More than 70 leading travel and hospitality firms have written to home secretary Priti Patel urging her to scrap the government’s 14-day quarantine on arrival requirement, which is due to come into effect next month.
From 8 June, anyone arriving in the UK by air, sea or rail will be required to self-isolate for 14 days or face a hefty fine; the government says the move is designed to guard against the UK importing a second wave of coronavirus infection.
However, with countries across Europe preparing to ease lockdown measures and reopen their borders and tourism economies in time for summer, the UK travel sector is facing unprecedented operational and economic challenges.
"The very last thing the travel industry needs is a mandatory quarantine imposed on all arriving passengers which will deter foreign visitors from coming here, deter UK visitors from travelling abroad, and most likely cause other countries to impose reciprocal quarantine requirements on British visitors," read the letter, penned by George Morgan-Grenville, founder and chief executive of tour operator and luxury villa specialist Red Savannah.
Signatories include Geoffrey Kent and Manfredi Lefebvre, co-chairs of Abercrombie & Kent Group; Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni parent Der Touristik UK; Jennifer Atkinson, chief executive of Inspiring Travel Company; Paul Cleary, managing director of Caribtours; Ted Wake, founder of Kirker Holidays; and Andrew Dunn, chairman of Scott Dunn.
While praising government for its handling of Covid-19, the letter suggests any quarantine measures should have been imposed at an earlier stage of the crisis, stressing now the epidemic was under control, increased testing and contact tracing would be a more "constructive" way to control and reduce the spread of the infection.
It also says there was "substantial merit" in pursuing "air bridge" arrangements between the UK and countries where there is a low rate of Covid-19, first put forward in the Commons by transport secretary Grant Shapps. "It is completely wrong of the government to have dismissed this plan without due consultation," said the letter.
"The government has done its best to suppress and control this viral contagion, but it should not, and must not, exceed its mandate," the letter adds.
"The people of this country do not wish to be prevented from travelling. The government itself has urged people to use their common sense in terms of their behaviour. Quite simply, it is time to switch the emphasis from protection to economic recovery, before it is too late."
A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC: "As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border.
"We continue to support businesses in the tourism sector through one of the most generous economic packages provided anywhere in the world.
"However, it is right that we introduce these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave."