ABTA responds to Global Travel Taskforce
The Global Travel Taskforce has set out its approach for restarting international travel. A traffic light system, which will categorise countries based on risk alongside the restrictions required for travel, will be set up.
The Department for Transport said that key factors in the assessment will include:
- the percentage of their population that have been vaccinated
- the rate of infection
- the prevalence of variants of concern
- the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing
The report, produced by the Global Travel Taskforce, sets out how international travel could resume from May 17 at the earliest. More details can be seen here.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “International travel is vital – it boosts businesses and underpins the UK economy – but more than that, it brings people together, connects families who have been kept apart, and allows us to explore new horizons.
“The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine roll out, and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The travel industry now has a much-needed framework for the restart of international travel and it is good to see Government maintain its ambition for overseas travel to start from 17 May if the circumstances allow.
“While the framework isn’t perfect – the requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people – we welcome the fact that the Government commits to engaging with industry on this issue. Small changes, like requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against re-importation of the virus. The Government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility.
“Given that the summer season is a short window, which is critical for the survival of many travel companies, it is important the Government regularly reviews the green list, ensuring that those countries which meet the criteria are added as soon as possible. Closing off destinations unnecessarily will significantly affect the industry’s opportunity to recover this summer.
“We also need to hear more from government on their plans to provide targeted ongoing support for travel businesses, as it is clear the recovery of the sector will be gradual.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “For an industry that has been shut down for 12 months now, the latest announcement by the Global Travel Taskforce is a step in the right direction, however there is still a long way to go. While we welcome the implementation of a traffic light system to open international travel as outlined in the Global Travel Taskforce announcement, we must learn from mistakes made last year in order to avoid unnecessary cost, disruption and anxiety for travellers. It’s encouraging to see that the introduction of a ‘Green Watchlist’ will come from one single government source and pleased that the overall objective of the watchlist is to give passengers greater certainty when travelling and assurance for those who wish to travel abroad. Our underlining concern at this point, in the absence of the full report, is clarity around the notice period of when countries will be added/removed, meaning travel agents will be left to deal with the operational challenges of cancelling and rebooking trips, and consumers will be scrambling to get home. We do however understand the need for the government to act swiftly in the event of emerging evidence, particularly to variants of concern.
“We have always advocated the need for testing in order to safely reopen travel, but we must have clarification on the types of tests permitted and whether this applies to children as well, along with an exemptions for vaccinated people. Whilst we are pleased that the number of tests have been reduced for countries on the green list, we must ensure that travel can remain accessible for all, particularly families, so we urge the government to consider affordable testing options – such as lateral flow tests – as part of this framework. It is encouraging to read that the Global Travel Taskforce wants to engage with the industry to find a solution to the testing issues and recognises how vital the industry is to the economy and bringing loved ones together.
“Travelling will be complex for the foreseeable future, so we would encourage anyone who is considering booking a trip to speak to their local travel agent. We remain hopeful for some kind of summer season, as this is still some months away and as we know, circumstances can change very quickly, and with the continued vaccine rollout, particularly across the US and parts of Europe, we are positive there will be further progress to ensure a safe and sustainable return of travel. As the rest of the economy starts to unlock we will be doing all we can to work with government to safely restart travel.”