional clarity around potential areas of risk, the report makes it clear that the threat of a repeat of last summer’s chaotic scenes, with destinations changing status at very short notice, hasn’t entirely gone away,” he added.
Joanne Dooey, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), reiterated the call for a “four nations approach” to reopening international travel across the UK.
“Currently, the advice being given today is for travellers to and from England, and in our meetings next week with the Scottish Aviation Working Group we will be urging that Scotland follows suit,” said Dooey.
“Understandably, the countries which will be on the green list have not been announced, so it’s too early to say what impact this will have immediately on bookings for summer 2021, especially since the ‘green list’ countries have not been announced.
“However, we anticipate that those travelling to visit family or for business purposes will welcome today’s news and will have confidence to book long awaited trips.”