The UK’s 14-day quarantine on arrival measures threaten 1.2 million travel and tourism jobs and risk worsening an already "critical" situation for the sector according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said quarantine would have a "significant and long-lasting negative effect" on the country’s travel and tourism sector by deterring leisure and business travellers.
Guevara’s warning comes after home secretary Priti Patel confirmed the UK’s quarantine on arrival policy would come into force on Monday (8 June), despite the government pursuing bilateral "air bridge" agreements with several European countries.
These agreements with countries with lower rates of coronavirus infection could allow travellers returning to the UK to forego the 14-day self-isolation requirement. Patel said the government would review the policy on a three-weekly basis.
With the government signalling its support for an air bridge or "safe travel corridor" regime, it is thought at least some of these arrangements could be in place by the end of the month, or early July.
However, Patel said any decision on whether to ease quarantine and permit travel to certain destinations would depend on the epidemiological situation in the UK.
“Once again, we call on the UK government to remove the 14-day quarantine as soon as possible," said Guevara. "Quarantines should not be necessary if appropriate and effective containment measures are in place at departure and arrival points.
“While the government has managed well the overall response to the Covid-19 crisis, we believe the 14-day quarantine will put the UK at a distinct competitive disadvantage.
"We understand protecting public health is paramount, but this measure, which affects international visitors and those arriving back into the UK from abroad, will have a significant and long-lasting negative effect on the travel and tourism sector.
Guevara also threw her backing behind air bridges. “We’ve no doubt these measures [quarantine] will deter both business and leisure travellers from visiting major hubs throughout the country.
"It will worsen an already critical situation and delay the much-needed recovery of the UK economy. So it’s vital ’air corridors’ to low-infection countries are opened as soon as possible.
“WTTC data shows the Covid-19 crisis has led to more than 1.2 million travel and tourism jobs being at risk in the UK, with substantial losses already.
"As the sixth largest economy in the world, and the third largest in Europe in terms of the travel and tourism, it is critical the travel and tourism sector drives the economic recovery, as it contributes 9% of UK GDP and is responsible for 11% of total UK employment.”