The government’s relaxation of the quarantine rules for fully vaccinated travellers returning to England from amber countries should help to unlock “pent-up demand” this summer.
Abta’s chief executive Mark Tanzer said the announcement by transport secretary Grant Shapps will be “strongly welcomed by travellers in England and by travel companies across the industry”.
“Having to quarantine when returning from an amber list country has been a very significant barrier to travel for many people, so it is good that this will be removed for those who have had both vaccinations and for children,” added Tanzer. “It’s especially welcome that this will come in time for the school summer holidays.”
“We know there is significant pent-up demand to travel abroad – to see family and friends, make business connections and have a well-deserved holiday. The minister today has sent a clear message that people can travel abroad to amber list countries this summer – opening up travel to many popular holiday destinations.”
But Tanzer added the government needed to “work to reduce the cost and need for testing” and ensure it had the “right resources” at the border to deal with the expected increase in passenger numbers.
Aito head of commercial Bharat Gadhoke said the move came as welcome positive news, despite being long overdue. “We now have to hope all destinations to which we can travel will accept British travellers without undue barriers to entry,” said Gadhoke.
However, he warned testing – particularly the cost burden – would continue to be a barrier to travel, and called on government to do more to bring prices down.
“While tests have come down in price from £120 each to circa £43 each, they need to come down still more to kick-start travel in a meaningful way,” said Gadhoke. “We need Government’s commitment to doing this.
“Big travel companies might be subsidising tests, but £43 per test is the best market rate available to SMEs such as Aito members. It’s an easy problem to solve – either permit use of lateral flow tests, which cost about £29, or reduce the cost of PCR tests to that charged in Europe, which is circa €12 to €15 (£10-£13).
“Another quick fix would be to use NHS testing capacity, and to ensure a modest fee is fed back into NHS funding – that would be a great win-win, particularly as it would ensure legitimate testing would be available to all.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, agreed the government’s move would be a “boost” to the long-suffering travel industry and praised the sector’s lobbying efforts.
“We are delighted that the lobbying of government by the industry to enable vaccinated travellers to benefit from being vaccinated has been acted upon,” she said.
“While travelling remains different, today’s news will certainly provide travel agents with more opportunities to sell summer breaks to the most popular destinations.”
Lo Bue-Said also called for the green list to be “meaningfully expanded to include those destinations with low infection rates such as Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Portugal and the US”. The list is due to be updated on 15 June.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said Shapps’ announcement on international travel “does nothing for the UK’s inbound visitor economy”
“As we approach July 19, our inbound visitor economy remains neglected and forgotten by the government, far from talk of freedom this decision risks being the final nail in the coffin for an industry that will be vital to our national recovery,” added Croft.
But Green MP Caroline Lucas, vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, warned that the government was “in danger of repeating the same mistakes that allowed the Delta variant to take root in the UK”.
“Urgent measures are needed to reduce queues at airports before international travel is opened up further, including upgrading e-gates and digitising test results,” said Lucas.
“We must also ensure test results of inbound travellers are checked for new variants, so that dangerous new Covid mutations do not slip through the cracks.
“Dropping quarantine without these additional protections in place risks leaving the country dangerously exposed to new variants that could undo our hard-won progress against the virus.”