Agents in Scotland can’t afford any further hold-ups with regards to the resumption of international travel, both the SPAA and Barrhead Travel have warned.
The association, along with the country’s largest independent agency chain, on Thursday (8 July) blasted the Scottish government for failing to immediately align with the UK government’s decision to ease quarantine for fully vaccinated amber list arrivals, starting 19 July.
Barrhead president Jacqueline Dobson said she was "extremely disappointed" by the lack of a corresponding announcement by the Scottish government, warning it left Scottish agents and travellers "in limbo", while SPAA president Joanne Dooey said it was vital agents and travellers had clarity on whether Scotland would "swiftly" follow suit.
Dooey said travel certification, including proof of vaccination, would be critical to the restart, and said the Scottish government must – as a matter of urgency – update the country’s travel sector and the national on what stage it is at with the rollout of the NHS app to serve as a vaccine pass.
She alluded to the rollout in England and the app’s integration with the EU’s digital Covid certificate to verify travellers’ Covid status through vaccination, testing or recovery from Covid.
"We continue to raise the question of travel certification and how Scotland will deliver a scheme to allow the public to provide proof of vaccination status in order to fly to other countries," said Dooey. "Currently, Scots who wish to travel have to apply for a paper certificate – we need to be operating at the same level as the other countries which have developed and are already using this technology."
Dooey added the cost of testing also needed to be addressed in Scotland, and reiterated the struggles agents in Scotland have faced for more than a year. "However we look at it, 2021 has followed 2020 as a second catastrophic year for our industry.
"The news last week that Tui has withdrawn from its Scottish base and also is cancelling a raft of holidays to some of the most popular holiday destinations up to 31 July only supports this view.
"Travel agents have been forced to remain open for 16 months now to help their clients rebook – sometimes for the sixth or seventh time – yet are still receiving no income. There is little, if any, customer confidence in travel at the moment and whole sector needs the Scottish government to get behind a restart to international travel and boost the Scottish economy."
Dobson, meanwhile, said delays to such a "critical announcement" meant the 2021 summer season could yet "effectively be lost".
"We are extremely disappointed the Scottish government has not taken action today to open up travel for Scottish holidaymakers and those travelling to visit loved ones and family abroad," said Dobson.
“The failure to follow the easing of restrictions, announced today by Grant Shapps, will have far-reaching effects. Vaccinated travellers from England returning from amber list countries will now not have to self-isolate nor take a day eight test. But this level of opening up has not been matched in Scotland, with the Scottish government only saying they are considering the position.
“Our English counterparts – industry and holidaymakers – are getting ready to make plans from 19 July but once again, Scotland is left in limbo. These plans were tentatively announced in July so we have to ask, why is this still under consideration?"
Dobson also reiterated Barrhead and the SPAA’s fears that a failure to provide clarity on travel to and from Scotland would give rise to a "significant risk" of Scottish holidaymakers choosing to travel instead from English airports, which she said would have "huge long-term effects" on Scottish airports.
"What Scottish travellers and the industry desperately need is the introduction of a truly four nations approach so Scots can enjoy the same opportunities as holidaymakers in England and so Scottish businesses do not fall any further behind during the this crucial recovery period," Dobson added.