Airlines and travel firms today hailed the news that the UK will drop quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and US next week but warned more changes were needed.
Industry body Airlines UK said: “Exemptions for all fully vaccinated travellers is undoubtedly a positive move, offering a lifeline for thousands of businesses reliant on international inbound travel.
“It also begins to deliver the vaccine dividend for millions more people, for friends and family to reconnect, and for businesses to travel and trade overseas again.”
But the trade association added that more countries should also be added to the government’s green and amber travel lists to consolidate the move.
“The evidence suggests many more EU countries should go green and this remains the best way to provide passengers with the reassurance to book, along with the removal of onerous testing requirements which are adding hundreds of pounds unnecessarily to the cost of travel”, it added in a statement.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye added: “The Government has made the right decision to safely further reopen international travel.
“We will now work with colleagues in the industry to boost UK trade, reunite family and friends, and generate billions in new tourist income.”
Speaking to LBC, Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren said that though the changes were the “right” move, they came too late.
“It’s the right thing, it should be done, but like I said it is little bit too late,” he said.
He also warned that the cost of PCR testing would keep travel out of reach for many people.
“Even if they can avoid the quarantine, you’re still going to have the very expensive PCR testing that’s going to make this out of reach for many, many people,” he said.
Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive Shai Weiss also welcomed the news, but said the UK should go even further and put the US on its travel “green list”.
“Following encouraging reports this morning, we’re ready to work with Government and authorities to ensure any new rules are smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the Transatlantic corridor”, he wrote on LinkedIn.
“We urge the UK Government to go even further and move the US to the UK’s ‘Green’ list. The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.”
However, as the US extended its travel ban on UK and EU citizens earlier this week, such a move would at present have a limited impact on Transatlantic travel.
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said that it was key that other nations “reciprocated” the UK’s approach.
“Suggestions that the UK will allow double vaccinated travellers to enter from the US and EU without quarantine are very welcome.
“The key to success is for other nations to reciprocate and get people travelling safely for business and leisure once more.”
London breathes a sigh of relief
Relaxing the current quarantine rules could however have a large impact on London’s inbound tourism industry, which has been suffering under the current regime.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company which represents 600 businesses in London’s shopping centre, said” “While many UK citizens have been enjoying trips overseas, many businesses, significantly in London’s West End and across other UK city centres, have been desperately missing the trade that overseas tourists bring.
“Travel is a two-way street and it is right that twice vaccinated international travellers should be spared quarantine and be able to enjoy the retail, culture and hospitality of the UK.
“The positive comments from government on relaxing restrictions for US and EU citizens are to be welcomed, but surely twice vaccinated families arriving from other amber countries should not be treated differently to British travellers returning from the same cities and on the same flights.
“World class destinations such as London’s West End rely heavily on overseas visitors and their spending to maintain appeal for global brands.”
Richard Burge, chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “So much of the London and UK economy benefits from inbound travel, so this is a welcome and safe acceleration along the road to recovery.
“To further move UK economic recovery up another gear, the government should ensure border systems are in place that allow for fully vaccinated business travellers from further amber list nations to enter the UK without the need for isolation.”