The travel industry has reacted with fury following the re-introduction of pre-departure mandatory tests for those travelling to England.
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the UK Business Travel Association (BTA), has slammed the government’s decision, calling it a “hammer blow to the business travel industry.”
“Public safety is a priority, but businesses will fail, travellers will be stranded and livelihoods devastated by the lack of coherent plans from the government,” he said.
Wratten’s comments come a day after the UK Government announced that from 7 December all travellers to England will be required to take a Covid test – either lateral flow or PCR – in the 48 hours before departure to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.
“It directly contradicts the transport secretary’s announcement this week,” Wratten added.
Just two days before the announcement, transport secretary Grant Shapps had told the Chopper’s Politics podcast that tourist would not be required to take pre-departure tests because the government didn’t want to “kill off the travel sector without knowing you needed to”.
“This government thinks we should take a calibrated response, which doesn’t take us right back to the beginning of this,” he said.
“I believe in transport and I don’t want to see a world where we’re always finding excuses to restrict it. Of course, you’ve got to respond responsibly. That’s what I think we’ve done.”
The BTA is not the only stakeholder to harshly criticise the move. Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said the government risked “turning back the clock on progress made” by reintroducing pre-departure testing, which was only removed for vaccinated travellers in October,
“It’s imperative that criteria for restrictions is clear and the speed at which they are implemented should be mirrored in their removal, once we have the evidence,” Weiss added.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) called on the government to step up and provide help to an “already devastated travel industry.”
“The industry needs financial support, which recognises these measures will significantly weaken demand and the Chancellor must now consider the reintroduction of furlough for travel industry to avoid further job losses,” an ABTA spokesperson said.
“It’s vitally important this decision is reversed as quickly as possible, in line with scientific and medical advice, as it is simply not possible for the travel industry to recover properly while this huge barrier to consumer confidence is in place.“