The rollercoaster ride for our sector during the pandemic continues. Today’s news that France is closing its borders to tourists is another hammer blow to the winter holiday sector, and has overshadowed this week’s removal of 11 countries from the Red List. The Government must now come forward with a support package, recognising that the travel sector is uniquely compromised by Covid health restrictions, here and in destination.
The rationale for taking countries off the Red List, in that there is now clear community transmission of the Omicron virus within the UK, applies equally to pre-departure tests and Day 2 PCR tests on return. ABTA, together with airlines and airports, is continuing to press this point home, and pushing for a removal of testing requirements ahead of the proposed review date at the beginning of January.
We know that pre-departure tests, in particular, have been a major barrier to travel in the past and are once again now. That is why this week, directly to Government and in the national media, we have been clear and strong in our arguments that grant support for the travel sector must be looked at urgently, and that testing requirements must be removed if there is no proven medical basis for their retention.
Where to next? Omicron will undoubtedly dominate the domestic policy agenda over the next few weeks as more becomes known about its impact. But Government must recognise that every travel restriction has economic consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Testing requirements should not be retained lightly and grant support must be offered to businesses who are finding it difficult to trade because of their existence.
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive