Travel industry relief mixed with fury after government loosens rules
The travel industry has responded with relief to the UK government’s relaxation of international travel rules.
But the delay in the announcement by Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps is stirring fury – partly because many believe overseas travel should have been liberalized months ago, and partly because of the way to communicate the government’s decision.
In a tweet just before 5 p.m. on Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that the testing regime for returning UK travelers would be relaxed – with the ‘test to fly’ dropped for fully vaccinated people.
In addition, the main Eastern Mediterranean nations of Egypt and Turkey were ultimately taken off the red list, along with winter favorites Kenya, Maldives, Oman and Sri Lanka.
With the end of the mandatory quarantine of hotels for arrivals, travel agencies will once again be able to sell trips to these destinations.
In addition, Pakistan and Bangladesh have been removed from the red list, which will allow many families to reconnect.
But South African tourism officials are glowing that they were overlooked in easing the red list. The nation has been on the high-risk registry for most of the year 2021.
David Frost, Managing Director of Satsa, representing the Southern African inbound tourism industry, said: “It’s a kick in the teeth for 1.5 million South African tourism workers who relied on UK visitors this spring.
“There is not the slightest scientific evidence to support keeping South Africa on the red list and the only conclusion that remains is that the UK government has an irrational fear of South Africa that is harming the decision making.
“The case rate in Turkey is three times that of South Africa and is increasing rapidly, while the screening and sequencing rates in Pakistan are a fraction of ours, there is no consistency.
“The UK government must urgently reconsider this classification to avoid irreparable damage to a relationship with a key ally and business partner.”
Shai Weiss, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic, said: “The Red List should focus only on variants of concern, in order to protect public health, it is therefore imperative to quickly and continuously remove countries that do not pose a threat, so open back to countries like South Africa.
Paul Goldstein, co-owner of Kicheche Safari Camps in Kenya, said: “Finally, it looks like Kenya can be taken off the bread line.
“Mr. Shapp’s traffic light policy has been wantonly destructive all over the world, but in Kenya I don’t see why it’s any different now than when the ridiculous red light was imposed in March.
“Travel can’t just be turned on and off like a gas tap and I’m amazed that his appalling decisions were not recognized and continued in the recent reshuffle.”
Andrew Flintham, Managing Director of Tui, said: “We still believe the Red List could be further reduced as no variant of concern has been identified and remains significantly more restrictive than other countries in the world. ‘Europe.”
The boss of Britain’s largest low-cost airline called the changes “a welcome step forward for our customers – and a move that will make it much easier for fully vaccinated people to travel to Europe.”
But Johan Lundgren, managing director of easyJet, added: “Travelers with vaccines and those from low-risk countries will still have to take an unnecessary test after arriving in the UK, making travel less affordable for everyone.
“As of July 1, there have been no tests for vaccinated travelers in the rest of Europe, and that is why the UK will continue to fall behind the rest of Europe if this persists. “
The managing director of Britain’s largest airport, Heathrow, said the UK was out of step with the European Union. John Holland-Kaye said: “The decision to require fully vaccinated passengers to undergo more expensive private lateral flow tests is an unnecessary barrier to travel, which.
“Ministers must continue to work for frictionless travel for vaccinated passengers. “
His Gatwick counterpart, Stewart Wingate, said: “Fully vaccinated passengers now have a greater choice of destinations and can book with more confidence in the months leading up to Christmas and beyond – without the need to arrange for testing before. departure before returning to the UNITED KINGDOM.
“We know there is a significant demand for turned away travel and our staff, restaurants, cafes and bars are ready to welcome passengers again in the coming months.”
But Wille Walsh, managing director of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), said the package of measures was too little too late: “Throughout the pandemic, UK travel rules have been on the heels of. from the rest of Europe.
“It devastated the UK travel industry with countless job losses.”
As Friday wore on, airlines, travel agencies and travel agents were increasingly desperate to know – for example – if and when they could re-establish travel sales to Turkey.
With rumors that two Caribbean islands, Grenada and Jamaica, could be placed on the red list, it is astonishing at the information vacuum ministers have created.
A 1 p.m. tweet from Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps that he would bring news later was ridiculed by Derek Jones – one of the travel industry’s most prominent figures. The managing director of Der Touristik, parent company of Kuoni, Carrier, Kirker and Journey Latin America, tweeted an image believed to be from the transport secretary.
He said, “This is an announcement to announce that later today I will make an announcement.”