Air bridges, quarantine and indefinite travel restrictions
There has been more talk this week on how to open up international travel, now that the lockdown measures are beginning to lift, with a range of views expressed by different individuals and commentators.
Earlier this week, I wrote to the Prime Minister to highlight the urgency of a more coordinated Government approach on this issue, among others, to help ensure that UK travel agents and tour operators survive beyond the current crisis.
At the time of writing we are still waiting to hear more about the Government’s policy on quarantine measures although this is expected soon. Such measures would undoubtedly inhibit people from travelling. ABTA has been clear that any quarantine measures or other proposals for exiting the current lockdown must be part of a wider strategy, which is regularly reviewed, including consideration of the FCO’s travel advice, and based on scientific advice to protect public health. There seems little logic in lifting FCO travel advice to a specific destination, for example, if quarantine restrictions remain in place for the same destination.
What is clear is that the appetite for travel, whether in the next few months or beyond, remains. People’s health and safety must come first though and there are other factors that will affect customers’ ability to travel overseas again, including ensuring people feel confident enough to move freely within the UK to reach stations, airports and ports to travel. The Government also needs to work with the ABI and insurers, to ensure adequate travel insurance cover is available to customers, which is an issue ABTA has highlighted.
Bilateral agreements between the UK and other destinations may well be an important first step and are a practical part of a solution but it remains that a coordinated strategy and clear communication by Government is required to aid recovery.
It can be frustrating for Members when a range of commentators appear on TV talking about the travel industry. ABTA has an important role here, and the volume of interviews, background briefings and press comment that we have managed in the past few months has been unprecedented. Since the start of this crisis we have conducted more than 2,000 media interventions including 874 broadcasts, 71 of which have been interviews on national TV programmes such as BBC News and Sky News.
We have to be realistic however that the media want to hear from a diverse range of commentators – particularly on topics such as customer refunds – and some of them are more sympathetic than others to the industry’s difficulties. ABTA will continue in our role of representing the facts of the situation – to Members, to Government and to the travelling public.
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive