//Global Travel Taskforce reports back
testing at airports

Global Travel Taskforce reports back

‘Test to release’ scheme, tour bubbles and marketing campaign among recommendations.

The Global Travel Taskforce has reported back and made 14 recommendations, which it says will safely increase demand in travel and “take the lead on global standards”.

The report, which notes that the transport and tourism sectors have long been at the core of the UK’s economic success, was presented to the prime minister by the secretary of state for transport, Grant Shapps, and for health and social care, Matt Hancock.

Chief among the recommendations is the ‘test to release’ scheme, which will allow travellers from countries without travel corridors to opt into a test after five days of quarantine. The policy is set to be introduced on December 15.

Also recommended is a pre-departure testing proposal with partner countries on a bilateral basis. It notes that “some of the recommendations contained in this report will be delivered in the short term, whereas others will need further consideration with clinicians, health experts and the transport and tourism sectors, and will be dependent on the future course of the pandemic.”

The report suggests the launch of a public health information campaign to inform UK departing passengers and international visitors about travel requirements; and to deliver a system of assurance of air travel, led by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), to evidence the industry’s compliance with international guidance, which it says will help increase consumer confidence.

It also recommends delivering an effective communications campaign, alongside the CAA’s system of assurance, working with the CAA and Public Health England (PHE) to publicise the UK industry’s compliance with global health standards, to boost consumer confidence and provide reassurance to encourage UK-based residents that global aviation is “open, safe and secure”.

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The report suggests developing a Tourism Recovery Plan setting out the transformation and growth of the sector over the next five years as part of the economic recovery, as well as an Aviation Recovery Plan to consider the outlook for the sector in the medium term once short-term measures have taken effect, including on ensuring sustainable economic growth.

It recommends working with industry to explore the potential for “tour bubbles” by extending the model used for sports teams to cover inbound group tours, as well as studying the feasibility of short-stay exemptions for business travel.

Furthermore, it recommends publishing the criteria for when cruises can restart. It also agrees to implement the phased approach to restart when the public health advice is that it is safe to do so. You can see the full report here.

The report admits that the Covid-19 pandemic is proving to be an “existential threat to many otherwise strong businesses within these sectors,” noting that international travel fell by 70 per cent over the first eight months of 2020, compared to 2019.

Speaking before the release of the full report, but after the announcement of the new testing regime, Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound said: “Implementing testing after five days and reducing quarantine is a step in the right direction but the prospect of visitors having to self-isolate for any length of time will continue to significantly impede demand and therefore risk jobs in the UK’s valuable inbound tourism industry.

“Tourism is a competitive business, and when we can travel again, we need a best-in-class testing regime, negating the need for a lengthy self-isolation, otherwise competitors who do have these systems will reap the benefit. Tourism will be able to significantly aid the UK’s economic recovery but right now businesses are struggling to survive and until a more rigorous system is in place, international visitors will not return in numbers. The government needs to provide a targeted resilience fund for inbound tourism businesses and access to grants from which they have previously been excluded, to ensure they can survive the winter.”

Mark Tanzer, chief executive, ABTA, said: “The test to release scheme in England should help to make overseas travel more attractive and manageable for both holidaymakers and business travellers. We know that Foreign Office advice and quarantine requirements are major impediments to travel, and there is an urgent need to remove these barriers as fast as is compatible with the government’s domestic health strategy. The outbound travel industry has been hit early and hard by the pandemic and we hope that test to release will help get people travelling once again.

“Since the start of the pandemic ABTA has strongly argued for having a testing regime to cut quarantine and boost consumer confidence, so we’re pleased The Global Travel Taskforce has recognised the urgency of the situation, and responded. There is still more work to be done to get more people travelling and to support the recovery of the sector, including having a testing scheme in place for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the government moving to a regional approach to quarantine and travel advice. It is important that the test to release scheme is kept under review, to make sure that advancements in testing are used to further reduce quarantine to as short a period as possible.”