The government’s new test to release scheme, designed to cut quarantine from 10 days to five days through testing, is "hindering rather than helping" travellers, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has said.
Test to release went live on Tuesday (15 December) with 11 testing partners, but one immediately pulled out and several others were found to either be already beyond capacity or not ready to start processing tests.
This was despite the launch coming the best part of two months after it was initially detailed by transport secretary Grant Shapps in mid-October, and a month after it was formally announced in mid-November.
WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara late on Wednesday (16 December) said the council was questioning whether the initiative, as it stands, is fit for purpose.
"Protecting public health is paramount and, while WTTC welcomed the test to release scheme, it has created confusion and appears to be hindering rather than helping travellers," said Guevara.
"Holidaymakers must have easy access to the list of private testing firms and be certain that they will actually get their results in time.
"Travellers need clear and concise information so they fully understand the process they need to follow in order to take themselves out of quarantine."
Guevara said these details should have been made available via the NHS Covid-19 app or "other clear mechanisms" to avoid adding to the confusion which risks stalling travel’s efforts to restart.
"Tests need to be quick, affordable and accessible, and should also be available through the NHS, not just through expensive third-party suppliers," said Guevara.
"Testing travellers is the solution to restarting international travel while avoiding exporting the virus. It ensures only infected people are isolated and will enable mobility in a responsible way."
She added other countries had successfully led the way on testing, and stressed testing – despite the Covid vaccine rollout – would for some time remain a vital tool for controlling the spread of coronavirus.
"Other countries have shown it can be done by introducing testing schemes which are both quick and cost-effective and have successfully kick-started travel to revive wilting economies," she said.
"Safe and effective test and trace measures will form part of the essential toolkit, which allows the return of safe travels with ease and confidence across international borders.
"However, the current test to release scheme in place in England is already causing acute confusion among the public, and there is an urgent need to ensure that it works for the very people it’s meant to help."