Industry bodies have voiced their frustration at the lack of clarity from the prime minister’s Easter announcements on travel.
Despite a broad welcome for the traffic lights approach, there was concern about how it will work and when it will be introduced.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “A priority for the industry is a more stable system that avoids the situation of last summer where travel to many destinations was quickly turned on and off.
“It is vital that the government clarifies how the transition between green, amber and red levels will work, both to help travel businesses plan ahead and to provide reassurance for travellers. Destinations should not be suddenly closed off unless variants of concern dictate that this must happen.”
He added: “The goal must be to have unrestricted travel to ‘green’ destinations. At present, the costs of testing may be a deterrent to many UK travellers, so the government must ensure that testing is required only where the public health risk justifies it.”
The airline sector also called for clarity. Tim Alderslade, Airlines UK chief executive, said it supported the framework for restarting international travel and the removal of self-isolation for arrivals from green countries, but added: “Today’s announcement does not provide the clarity we were seeking on the roadmap back towards normality. We await further details, but the measures indicated, including the potential for multiple tests for travellers even from ‘green countries’, will prevent meaningful travel even to low-risk destinations.”
Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said the government “must learn from mistakes made last year for it to work”.
“Currently we have very little detail from government about how to streamline that process to improve on last year.”
She added: “We want to see a commitment to sticking to clear channels of communication via government platforms and aligned with the FCDO to mitigate against confusion and panic when countries fall on or off the ‘red list’. We urgently need co-ordination between the devolved nations and a set of common standards internationally.”
She said there were additional concerns about testing.
“We want to know the government’s interim plans to facilitate proof of tests and vaccinations ahead of a potential digitised Covid status certification which they say won’t be ready until the autumn. This will be a critical element for the efficient opening up of travel together with more affordable testing if consumers are required to have three tests to travel safely.”
SPAA president Joanne Dooey called for a “four nations” approach.
“We’re disappointed that there wasn’t a clear road map for international travel in the prime minister’s announcement tonight but we are confident that work continues behind the scenes and we hope to hear firm plans in coming the weeks,” she said.
“The travel sector needs a four nations approach in order to restart international travel and it needs unilateral effort to reinstate travel in a responsible way to mitigate risk for both outbound and inbound tourism.”
The Airport Operators Association said any further destination closures would have major financial impacts on UK airports.
AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “It is disappointing that the initial update from the prime minister continues to suggest significant barriers to international travel and may push back the date of restart beyond 17 May.
“While a new green category with no isolation requirement on return to the UK is very welcome, potentially costly and onerous testing requirements would limit the possibilities for many people to travel to countries in the green category.”
The Business Travel Association called the government’s announcement “beyond disappointing”. Chief executive Clive Wratten said: “If we are to restart our economy, we need to have a clear pathway to international travel and trade. This has once again been kicked down the road.”
However, Joss Croft, UKinbound chief executive, welcomed the traffic light approach as “a clear sign that government is listening to the industry”.