Bodies from across the UK tourism industry have given a cautious welcome to a refinement of the quarantine system, but said more must be done to boost the sector.
Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, earlier explained a more nuanced approach to quarantine restrictions, separating some islands from mainland countries.
As a result, seven Greek islands have been removed from the current safe list.
Responding to the decision, an ABTA spokesperson said: “ABTA has been calling for the government to take a regionalised approach to quarantine measures and Foreign Office travel advice to provide greater certainty for businesses and consumers.
“This announcement regarding travel from specific islands to England is welcome and the industry hopes that this will in turn lead to a more targeted approach such as that adopted in Germany and the Netherlands, which would also reflect the domestic strategy of localised lockdowns.
“It also, however, highlights the requirement for a more coordinated approach from the home nations to prevent avoidable confusion.”
The spokesperson added: “The travel industry has long been a powerhouse of economic growth and employment within the economy, yet it has been restricted by government measures which have slowed any recovery.”
However, while welcoming the decision to tailor quarantine restrictions, a statement from Heathrow called for more testing to be introduced.
A spokesperson explained: “We welcome the transport secretary’s announcement that testing to shorten quarantine is under active consideration by the government and that airbridges to islands will now be instated where appropriate.
“If introduced, these vital policy changes would show the government understands how critical the restoration of air travel is to this country’s economic recovery.
“The government needs to build on these developments and show global leadership to establish common international standards for testing before flight.”
Heathrow has been developing its own test facilities as it attempts to encourage the government to introduce a new policy.
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, said the move toward more focused quarantine was to be welcomed, but it would not be enough for the aviation industry to recover.
He explained: “It is good that Grant Shapps is responding to the concerns of the aviation industry, and committing government to look at how testing can be used to reduce the time people need to spend in quarantine.
“Adopting a regionalised approach to travel corridors is also welcome news and long overdue.
“Even though it will initially mean restrictions on travel to some Greek islands, it should enable key markets like the Balearics and Canaries to open up again more quickly.
“We look forward to seeing more detail about this targeted approach as soon as possible and to working together to continue refining the system of corridors and quarantine, including considering regions within countries on the mainland.”
Cornish, who has been an outspoken critic of the government policy to date, added: “The top priority should be bringing in a testing regime that will shorten the period of time passengers have to self-isolate.
“With hundreds of thousands of travel sector jobs at stake and the summer holiday season already behind us, progress must be made on this as a matter of urgency.”
MAG owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports.
Santorini is among the islands to have been removed from the safe list
Gloria Guevara, chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council, took a similar tack, welcoming the decision, but calling for further steps.
“WTTC is encouraged the government is beginning to listen and has now introduced its island policy.
“This move appears to show a more strategic approach and signals a change from its previous blanket country-wide approach.
“We look forward to seeing how this is going to be communicated to holidaymakers,” she said.
“However, this is just scratching the surface.
“We must abandon wholesale ineffective, destructive and costly quarantines – and replace them with rapid, cost-effective testing on departure at airports.
“The longer we wait, the more the ailing tourism sector faces collapse.
“Airport testing on departure and a robust testing and tracing programme, could help revive international business travel, particularly on key routes, such as between London and New York.”
The WTTC has previously warned some £22 billion looks set to be lost from the UK economy due to the disappearance of international travel this year.
Finally, Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said the government should reveal more of its thinking when introducing changes.
“Holidaymakers are acutely aware of the risks involved with foreign travel, but this latest snap change still offers no clarity as to how these decisions are made.
“This approach continues to cost travellers dearly, either through paying extortionate airfares in the scramble to get home, or because speculation that their destination may be added to the quarantine list causes them to needlessly cancel a holiday.”
Boland concluded: “It’s clear that the current travel corridor system is not working for passengers, and is further damaging confidence in the sector.
“A major reassessment of the UK government’s approach is needed to ensure holidaymakers don’t continue to lose money, and tour operators and airlines have a better opportunity to get back on their feet financially.”
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