Hundreds of businesses in the UK travel and hospitality sector say they have lost confidence in the home secretary Priti Patel as the “architect” of the government’s 14-day quarantine policy.
In a second letter to the home secretary – the first letter in May signed by 77 firms has not yet had a reply – the leader of the Quash Quarantine group, George Morgan-Grenville, chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah, said: “By effectively locking down incoming travel by means of quarantine, and stopping outbound travel by means of blanket FCO travel advice, the government has ensured that any recovery, following three months of no sales, is now rendered impossible.
“How have we ended up with a government that seeks to drive the final nails into the coffin of a once thriving domestic and international tourism industry?”
Quash Quarantine has grown in recent weeks to 410 travel and hospitality firms including Gold Medal and Travel 2, Travel Republic, Mr & Mrs Smith, Prestige Holidays and Netflights.
The letter continued: “It is our understanding that in addition to the government’s failure to seek a recommendation from Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) before implementing quarantine, the legislation was brought before the house without any impact assessment being conducted.”
Modelling undertaken by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) shows the combination of quarantine and FCO travel advice could result in a sector decline of £148 billion and a possible loss of up to 1.7 million jobs.
The letter states: “With the greatest respect home secretary, you are presiding over an economic disaster that will soon be on an epic scale.
“You will be remembered as the home secretary whom, despite being warned clearly of the consequences, continued to implement blindly and obstinately probably the most damaging and ineffectual piece of legislation that has ever been conceived by any UK government.
“Under your leadership, the home office has made no effort to engage with the many business owners who could have assisted your team to understand the real consequences… instead you held a single late afternoon Zoom call with a couple of trade bodies and to which the largest UK airline (British Airways) decided not to turn up to.
“The current legal action being undertaken by IAG and others will no doubt bring into the open much of the decision-making process involved in the implementation of quarantine. It will also determine whether the government’s action was unlawful, possibly opening up the government to claims for substantial damages.
The letter continues: “As home secretary you seem oblivious to the pain that employees are going through and, more worryingly, the home office appears to have no understanding of the commercial realities of running a business through this pandemic… many in the leadership of the travel and hospitality sector have lost confidence in you as home secretary.
“We desperately need support from the government but instead we see obstacles to recovery.
“I’m sure you’ll agree that the honourable thing to do, if the quarantine measures are found to be unlawful, will be to resign.
“In conclusion… quarantine, combined with the now unnecessary and ill-advised FCO blanket travel advice, is economically devastating and destroying the livelihoods of so many.
“Quite simply, we need both to be withdrawn before it is too late. While the rest of Europe gets going again, the idea of a global Britain is fast becoming a national embarrassment.”
Quash Quarantine have long argued for effective test and trace, as well as airport swab testing, to be used as alternatives to quarantine and the FCO advice. These would have a less damaging impact on the economy as consumers would still be able to book future business and leisure trips with confidence.
In a recent survey for Quash Quarantine, by the independent research company AudienceNet, only 9% of the 2,102 respondents believed the economy would be unaffected by the quarantine measures, while 85% said they lacked confidence in the government being able to implement quarantine successfully. 59% supported the idea of air bridges or travel corridors.