Requiring arrivals into the UK to produce evidence of a pre-travel negative Covid test "will make travel virtually impossible", agents in Scotland have said.
New rules announced by the Scottish government, akin to those set out on Thursday (8 January) by transport secretary Grant Shapps, will come into effect shortly.
It is understood the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland are considering similar measures, while the Republic of Ireland announced on Thursday (7 January) it would require arrivals from Great Britain to test negative for Covid up to 72 hours prior to departure.
The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) and the country’s largest independent agency business, Barrhead Travel, on Friday said they accepted there was an overriding public health reason for the new rules, but questioned why it had taken Holyrood and Westminster so long to enact such measures – which the industry have always supported and advocated for.
SPAA president Joanne Dooey said: "Our members have been lobbying for a robust, effective testing regime, and this will undoubtedly be an excellent first step towards this and will hopefully help to prevent the transmission of any new variants of the virus within the UK.
"However, this new test requirement does not remove the mandatory 10-day self-isolation period for all international travellers arriving here from countries without a travel corridor."
Dooey said travel now needed "agreed international standards and protocols" for testing. "There needs to be a list of internationally acceptable tests which can be adopted in UK as well," said Dooey.
"This new requirement is due to be brought in next week, but at the moment, there’s no indication from the transport secretary Grant Shapps of which tests are valid and acceptable."
The SPAA has also reiterated its call for action beyond short-term measures to offer a way out of the Covid crisis.
"The travel industry needs a comprehensive, internationally agreed, strategic plan for how we can return to travelling both in the period before the vaccination programme is complete and in the period beyond this," said Dooey.
"We need to see a blueprint for how we return to travelling for business and leisure reasons because currently the sector has been devastated and is in need of significant support. The Scottish economy needs its travel industry in order to drive economic recovery."
Barrhead president Jacqueline Dobson said a roadmap plotting the country’s course out of the restrictions stifling travel was now vital.
"We fully appreciate why these measures have been taken – public health, of course, must come first," said Dobson.
"However, the UK government and its devolved administrations must confirm a timeline for these strict measures which do not replace current quarantine requirements.
"These strict measures, which will make travel virtually impossible, must only be temporary and only running as an emergency measure in tandem with the full national lockdown.
"During this time, governments must lay-out a detailed roadmap to recovery for reopening international travel.
"This includes setting out plans for practical and affordable airport testing to work towards removing the need for quarantine. Testing affordability will be crucial for the leisure market to begin to make any form of recovery this year."
Dobson also echoed calls from counterparts south of the border in England for meaningful engagement by the UK and Scottish governments with travel industry leaders over the coming weeks to agree a plan that permits the gradual restart of international travel and allows the travel industry to recover.
"These conversations are crucial for the government to understand firstly, what support is required by our industry and secondly, to gauge what information and advice must be made available to support customers for future travel," said Dobson.
"In addition, there must also be a common approach within the UK for all travel guidance moving forward; it is impractical for the four nations to continue to make separate decisions and issue disjointed guidance – this would further hamper recovery for both inbound and outbound travel."