The US is more likely to be initially classified as a “green” destination under the new traffic light system than traditional short-haul destinations in Europe, according to industry experts.
The UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce revealed on Friday (9 April) plans for giving destinations red, amber or green status, with different levels of restrictions, when international travel resumes from 17 May at the earliest.
While the government will not announce which destinations will be classified as green until early May, key European destinations may miss out due to the current “third wave” of Covid-19 infections sweeping the continent.
Delegates at the latest Elman Wall webinar expected the US to have a better chance of being given green status than traditional short-haul holiday destinations in Europe.
Sunvil’s group managing director Chris Wright said: “Very few European countries are going to hit that green grade. The US is likely to come on line before European destinations. Portugal could be one of the few countries on the green list.”
Wright added that Greece could also be “one of the first to come back” on to the green list. But he warned that consumer confidence could be hit if there was a repeat of the “hokey cokey” approach to adding and removing countries at short notice seen last summer.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said it was “good news that the government was adopting a risk-based approach” with the traffic light system.
Croft said European countries were “very unlikely to be on the green list in the short term”, although he noted that these destinations were “cracking on” with their vaccination programmes, which could change the situation in the coming weeks.
“We must have the US on the green list,” he added. “It’s our biggest market – worth more than France and Germany put together. There’s huge pent-up demand for the UK in the US.”
The US has been accelerating its vaccination programme in recent weeks under the administration of new president Joe Biden who has set the target of 19 April for all adults to be eligible to receive a vaccine.
Business travel continues to suffer heavily due to the pandemic but there have been signs of an “uptick” in activity in recent weeks.
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said that while its TMC members were still at around 10% of 2019 booking levels, there were signs this could pick up to around 25-30% of 2019 levels during April.
“As fragile as that might be – business travel is happening,” he said. “Pent-up demand has been growing in the last four to six weeks.”
Wratten also called for business travellers to be exempt from quarantine when returning from "amber" countries in the planned new "traffic light" system for reopening international travel from May onwards.