UK Travel Restrictions ‘caused Monumental Economic Damage To The Industry’
Following the announcement that all Covid travel restrictions for arrival to the UK will be dropped from Friday, senior industry figures have expressed their astonishment that the country’s rules continued for so long – with one describing them as “ill thought-through shambles of government policies”.
Only three months ago, the UK had the most onerous and expensive Covid rules for travellers in Europe.
Holidaymakers who had returned from South Africa to the UK were still interred in hotel quarantine. Ministers insisted keeping people in rooms for 11 nights was essential to protect the UK against the spread of the Omicron variant.
Even fully vaccinated and boosted arrivals from abroad were required to self-isolate until they received a negative PCR test.
Yet on Monday the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced there was no longer any need for restrictions of any kind.
He said: “The UK is leading the world in removing all remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, and today’s announcement is a testament to the hard work everyone in this country has put in place to roll out the vaccine and protect each other.
“I said we wouldn’t keep travel measures in place for any longer than necessary, which we’re delivering on today – providing more welcome news and greater freedom for travellers ahead of the Easter holidays.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the travel sector and partners around the world to keep international travel moving.”
But some travel industry leaders contacted by The Independent disputed the transport secretary’s claims about the success of the UK’s Covid travel policies.
The chief executive of a UK airline said travel restrictions imposed by the UK “had slowed the spread of Covid and its variants by a matter of only a couple of days”.
At the same time, they said, the frequently changing, complex and incoherent regulations had caused “monumental economic damage to the industry from which it will take years to recover”.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, has spent two years of his life campaigning against such restrictions.
He says: “The ill thought-through, shambles of government policies created enormous financial and emotional distress for consumers; set back travel firms by years; led to heart attacks and suicides among some distraught employees and directors; and left the UK as a laughing stock on the world stage.”
Mr Charles gives the example of the “amber plus” rating added to the traffic light list of destinations – a mandatory quarantine category specially created for France in July 2021 because of concerns about infections in the distant island of Réunion, which was curiously exempt from the self-isolation rule.
“Frankly, ministers achieved nothing apart from crippling the travel and tourism sector, and reducing our aviation sector to a shadow of its former self,” Mr Charles said.
But Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership welcomed the news, saying: “The removal of the last remaining Covid measures for international travel is a huge watershed moment and one that enables the industry to start taking the momentous challenge of rebuilding itself.”