It’s a day we weren’t sure would come for some time – the end of the UK’s blanket quarantine measures which, at last, suggest Britain is indeed open for business.
How refreshing it has been to see arrivals into the UK today [Friday 10 July] from Europe and beyond without them having to self-isolate; the government’s quarantine measures were poorly thought-out, unenforceable, and financially-damaging to the travel sector.
That was the basis on which the Quash Quarantine movement was formed by Red Savannah chief executive George Morgan-Grenville when he first contacted me to discuss how we could fight the government’s ridiculous plans.
After George secured 77 signatories for a letter to home secretary Priti Patel, including Chef Jason Atherton, Sir Rocco Forte, Abercrombie & Kent, Mark Warner, Der Touristik, Travelbag, Netflights and many others, it was time to promote the campaign more widely.
The PC Agency ensured it would be kept in the news and front-of-mind as we fought to overturn the quarantine measures.
That 77 became more than 500 as more and more companies and individuals started to realise the measures would severely damage the sector.
The realisation was setting in that we had to fight what amounted to a “triple lock” on the travel industry – quarantine measures putting off UK citizens from travelling overseas; the same measures putting off inbound tourists and business travellers; and the Foreign Office’s blanket advice against all non-essential travel making insurance policies invalid.
You couldn’t find a better example of a sector being strangled by its own government.
Luckily, sense prevailed, and lobbying by Quash Quarantine, airports, airlines and others, finally led to the government relaxing the measures earlier today.
So where do we go from here?
The sector has a mountain to climb. After four months of low or even zero sales, many firms need a confidence boost to regain customers and build up their cash.
Consumers are either raring to go overseas, in the minority of cases, or fearful, which is sadly the majority. The travel industry needs to focus on how to rebuild the confidence that existed before March this year when coronavirus took hold in the UK.
We also need a government campaign, at home and abroad, to show people why it’s okay to travel again, as long as social distancing measures are adhered to.
The government has realised it made a mistake introducing quarantine measures for barely a month.
It now needs to make amends and help re-energise our sector quickly in order to save thousands of jobs and businesses from suffering further.
Paul Charles is chief executive of the PC Agency travel consultancy and spokesperson for the Quash Quarantine campaign group