03 Dec

Government needs to act on FCDO advice to open up travel

It seems that each week there is a new glimmer of hope for travel; last week we heard about the test to release scheme and this week there has been further positive news regarding a vaccine. According to industry reports, these developments are resulting in more enquiries and bookings for holidays next year. 
While this is of course good news, there are still major barriers standing in the way of people actually being able to travel – including the Government’s approach to Foreign Office travel advice.
The Government is still advising against all but essential travel to the majority of countries. Without a shift in this advice, the introduction of test to release will have little impact on opening up the travel market. 
Throughout the pandemic ABTA has been clear that protecting the public must be the Government’s priority. But we have been concerned that Foreign Office travel advice has drifted away from its purpose of protecting the health and safety of travellers in destination, into becoming an instrument of domestic containment. As the market starts to show signs of recovery, we believe that the FCDO travel advisory should be reviewed urgently so that advice against non-essential travel in relation to COVID-19 is restricted to destinations where it is clear that the risk to travellers is unacceptably high, based on clear and transparent criteria. 
This is the focus of much of our lobbying activity at the moment, and together with Airlines UK, we raised this matter on a call yesterday with the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage. We have also written to the FCDO about this matter again this week and are working to engage MPs and the national media regarding the importance of this issue.
On the subject of our lobbying work, we are seeking more detail on the next steps for the Global Travel Taskforce, following their report. We also continue to point out the inconsistencies around the availability of grant schemes to travel businesses and have been sharing evidence from Members with the Government about the misuse of chargebacks.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive