Seven countries have also been added to the green list, after the government announced updates to the traffic light system
Double-jabbed Brits returning to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from France will no longer need to quarantine, ministers have revealed as they announced updates to the traffic light system.
The holiday hotspot has been moved back from ‘amber plus’ to amber in a boost for holidaymakers. However, arrivals from Spain are advised to take a PCR test before departure because of the risk of importing the B.1.621 and Beta variants.
Newly green-listed countries are Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway. Double vaccinated and unvaccinated Brits can visit green list countries without needing to quarantine on return.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “While we must continue to be cautious, the changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public.”
Additions to the red list include Mexico, Georgia, Réunion and Mayotte. Health secretary Sajid Javid said that these new countries had been added to the red list “to help protect the success of our vaccine rollout from the threat of new variants”.
India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will be moved from the red list to amber. Double vaccinated holidaymakers can visit amber countries without needing to quarantine on return. Unvaccinated travellers need to self-isolate for 10 days on return from amber destinations, taking two tests on day two and day eight.
The cost of hotel quarantine for a single adult arriving from a red list country will be increased by more than £500 to £2,285, representing a 30 per cent rise. Hotel quarantine costs for children up to the age of 12 will remain the same. The changes come into effect at 4am (BST) on August 8.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA, said: “The UK is falling behind our European competitors and the opening up of international travel from the UK is progressing at a snail’s pace – making it extremely difficult for travel agents and tour operators to generate enough income to kickstart a recovery, which is desperately needed to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods.”
“We need to see a greater sense of urgency from this government to both get people travelling again and support the industry through this crisis. With furlough costs increasing for businesses this week, the need for tailored financial support remains critical. Travel agents, tour operators and travel management companies haven’t had access to the same level of grant support as other industries, yet their opportunity to trade their way out of the crisis remains severely restricted by the government. The government also needs to be transparent to the travelling public and the travel industry about the basis on which these decisions are made.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “The latest traffic light review shows a true lack of ambition by the government in not opening the green list further. The summer has already been lost and any attempt to save summer is over. The removal of France from the newly created amber-plus list is, of course, a positive step but arguably it should never have been put into its own special category in the first place. Moving the UAE and Qatar – both of which are key international airport hubs particularly important for business travel – to the amber list is welcomed, but it’s important to be mindful of all entry restrictions, too.
“Travellers returning from Spain appear to be given a choice of either taking the more expensive PCR as opposed to the current antigen pre-departure tests seems somewhat bizarre. The cost of hotel quarantine will be increasing for those returning from red list countries; however, for those who have no choice but to travel, perhaps for overseas funerals, are the ones who will continue to be penalised regardless of their vaccination status – let’s not forget that travel is more than just holidays.
“Outbound travel continues to be severely restricted and the government continue to fall behind some of our European counterparts who recognise the importance of opening up international travel and allowing free movement of their vaccinated citizens. We have one of the highest vaccination rollouts in the world and yet the we remain one of the most restricted when it comes to travelling internationally.
“Removing the pre-departure test would create more confidence among travellers. The testing regime needs to be simplified, particularly for those who are double vaccinated.”
We sat down with Qatar Tourism chief operating officer, Berthold Trenkel
ABTA Magazine: What are you focusing on within tourism at the moment?
Berthold Trenkel: Our goal at Qatar Tourism and a pillar of the Qatar National Vision 2030 is to establish Qatar as a world-leading destination and welcome more than six million visitors a year by 2030. To achieve this, an extensive tourism development strategy is underway as we work to diversify and build our appeal for residents and visitors.
What should agents and travellers be aware of when planning a trip to Qatar over the next 12 months?
Qatar is a fantastic destination for every type of traveller. It is the safest and one of the most cosmopolitan destinations in the Middle East, rich in art, culture and tradition. With a range of assets including world class hotels, restaurants, stunning beaches and a bustling atmosphere, we offer the best of the Middle East all in one place.
Adventure-seekers can enjoy the thrill of dune bashing across the desert, cultural enthusiasts can explore our world-famous museums and galleries, and there is a variety of fine dining options serving local and international cuisine to suit all tastes.
What safety measures are in place in relation to Covid?
Qatar has been at the forefront of implementing world-leading health and safety measures. Last year Qatar Tourism launched the ‘Qatar Clean’ programme, in partnership with Ministry of Public Health (MOPH), in all hotels and sectors. This June, all Qatar Tourism licensed hotels were certified ‘Qatar Clean’, meaning they carry the highest standards of hygiene and cleanliness with rigorous procedures in place.
Passengers arriving at Hamad International Airport (HIA) undergo thermal screening and temperature checks. HIA was the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a five-star Covid-19 Airport Safety Rating by Skytrax, following an on-site audit.
What can agents expect to see from Qatar ahead of the World Cup? And what else can you tell us?
Qatar reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers on July 12, 2021 with vaccines that are approved for use by the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar. The new arrangements enable fully vaccinated people to bypass quarantine when returning to Qatar but all visitors – vaccinated or non-vaccinated – are required to undertake a PCR test up to 72 hours prior to travel. With over 80 countries on our visa-free list, Qatar is one of the easiest destinations to visit.
Qatar is constantly evolving to ensure visitors have a seamless and unforgettable trip. With a host of new hotels and hotel apartments, activities and attractions, travellers will discover the country’s unique blend of Middle Eastern contemporary luxury and authentic tradition.
Currently there are over 100 hotels and hotel apartments in Qatar’s construction pipeline, on top of an existing 184-plus properties. The country is also evolving its transport facilities including the Metro and taxis that make getting to and around Qatar, easy, safe and convenient.
In advance of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar has invested in exceptional sports stadiums and facilities such as the new Education City Stadium and Al Rayyan Stadium. The longest distance between stadiums is 75km by road, meaning fans will be able to attend more than one match a day and stay in the same accommodation throughout.
Large fan zones will offer a wide variety of food and beverages and will be situated in locations around the country, including a dedicated fan zone opening as part of the new West Bay North Beach project.
What are your plans for trade engagement?
We have recently appointed a new international markets team to cover 20 key markets, including the UK. This will enhance our communication with visitors, tour operators and online travel agencies.
We have been working closely with the UK travel trade and Qatar Airways to promote Qatar as a must-visit destination. In the short term, we’ve been working on product development and agent-training initiatives to ensure Qatar is front of mind. And now borders are reopening we’ll be launching a flurry of fam trips – inviting key partners from various European countries.