A ‘triple lock’ system of free Covid testing is needed to re-start tourism, a tour operator has said in an open letter.
Lusso proposes a pre-travel test, followed by another before return to the UK and a third days after travellers are back home. The mandatory third test would trigger a refund of testing costs and be enforced by a heavy penalty.
Lusso operations director Mark Hibbert said the UK government already had testing facilities set up that were under-used and which could be employed to screen travellers.
The cost of testing is likely to be considerable, but Hibbert said: “There’s also the cost of thousands of people being made redundant because the industry is at a standstill – what’s that compared with baling out an airline?”
In the letter, Lusso said it believed many overseas destinations would waive the cost of testing as a stimulus to the industry, while the UK should see the suggestion as promoting inbound tourism.
Hibbert said: “It’s an open letter to start a conversation; it’s been sent to Abta, a few ministers and local MPs.
“APD holidays and extended furloughs are beneficial, but I’m trying to get to grips with how we re-start travel. Increased testing has to be the way forward, but people don’t seem to be talking about it apart from individual airlines.”
The letter said the government “is failing to understand that without a thriving outbound tourism sector there is significant damage caused to inbound tourism”.
“Other countries are getting to grips with inbound tourism, but our government does not seem to be interested,” Hibbert said. He added UK operators were “sat here bleeding to death” without any revenue.
“If there is any kind of will to keep travel sustainable it needs to be sorted out. The only way the government is handling it at the moment is by saying ‘just don’t travel’.”
Lusso said it was also concerned about FCO advice. The letter said:
“It is currently being used in a broad-brush approach and should not include knee-jerk reactions and blanket bans on areas with similar if not lower infection rates than our own. FCO advice against all but essential travel is not currently fit for purpose and should be reserved for areas of high risk.
“This needs urgent review, as huge areas of the world are restricted to travel, currently many with lower infection rates than the UK.”