Travel industry broadly welcomes regulation changes | News

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The travel sector in England has offered a warm welcome to a simplified system of restrictions unveiled by the government.

Changes are due to come into effect early next month, with the amber list for outbound travel set to be scrapped.

In response, ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer, said: “ABTA welcomes the announcement that fully-vaccinated travellers will no longer have to take PCR tests when returning from low-risk destinations.

“We await confirmation of the date this will be implemented, and we urge the government to do all it can to have this in place before October half-term.

“We have raised repeatedly with government the fact that high PCR charges are one of the main barriers to overseas travel and it is good to see them respond to these calls.

“The removal of the need to take a pre-departure test for this group will also help bring much-needed confidence to the market and further reduce costs for travellers.”

He added: “We have also been asking for the green and amber categories to be removed and are pleased to see this happen under this new system.

“We also welcome the removal of eight more countries from the red list, some of which are important winter sun destinations, though we need more countries to come off the red list in due course.

“Although we recognise the need to retain a red list, the government needs to be much more transparent in its criteria for placing countries on it and it should only be retained for the management of known variants of concern.”

The new measures so far only apply to England, and Tanzer urged the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to update their international travel policies as soon as possible.

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, welcomed the changes, but said more was needed.

“The devil is in the detail,” he explained.

“Which lateral flow providers will international arrivals have to use, will tests purchased outside of the UK, but taken on arrival, be accepted, and what about children under 18? Further clarity is urgently needed.

“The UK also continues to be at a competitive disadvantage, with Europe having no testing requirements for vaccinated arrivals.”

Following the update, World Travel & Tourism Council chief executive, Julia Simpson, said the move would help to rebuild confidence.

“The tourism sector has been rocked by the pandemic losing 62 million jobs globally.

“We are pleased to see the back of an illogical traffic light system that caused confusion and distress for travellers.

“This move, to ease restrictions and open up more key destinations, will help restore consumer confidence and get the UK moving again,” she said.

“We are also happy to see that the government has listened to our calls, with double vaccinated travellers no longer needing to take pre-departure tests, and that antigen tests will replace costly PCRs before the end of the busy half term holiday season.

“While this is certainly a step in the right direction, for the UK to be real leaders, the government should adopt a system based on the risk of individuals, not countries.”

Danny Callaghan, chief executive of the Latin American Travel Association, was less impressed.

He said: “While the changes announced around testing are a step in the right direction, we still find most of Latin America – indeed most of long-haul travel – stranded on the red list.

“How the hell are long-haul operators supposed to trade their way out of trouble, which seems to be the expectation?

“With the end of furlough, no government support, and the continued closure of most of our industry, we are heading for a jobs bloodbath, with an out-of-touch government that has no actual strategy beyond meaningless news headlines.”

He added: “How has the UK managed to fall so far behind the EU in opening up, when our vaccine programme was the envy of the EU just a few months ago?

“Where is the vaccine dividend? Where is the Brexit dividend?

“I cannot begin to express my disgust at the treatment of Latin American countries.”

Over in the aviation sector, Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport chief executive, welcomed the move.

He said: “This is a significant and welcome step towards recovery.

“Fully vaccinated passengers now have a larger choice of destinations and can book with more confidence in the months before Christmas and beyond – free from the need to arrange pre-departure tests before coming back into the UK.

“We know there is significant pent-up demand for travel and our staff, restaurants, cafes and bars are ready to welcome back passengers over the coming months.

“We also welcome the news that day two PCR tests will be replaced with the quicker and more affordable lateral flow tests, which will allow us to start catching up with our competitors in Europe and the US – where passenger numbers are already approaching pre-pandemic levels.

“However, we also hope that the remaining constraints including the passenger locator form can be removed soon and we continue to call for the slot rules to be reinstated to incentivise airlines, increase competition and provide passengers with greater choice and flexibility.”