Advantage chief Julia Lo Bue-Said has called for an end to the "ludicrous cycle" of speculation and leaks in the build-up to the government’s three-weekly reviews of its traffic light regime.
Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said travel was "yet again looking down the barrel of the worst groundhog day ever" after it was confirmed on Wednesday (14 July) Spain’s Balearic Islands would on Monday (19 July) be relegated from the UK’s green watchlist to its amber list – a little less than three weeks after it got the green light.
The situation, Lo Bue-Said suggested, was reminiscent of last summer’s derided travel corridor policy, which saw transport secretary Grant Shapps tweet out weekly updates and with changes coming with as little as 36 to 48 hours notice.
On Monday, Bulgaria and Hong Kong will join the green list, while Croatia and Taiwan will be added to the UK’s green watchlist. However, Lo Bue-Said said the changes would make little difference to what agents could "realistically sell" at this time – and blasted the manner in which the announcements are made.
"After more than a year of lobbying, the industry is still last to hear the news from government allowing no time to plan and properly support customers with changes to their holidays leading, in many cases to cancellations and refunds," she said.
"Speculation throughout the day from non-official sources has been irresponsible and only added to the confusion in the lead up to the announcement. This ludicrous cycle must stop.
"The government must get a grip of the traffic light system, which is surely unfit for purpose when it does not align with other countries, be transparent with its decision making, and ensure travel operators are the first to know of any updates so they can step in immediately to help minimise disruption for travellers."
Lo Bue-Said added green status had become meaningless as it no longer offers travellers or agents any additional confidence to travel to or sell destinations. "The inconsistency of the system means travel agents cannot properly advise clients because they have very few options they can confidently sell for the summer and beyond," said the Advantage chief.
"The trajectory for recovery for the majority of other businesses while slow, is progressing in the right direction following the domestic roadmap. The trajectory of recovery for the travel industry is regressive.
"The government must surely recognise a life-line of sector-specific financial support is absolutely crucial now if we are to have left any semblance of a travel industry by the end of this year.”
Agent campaign group Target also called for an end to the cycle of speculation around traffic light announcements following the latest update on Wednesday (14 July), urging Abta and other trade bodies to "counter the chaos".
"Target members are telling us they have been bombarded with questions from a confused public, who had not necessarily booked with them, trying to find out where they stood," said co-founder of the group, Westoe Travel’s Graeme Brett.