The government’s abysmal handling of travel quarantine statuses forced Riviera Travel to cut our trip short.
While many in travel were relieved Italy wasn’t removed from the air corridor list yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel frustration and anger.
It’s not that I wanted Italy to lose its air corridor status – far from it.
It’s simply because this past week I’ve been travelling around Puglia with Riviera Travel, which made the early decision to cut the trip short in order to get its guests home before the then-anticipated quarantine deadline of 4am on Saturday.
Riviera took a gamble, forced into action before Italy’s impending departure from the air corridor list, and unfortunately it did not pay off.
Don’t get me wrong, the operator is not at fault. I admire its transparency and the way it dealt with the looming potential crisis early on in the trip. All the signs were there for Italy to be removed, so I’m sure Riviera made that decision with its guests’ best interests in mind.
In fact, head of operations Neil Leavesley said at the time the decision was made: “We constantly monitor the ongoing situation in relation to FCDO advice and unfortunately since the tour departed, Italy’s number of cases per 100,000 has begun to rise.
“In order to provide our clients with the confidence that they will not have to quarantine on return to the UK, we have taken the early decision to curtail the tour by one day (ensuring no itinerary content is omitted) and book new return flights, landing back in the UK ahead of the normal 4am deadline on Saturday.
“We feel this provides our customers with peace of mind and reassurance that they can continue to enjoy their holiday.”
Italy’s removal never transpired – this time, anyway – yet a travel business and its guests were still forced to pay the price for the government’s haphazard handling of air corridor statuses. The quarantine hokey-cokey strikes again.
Fortunately, the guests I spoke to seemed understanding. One woman told me she was just glad to have been able to go on the trip as she had been desperate for a holiday.
Two others said they would have liked to stay until the end and go under quarantine regardless, had they been given the choice, but were tolerant of the circumstances.
Riviera’s 36 years of experience in touring showed when it was able to rejig the remainder of our itinerary, entitled Puglia, Lecce and Vieste – Undiscovered Italy, without losing any aspect of the tour. Our group still enjoyed all the excursions featured, so realistically we only missed out on one day of free time.
But this situation yet again highlights the government’s lack of understanding of our industry.
It cannot be emphasised enough – travel businesses cannot operate successfully in this uncertain climate and, despite not needing to quarantine in the end, the impact, however small, was still felt among holidaymakers.
We need more clarity from Grant Shapps et al regarding quarantine and airport testing to prevent companies from having to guess on a weekly basis which countries will be on or off the list. We need this. Now.