The travel industry has hit out at the “devastating news” that Spain has been removed from the UK’s safe travel corridor list, just over three weeks after quarantine-free travel between the two countries resumed.
The Department for Transport made the shock announcement last night while the Foreign Office once again began advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, although both the Balearics and the Canaries are excluded from the new FCO advice.
Kelly Cookes, leisure director at the Advantage Travel Partnership said the move was “devastating news for the travel industry and our travel agent members”.
“Spain had been dominating in terms of bookings and just as there was a glimmer of hope to try and recover some of the summer season, the change in government advice will have huge ramifications on consumer confidence when it comes to booking travel elsewhere.
“The health and safety of travellers is paramount, however this will put many travel agents back at square one in terms of the refund process and I’m sure will impact revenue for travel businesses who were starting to get back on their feet.”
Joanne Dooey, president of the SPAA agreed, saying the decision was “understandable, but devastating”.
“Travel agents have faced a torrid time since lockdown and whilst bookings are steady for 2021, the sector has been massively affected. Agents have worked tirelessly to rebook holidays for their clients. [This] news means that they will be rebooking their clients now for a second or third time.”
Anyone already in Spain should follow any outstanding or new local rules, return home as planned, and continue to check the FCO’s travel advice for any further information.
Meanwhile Paul Charles, chief executive of the PC Agency travel consultancy and spokesperson for the Quash Quarantine campaign group questioned the timing of the announcement, arguing on Twitter that "travellers and the travel sector can’t accept quarantine with 4-hour notice periods."
"It is financially and logistically disruptive. There has to be airport testing and effective track&trace in place. Other countries manage it perfectly well," he added.
Surprised that @transportgovuk and @FCOtravel didn’t alter #Spain travel advice yesterday when #France #Germany and #Norway did. Interesting to see a blanket #Spain advisory instead of a regional one just for #Catalonia. Indicates depth of #UKGovt concern on #Spain @ThePCAgency— Paul Charles (@PPaulCharles) July 25, 2020
Meanwhile British Airways described the new measures as "yet another blow" to British holidaymakers, while easyJet said it was "disappointed" and would operate a full schedule in the coming days.
A spokesman for Abta told the BBC the government’s quarantine rule change was "disappointing".
"We suggest the government considers lifting the quarantine rules for flights to and from certain regions with lower infection rates, or to places such as the Balearic Islands or the Canaries - which are geographically distinct from mainland Spain - to avoid further damage to the UK inbound and outbound tourism industries," he said.
In a statement Tui said it had cancelled all flights due to depart to mainland Spain and the Canary Islands on Sunday 26th July and that it would "proactively contact all customers to either arrange a full refund or the option to rebook their holiday with a booking incentive".