Airline bosses have called on government to rule out the introduction of border closures even if a new Covid-19 variant emerges, as the UK begins to put the pandemic behind it.
Government last week brought an end to so-called Plan B restrictions, which saw self-isolation rules and work from home guidance scrapped.
With signs of Omicron falling back and other restrictions falling away, chief executives at Ryanair, Easyjet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2 are looking for the end of travel curbs – at least for the fully vaccinated.
“VisitBritain estimate nearly £50bn in tourism spend from overseas has been lost since the pandemic began – all resulting in less tax revenue to fund public services including the NHS,” the airline bosses wrote.
They added that travel restrictions have a “limited effect” in preventing the spread of Covid-19 and that aviation recovery “is vital; not just to the more than half a million people working in it, but to everyone who lives and works in the UK”.
It follows warnings from London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Thursday, who cautioned that tourism in the capital may not return to pre-pandemic levels for another three years.
Business trips, overnight stays and their associated spending pulled in £18.8bn in 2019, but this figure is not expected to be achieved until 2025, according to City Hall analysis.
“It is obvious that many of London’s hospitality, retail, cultural and leisure businesses that rely heavily on tourists will be fighting for their survival for months to come, meaning many thousands of jobs are still at risk,” Khan said.
London’s recovery will fuel national recovery, explained UK Hospitality boss Kate Nicholls, “so it’s vital to get domestic and tourist footfall up”.
Currently, vaccinated travellers flying out of England must pre-book a Covid-19 test, to be taken on the second day of their arrival.
This differs for those not fully vaccinated, who must test up to 48 hours before their flight and take two tests on days two and eight after they arrive, as well as undergo a 10-day quarantine.
A government spokesperson said: “We continue to keep our travel measures under review and no decisions have been made.
“We recognise the impact travel measures have had on the travel and tourism industry and that’s why businesses have been able to draw from an unprecedented package of government support since the start of the pandemic, including around £8bn for the air transport sector.”