The man behind a campaign against the government’s forthcoming quarantine on arrival measures has said the whole travel industry "is on the verge of catastrophe".
Red Savannah chief executive George Morgan-Grenville said a combination of government’s quarantine policy, which is due to come into force on Monday (8 June) and the Foreign Office’s ongoing global travel ban risked wiping out any potential summer business, while also leaving the sector with no forward visibility.
"Where there is the ’Q word’, people are just too fearful to book," Morgan-Grenville told an Elman Wall seminar on Tuesday (2 June). "We need bookings, and we need bookings now."
More than 300 businesses have now backed Morgan-Grenville’s campaign, which calls on home secretary Priti Patel to either give assurances the initial three-week quarantine on arrival policy would be swiftly replaced with an air bridge policy, or simply scrap it altogether.
Explaining how the campaign came about, Morgan-Grenville said that like most firms, Red Savannah enjoyed a "pretty good" first quarter with 2020 bookings around 60% ahead of where they were a year earlier.
However, he said once the "rumblings" of Covid-19 started, it became clear by the end of March "trouble was afoot", particularly with the industry thrown into an immediate and unprecedented refunds crisis owing to the Package Travel Regulations.
Morgan-Grenville said with many firms having already suffering 100% cancellations for April, May and June, the notion of quarantine – first formally set out by prime minister on 10 May – threatened to "wreck" the two months of the summer many saw as "the white knights coming to everyone’s rescue".
"No-one seemed to be challenging government on it [quarantine]," said Morgan-Grenville, who said come the recent bank holiday weekend, he’d worked himself up into such a frenzy he drafted a letter to Patel and sought support from his industry contact book, 70 of whom quickly backed the campaign.
After the letter was sent on Friday (29 May), more than 300 travel firms – constituting around £5 billion in revenue – have subsequently lent their weight to the effort, with 94% of respondents to a survey of these backers reporting they feared quarantine would wipe out their entire business for the summer. Seven in 10 said they faced making up to two-thirds of their staff redundant, while another 28% said they may have to cease trading as a result.
"What I realised is there is a real sense of anger out there," said Morgan-Grenville. "We asked them a number of questions as to what the quarantine and FCO travel advice was going to do. The results are truly horrific.
"We are an industry in crisis. It’s no exaggeration to say the entire industry is in verge of catastrophe. It’s time for government to wake up and realise what a catastrophe they are about to cause."
Morgan-Grenville added an alternative air bridges policy, which would allow arrivals from countries with lower rates of coronavirus infection to forego the 14-day quarantine requirement, would be met with no resistance from the travel sector.
However, he said this would have to be paired with a relaxation of the FCO’s current advice against all non-essential travel worldwide. "The two are joined at the hip," he said, adding his gut feeling was that government would pursue an air bridge regime to replace quarantine at the end of June. "I’m confident we will get some business away this summer."