Warning over potential job losses unless UK travel rules are changed

Travel association ABTA is calling for a significant overhaul of the Government’s traffic light system, including ending the widespread use of PCR testing, as new data reveals the impact the UK’s travel requirements have had on the country’s overseas travel industry this summer.

Figures from ABTA shows that new summer holiday bookings for 2021 are down 83% on 2019, and 7 in 10 travel companies plan to make redundancies after furlough ends this month. Almost half of travel companies also reported they have seen no increase in 2021 bookings compared to last year, despite the rollout of the vaccine programme. 58% of bookings with departure dates in July or August this year had to be postponed or cancelled.

With the Government due to review the requirements for international travel by 1 October and furlough to end soon, ABTA has written to the transport secretary and the chancellor to share its latest evidence, suggesting that the traffic light system has acted as brake on the sector and failed to deliver the conditions necessary for recovery. It has also repeated its calls for tailored financial support to recognise the challenges that the travel industry has faced.

With more than 80% of eligible UK adults already vaccinated, ABTA says the existing system needs significant overhaul, including ending the traffic light system. Instead, it says that all destinations should be treated as open by default, with the retention of a short red list only for the management of known variants of concern. It also says that the widespread use of PCR testing should end 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’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."

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