We were all waiting for it – 5pm on Easter Monday: Boris Johnson’s big update regarding international travel.
Like many in travel, I sat with bated breath watching the press conference. And, like many in the travel industry, I was left sorely disappointed.
As ever, this government had hyped something up, which they then failed to deliver.
Of course, none of us were expecting details – these will come on 12 April.
But it was reasonable to at least envisage some kind of mention of international travel would be forthcoming, especially after aviation and maritime minister Robert Courts confirmed to TTG the PM would be offering the industry an update on 5 April.
Instead, far from any certainty last night, the government issued a statement explicitly advising the public not to book summer holidays “until the picture is clearer”.
Well thanks a lot prime minister.
Not only have you continued the uncertainty for this sector, you’ve also rubbed salt into an already raw and open wound by ensuring no money will flow into the very businesses that have been decimated by this crisis.
The subsequent angry statements from travel leaders summed up the industry’s frustrations.
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said the announcement from the prime minister was “beyond disappointing”.
Aito chair Chris Rowles, meanwhile, said the PM “and his cabinet” had “sabotaged the UK outbound travel industry”.
“This is death by back-stabbing, with no sector-specific support whatsoever proffered to help the outbound industry to survive the coming weeks and months until travel abroad is again feasible to whichever countries are on the green and amber traffic light lists.”
However, while Johnson might have offered scant detail, the government did release a statement confirming the much rumoured traffic light system would be part of the plan to reinstate international travel this summer.
And while it is imperative we avoid the “stop-start” scenario we had last summer, the system itself sounds sensible.
Travel agents and their customers will be able to easily identify which destinations are safe to book and travel to and most importantly, it will enable customers – and agents – to plan.
What we need next week, though, is a list of which destinations will be labelled red, green and amber to ensure that this is the case. Because time to plan is what this industry urgently needs.
Yes, it is difficult to offer certainty in such a fast-changing situation as Covid, but the PM has confirmed: “We will be setting out well before 17 May what we think is reasonable.”
For once, it would be helpful if he could stick to his word.
Sophie Griffiths is editor of TTG.