The Save Our Summer (SOS) campaign has called on the government to scrap the travel corridor regime that regulated travel last summer and replace it with wider, more rigorous testing of passengers.
Nine in 10 respondents (91%) to a new SOS survey of nearly 400 of the travel firms backing the campaign said they did not want to see the same arrangements in place this summer.
The government’s travel corridor regime caused significant disruption for passengers and agents alike as destinations were rolled on and off the government’s tacit "safe travel" list, typically at very short notice.
The system, which was based on national rates of Covid infection, left passengers in-destination – sometimes hundreds of miles from areas of significant Covid risk – scrambling to get home quickly to avoid having to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the UK.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps was among those to be caught out late last July when the government revoked Spain’s travel corridor with just a few hours’ notice, less than three weeks after the country was added to the travel corridors list.
Nearly 80% of respondents to the SOS survey said testing should replace all other measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, even if it pushed up the cost of business and/or leisure trips.
A further 86% said hotel quarantine should not be employed after 17 May, the earliest possible date the government believes international travel could restart – although this is yet subject to a report by the Global Travel Taskforce, due on 12 April.
Some 85% of respondents said they would support the use of digital vaccine certification for single trips.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency and co-founder of SOS, said opinion was "sharply against" the reintroduction of travel corridors.
"Firms across travel and tourism are united in calling for the government to introduce widespread testing for arrivals instead, even if it means extra costs. This would enable travel to seamlessly start up safely and responsibly, in the same way schools are doing."
Henry Morley, chief executive of True Travel and fellow co-founder of SOS, added consumers needed "real clarity" in order to commit to bookings, regardless of the level of flexibility firms can offer.
"The combination of hotel quarantine and the threat of chaos caused by travel corridors last summer have halted any semblance of a bounceback in bookings," said Morley.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has said Global Travel Taskforce will develop a new "risk-based framework" to restart international travel, utilising the government’s existing border measures such as testing and self-isolation.
The DfT added the taskforce’s 12 April report would build on recommendations from its November report.
Its efforts will "take place in parallel and be closely integrated" with a review of "Covid-status certification" being led by Michael Gove.
The DfT said a decision on when international travel can resume would depend on four factors: the domestic and global epidemiological situation; the emergence, location and prevalence of variants of concern; the progress of the UK’s vaccine roll-out and programmes overseas; and new data on the efficacy of the vaccines currently being deployed on variants, transmission, hospitalisation and death.