//ABTA: PCR tests should be scrapped

ABTA: PCR tests should be scrapped

New data shows devastating impact of travel requirements on travel industry

ABTA is urging the government to overhaul its traffic light system and end the use of PCR testing following a “dire summer season”.

The appeal comes as new data reveals the devastating impact the travel requirements has had on the overseas travel industry this summer.

Research from ABTA members shows that new summer foreign holiday bookings for 2021 were down 83 per cent on 2019.

Almost half of travel companies said they had seen no increase in 2021 bookings compared to last year, despite the vaccine rollout.

And 58 per cent of bookings with departure dates in July or August had to be postponed or cancelled.

ABTA has written to the transport secretary and chancellor to share the data and outline the changes needed for the government’s upcoming travel review in October.

ABTA is appealing to the government to:

  • End the traffic light system and treat all destinations as open by default.
  • Retain a short red list only for the management of known variants of concern.
  • End the widespread use of PCR testing by removing the need for fully vaccinated travellers to do any Covid-19 test on their return from lower-risk countries.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The government must use October’s strategic review to open up safe travel by putting the individual risk profiles at the heart of UK travel policy – capitalising on the vaccine rollout and maintaining a red list for managing known variants of concern. There is no logical explanation as to why people who are fully vaccinated should be taking expensive PCR tests – or any test at all – when returning from lower risk countries. This widespread use of PCR tests needs to stop.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News on Sunday (September 12) that he wanted to end PCR testing for those returning to the UK “as soon as he possible could” while admitting that he was “not going to make that decision right now”.

The ABTA member data also showed that 69 per cent of travel companies with staff on furlough expect to make further redundancies once the scheme ends this month.

ABTA is urging the government to provide a package of tailored financial support for the industry by extending the furlough scheme and providing a grant fund.

Tanzer added: “The government’s travel requirements have choked off this summer’s travel trade – putting jobs, businesses and the UK’s connectivity at risk. While our European neighbours have been travelling freely and safely, the British were subject to expensive measures which have stood in the way of people visiting family and friends, taking that much-needed foreign holiday and making important business connections.

“The government needs to wake up to the damage its policies are doing to the UK travel industry and the impact they will have on the wider economic recovery. It is the fares from leisure passengers that keep our planes flying and routes open – a diminished holiday industry is a diminished aviation industry with fewer routes and fewer flights. That’s not how you achieve a global Britain.

“The dire summer season also means the need for a package of tailored financial support – extending the furlough scheme for travel businesses and a dedicated grant fund – remains paramount. The chancellor has dismissed the extension of furlough as being too ‘challenging’ – that’s not good enough and a way must be found. No matter how many times the government may try to claim it has supported travel businesses, there has not been a penny of tailored support for travel agents or tour operators, with many missing out on essential funding.”