Industry criticises decision to remove popular destination
Portugal has been removed from the UK’s green list just three weeks after being added, the transport secretary has confirmed.
Grant Shapps said the government was employing a “safety first approach to give us the best chance of unlocking domestically” on June 21.
The country, including Madeira and the Azores, will be added to the amber list as of June 8. No new countries were added to the green list.
A further seven countries have been added to the red list: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Trinidad & Tobago
He said rates of infection in the country have been doubling since the previous travel review. There is also “a sort of Nepal mutation of the so-called Indian variant which has been detected, and we just don’t know the potential for that to be a vaccine-defeating mutation,” he said.
Shapps said that “goodness knows the travel industry has suffered”, suggesting support was ongoing, despite widespread calls for greater measures to combat the devastating impact of the virus on the sector.
People arriving from amber list countries will have to quarantine for 10 days at home. They will have to take a pre-departure test, then a PCR test on days two and eight, but there will be an option for “test to release” in which they can end self-isolation early if they test negative on day five by purchasing an extra PCR test.
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer, said: “It’s clear that the government’s domestic health strategy is continuing to prevent any meaningful resumption of international travel. You can’t build the recovery of a multi-billion-pound sector while mass market holiday destinations remain off the green list. The removal of Portugal comes on the back on what was already a very short and cautious green list.
“Travel agents and tour operators haven’t been able to generate income since the start of the pandemic and have been depending on the return of international travel to help bring in some much needed relief. The government now needs to come forward with tailored financial support for the sector, which recognises that the travel industry’s recovery will be slower than that in other sectors of the economy, and takes account of the unique challenges businesses in the sector are facing. Travel companies are desperately worried that at a time when the market hasn’t opened up they will shortly face increased furlough and business rates costs, with support being gradually withdrawn from the end of this month. It’s vital that the government doesn’t leave these businesses behind as it focuses on the domestic unlocking.
“We also need to see the government use the next review of the traffic-light system, on June 28, to deliver meaningful progress towards restart. Ministers must use that review to finally take the steps needed to capitalise on the great progress of the vaccine rollout in the UK. For example, many countries have chosen to exempt fully vaccinated individuals from certain travel requirements. The government should also treat islands separately in the traffic light system and take steps to further reduce the cost of testing.”
easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “This shock decision to add Portugal to the amber list is a huge blow to those who are currently in Portugal and those who have booked to be reunited with loved ones, or take a well-deserved break this summer. With Portuguese rates similar to those in the UK it simply isn’t justified by the science.
“And to add no more countries to the green list when most of Europe’s infection rates are on a downward trend and many places with low infection rates below that of the UK, such as the Balearics with a current rate of 33 in 100,000 and Malta, with just 12 in 100,000, this makes no sense.
“Especially when domestic travel is allowed within the UK, despite a number of cities having infection rates 20 times greater than much of Europe.”
Virgin Atlantic boss Shai Weiss said: “UK government’s risk-based traffic light framework won’t provide the clarity and certainty that consumers, families and businesses need if it does not follow the data. Its own evidence shows the US and Caribbean are low risk and should be added to the green list now.
“We are yet to see clear and transparent guidance on the methodology and data the government is basing these decisions on. It shouldn’t be a state secret.
“This overly cautious approach is failing to reap dividends from the UK’s successful vaccination programme, preventing passengers from booking with confidence and restricting 23 million [fully vaccinated Brits] in economic value each day with our largest trading partner.
“We urge the UK government to expedite talks with the Biden administration to lead the way in opening the skies ahead of G7 next week. There is no reason to delay, given that economic recovery and 500,000 jobs are at stake.”
ABTA has announced speakers for the travel industry’s leading event
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer, aviation and maritime minister Robert Courts, and Tui’s UK managing director Andrew Flintham have been announced as the headline speakers for ABTA’s first Travel Matters conference since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of The Spectator, and Civil Aviation Authority chair Sir Stephen Hillier are also among the top speakers at the event, which is being moderated by LBC’s Tom Swarbrick.
Now in its 11th year, the travel industry’s leading event for debating the political and policy issues facing the sector will be brought to delegates virtually on Tuesday June 22.
Under the theme ‘Politics and Policies: An Agenda for Recovery’, the conference will explore the policies shaping the travel landscape, what we can learn from the upheaval of the past year and what’s needed from government to rebuild travel in the medium term.
The event is attended by CEOs and senior directors from the travel and tourism industry, political figures, government stakeholders, and national and travel trade media representatives. For this year’s event, ABTA Members are invited to register free of charge.
The event will be streamed via a customised digital platform and moderated by LBC’s Tom Swarbrick from a studio in central London.
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “This year’s Travel Matters conference comes at one of the most crucial times in the history of the travel industry, as we take the first steps on the road to recovery from the deepest crisis that our industry has ever faced. We’re offering free places for our members for this year’s event so we hope they will be able to join us as we discuss how to rebuild travel effectively, restore consumer confidence in travel and build a strong foundation for future challenges.”
Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI Northern Region, who will be giving the keynote speech at this year’s event, said: “After an incredibly difficult period for our industry, and with the first very small steps to recovery underway, the Travel Matters conference is the perfect time to look at how we collectively work through the challenges of another uncertain summer season – and how we will all come back stronger and rebuild consumer confidence in travel.”
This year’s headline sponsor is Travel Trade Consultancy and the media partner is Global, the Media & Entertainment Group. Visit Hungary is also a sponsor of the event.
Pre-registration is essential as places are limited. For more information and to register, visit: abta.com/travelmatters2021